BOSTON, Mass.—Behind a pair of strong pitching performances and two big scoring innings, the University of Southern Maine (20-14, 7-5 Little East) earned a Little East Conference doubleheader sweep of UMass Boston softball (4-24, 1-11 Little East) Tuesday afternoon at the UMB Softball Field.
The Huskies took game one 5-0 in eight innings, before taking the second game by a 4-1 score to earn their first trip back to the Little East Conference Tournament since 2010.
Since Rhode Island College defeated UMass Dartmouth in game two of their doubleheader on Wednesday night, the Beacons remain in contention for the sixth-and-final spot in the Little East Conference Tournament. The Beacons need to sweep UMass Dartmouth on Saturday, and to have Rhode Island College drop both of their games to Keene State College on Saturday to reach the LEC Tournament.
Both games featured strong pitching on both sides, with the two teams combining to score just five earned runs over 15 innings of play.
Senior Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) led the Beacons with four of the team's 12 hits on the day. With two hits in both games, Morrison has now hit safely in eight-straight games and has hit .636 (.422) during that span.
Game One: Southern Maine 5, UMass Boston 0
For the first time all season, UMass Boston held an opponent scoreless through seven innings, before Southern Maine broke up the pitcher's duel with five runs in the top of the eighth to grab a 5-0 win.
Southern Maine's Erika Millett earned her league-leading 11th win of the season, as the freshman allowed just eight hits and two walks over eight innings.
In the circle for UMass Boston, freshman Kaera Wyse (Danvers, Mass.) outpitched Millett over the first seven innings, before the Huskies got to her in the eighth. Wyse allowed eight hits, one walk and two earned runs, while striking out eight batters. She started off the game red-hot, as she retired each of the first 11 batters that came to the plate.
Morrison led the Beacons with two of their eight hits, with Lauren Mitsiaris (Taunton, Mass.) recording the Beacons' lone extra-base hit, a lead-off double in the bottom of the fourth.
UMass Boston left nine base-runners on in the game and ran themselves into a pair of double plays, as they tried to grab a game and keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Beacons had their first chance to score in the bottom of the fourth, after Mitsiaris' lead-off double. With one down and Mitsiaris on third, Haley Dutton (Milton, Mass.) hit the ball to the shortstop-who threw to first, before the first baseman fired the throw home to just get Mitsiaris for the third out of the inning.
UMass Boston threatened again in the bottom of the fifth, with two runners on and one out, but Millett got a fly out and then Morrison's bullet line drive went straight to the second baseman to end the inning.
Southern Maine nearly won the game in regulation in the top of the seventh, if not for a key Beacons' double play. After a single and a double put two runners in scoring position with no outs, Wyse got Kristen Duross to strike out swinging for the first out of the inning. The next batter hit a grounder to shortstop and Kaitlyn Morse (Arlington, Mass.) fired it over to first, before Mitsiaris gunned down the runner trying to come home for a double play.
The Beacons would once again put together a rally in the bottom of the seventh, but Millett retired Morrison with a groundout-to force extras.
After seven innings of clean defense, the Beacons couldn't carry it over into extra innings. After back-to-back one-out singles, Southern Maine loaded the bases on an error by Wyse. Taylor Lux followed with an RBI single and Mary Caron made it 2-0 with a bases-loaded walk. After a fielder's choice, Duross cracked a two-run single and Kelly followed with an RBI single of her own for the final 5-0 score.
Game Two: Southern Maine 4, UMass Boston 1
With darkness quickly falling, the Huskies breezed to a 4-1 win over UMass Boston in one of the fastest seven-inning games of the season for either side.
Kelly moved from center field to the pitcher's circle and kept the Beacons bats in check, as she allowed just four hits and one earned run over seven innings.
UMass Boston senior Michelle Zullo (Everett, Mass.) was nearly as good, as she limited Southern Maine to nine hits, one walk and two earned runs over seven innings.
The Huskies 2-5 hitters went a combined 8-16 with two runs scored to do the majority of the damage against Zullo.
After the two teams breezed through the first three innings, Southern Maine grabbed a 3-0 lead behind two hits and two Beacons' errors in the top of the fourth.
Kelly helped herself with a one-out double and came in to score two batters later on a Danni Humphrey RBI double. After a Beacons' error kept the inning alive, Zullo walked the bases loaded and Taylor Lux floated a popup that a Beacons' infielder dropped, to allow two more runs to score.
Duross added a RBI double in the top of the seventh, but Zullo retired the final two batters of the inning to keep the game at 4-0.
Mitsiaris broke up the shutout bid with one out in the seventh, as she hit a towering fly ball that bounced off the top of the fence and over, for her second collegiate home run.
UMass Boston will be back in action Saturday at noon, as they host UMass Dartmouth for the Beacons' Senior Day Games. The Beacons will honor Lyndsey Capra (Lowell, Mass.) Samantha Hemstock (North Branford, Conn.), Zullo and Morrison after game two.