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A Powerful Comeback

By Shawn Fury

Kelsey Carr’s junior season for the Seton Hall softball team featured dominant performances as a pitcher and clutch displays as a hitter. She spearheaded a remarkable turnaround in the standings as the Pirates finished 42-18 and captured the BIG EAST Tournament Championship for the first time since 2005.

But the seeds to Carr’s sterling 2023 campaign were planted the previous year, when a shoulder injury kept her from playing a single inning as the Pirates went 20-23.

As hard as it was for Carr to sit and watch that season, Seton Hall head coach Angie Churchill believes the experience paid off.

“She learned a lot about the mental side of the game that she probably hadn’t tapped into yet,” Churchill says. “As tough as it was for her going through rehab … she grew so much mentally and emotionally that it helped her have the year she had this past year.”

The numbers tell the story for her in 2023. At the plate she hit .328 and slugged a team-best 13 home runs. Her 50 RBIs led the team and left her one short of the single-season school record held by Alexis Walkden ’18. As a pitcher Carr went 11-5 with a 1.95 ERA, striking out 97 in 125.1 innings, figures that earned her the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year honors.

And she accomplished all of that while battling a leg injury that left her in a walking boot off the field.

But Carr saved her best moments for the biggest of games. Take the BIG EAST Tournament opener, when the Pirates fell behind 4-0 against a scrappy DePaul team. In the sixth inning, with two runners on base and Seton Hall in desperate need of offense, Carr smacked a three-run homer to left field to bring the Pirates within a run. “I definitely wasn’t thinking home run,” Carr says. “In those situations, it’s just about hitting the ball hard. … We needed runners, we needed people to score. It definitely lit a fire in us, and I think everyone just had full faith that we were going to be able to win it.”

Carr made sure of that. After the Pirates tied DePaul at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning, she came up with the bases loaded and two outs. Carr drilled a game-winning single to give Seton Hall the 5-4 victory, prompting play-by-play announcer John Fanta ’17 to memorably say, “And what started looking like a shipwreck turns into the Pirates sailing on!”

Three games later, Carr put the championship away for the Pirates by throwing a complete game in a 6-1 win over Villanova. Two years earlier Seton Hall won just nine games. Now the Pirates ruled the BIG EAST. “Everyone just fed off each other’s energy and everyone enjoyed being at the field and being around each other,” Carr says of the reversal of fortunes. “We all knew it was something we could accomplish, and we just had to take the steps to get there.”

Seton Hall’s historic season came to an end in the NCAA Tournament, as the Pirates fell to a tough Texas team before dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 game against Texas State, despite Carr swatting a home run and allowing only two earned runs. Still, those last two losses hardly dimmed the joy brought on by the 42 wins that came before them.
Looking ahead to 2024, Seton Hall loses several key contributors. But the team will have Carr back, to lead the way at the plate and from the pitcher’s circle. “We just want to take the energy forward into next year and just try to do it all over again,” she says.

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