April 27, 2014

Softball Ends Season With Sweep At Hands of Keene State

BOSTON, Mass.—Reigning Little East Conference Pitcher of the Year Mariah Crisp threw 9.2 scoreless innings to help visiting Keene State College (14-16, 6-6 Little East) earn a Little East Conference Tournament berth with a doubleheader sweep of UMass Boston (12-25, 2-12 Little East) Sunday at the UMB Softball Field.

With the Beacons needing a doubleheader sweep to keep their Little East Conference Tournament hopes alive, UMass Boston fell just short with a pair of two-run losses (2-0 and 6-4). The contests marked the final games for seniors Erika Vecchiet (Pequannock, N.J.) and Toni Scola (Worcester, Mass.). The two seniors will go down as the third-winningest class in program history with their 68 career victories. 

Crisp made sure the Owls weren't going to miss the LEC Tournament for the first time in program history (dating back to 1998), as the sophomore right-hander earned a victory and a save. Crisp struck out 16, including 11 in game one, and allowed just two hits.

Junior left fielder Kristina Bove (Medford, Mass.) led the Beacons with three hits and two RBI on the day, while Vecchiet and Scola each added two hits in game two.

Game One: Keene State College 2, UMass Boston 0

Crisp was the driving force for the Owls in game one in the circle, while cleanup hitter Morgan Fallon provided all the offense Crisp would need. 

The sophomore pitcher struck out 11 and allowed just one hit and three walks over seven innings. Crisp who leads the LEC with her 149 strikeouts improved to 9-8 and extended her scoreless innings streak to 17.1 innings with her relief appearance in game two.

Fallon drove in a run in the first inning with an RBI groundout and added a crucial insurance run with a two-out double in the top of the seventh.

Bove recorded UMass Boston's only hit in game one, with a bloop single over the first baseman's head to lead off the third inning.

Junior right-hander Michelle Zullo (Everett, Mass.) finished off her season strong, as the junior captain allowed just seven hits and two earned runs over seven innings.

The Owls took a 1-0 lead in the first thanks to a lead-off walk. Stephanie Long walked, moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt and raced to third on a one-out single from Aliza Guerrero. Fallon followed with a soft grounder to Vecchiet at second and Vecchiet was only able to get one out, allowing Long to come home to score.

UMass Boston put their best threat of the game together in the bottom of the first, with two runners in scoring position with two outs. Bove and Gia Raczkowski (Stoneham, Mass.) each walked and moved into scoring position with a stolen base and a sacrifice bunt. With two down, Lyndsey Capra (Lowell, Mass.) lined a hard hit ball to center, but Long was easily able to make the catch-to end the inning.

Zullo managed to keep the Owls off the board in each of the next five innings, despite Keene State putting at least one runner on in all but one inning.

Keene State nearly made it 2-0 in the fourth inning, but Rachel Boynton was thrown out at the plate on a Kaitlyn Morse (Arlington, Mass.) relay throw, after Caroline McSherry doubled to the center-field wall with two down.

The Beacons' junior pitcher stranded eight runners for the game, including the bases loaded in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Fallon blooped a liner over Scola's head at third, but Morse made a diving catch at the edge of the outfield grass, to save at least one run. Zullo retired the next batter on a foul out to short, to get out of trouble.

The Owls tacked on to their lead in the top of the seventh. After a one-out Sara Bracken single, Fallon belted a two-out double to make it 2-0 Owls.

Crisp retired the Beacons 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, to end UMass Boston's program-record three consecutive LEC Tournament appearances streak.

Game Two: Keene State College 6, UMass Boston 4 

Keene State College scored five consecutive runs and Crisp closed down the Beacons' potential rally to move into a tie for fourth-place (6-6) in the Little East with UMass Dartmouth.

Heather Pelletier struck for a huge two-out, two-run, go-ahead double in the Owls' four-run fifth and Crisp shut down the Beacons over the final 2.1 innings.

Bove, Vecchiet and Scola combined for six of the Beacons' seven hits, with Scola adding two runs and an RBI. The senior third baseman also nearly tied the Beacons' program-record for steals in a single game, as Scola finished a perfect 3-for-3 on the base paths.

Emily Gray (New Bedford, Mass.) took the loss for UMass Boston despite a strong start. After retiring the first seven batters she faced, Gray finished allowing eight hits and six runs, two earned, over 4.2 innings. Freshman Jillian Shepherd (Norwood, Mass.) allowed just two hits and struck out three over the final 2.1 innings.

The Owls jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning, when Long belted a double into left-center field, to plate Kayla Votto. Votto finished the game 3-for-3 with two runs.

UMass Boston responded with their first two runs of the day in the bottom of the inning. Haley Dutton (Milton, Mass.) led off the inning with a single and stole second base, before moving over to third on a deep fly ball from Vecchiet. Scola tied the game at 1-1, as she ripped a liner over the third baseman's head to score Dutton. Scola proceeded to steal second and third base, before scurrying home on a one-hop liner into center field from Bove.

Guerrero answered back for the Owls in the next inning, as she clobbered a home run over the right-center field wall for her team-leading fourth homer of the year.

The Owls took control of the game in the fifth inning, as they scored four runs on four hits and two errors. With one run in and the bases loaded, Fallon made it 4-2 with a full-count walk, to plate Long. Pelletier followed with a soft-liner down the first-base line that just got over the glove of the Beacons' first baseman, to make it 6-2 Keene State. Shepherd replaced Gray after the two-out double, and induced an easy groundout to leave two runners on.

UMass Boston struck back for two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, before Crisp came on in relief. Vecchiet started the rally with a one-out single and Scola followed with a soft infield single to put two runners on. With a double-steal on, Bove easily plated Vecchiet with a double to right field, to cut the deficit to 6-3.

That signified the end of the day for Ashlee McGan, who earned her fifth victory, after allowing six hits and four earned runs.

Crisp allowed a sacrifice fly by Raczkowski to cut the deficit to 6-4, but left Bove on third base to end the inning.

The Beacons brought the tying-run to the plate in the top of the seventh, after a one-out single from Vecchiet, but Crisp struck out the next two batters to end the game.

Keene State College will host UMass Dartmouth Monday afternoon beginning at 3:30 p.m. in both team's regular-season finale. With both teams tied at 6-6 in the Little East Conference, the two teams will be playing for seeding, as the Owls can finish between fourth and fifth in the final standings.