PLYMOUTH, N.H.--#6 UMass Boston completed their 4-0 sweep of the 2018 Little East Conference Tournament with a comeback 4-3 win over top-seeded Plymouth State University to earn the title of back-to-back LEC Champions.
#6 UMass Boston 4, #1 Plymouth State 3
(UMass Boston 17-23)
(Plymouth State 26-15)
HOW IT HAPPENED
Facing their biggest deficit of the tournament at 3-1 after one inning, UMass Boston struck for three two-out runs in the top of the third to take the lead for good.
That would be all the run support Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament Jess Greenspan (Rocky Hill, Conn.) would need. The sophomore righty settled in after a three-run first, to allow just two hits and no runs over the final six frames.
With their second-straight LEC Title, UMass Boston will head back to the NCAA Division III Tournament for a second-consecutive season. UMass Boston will find out their regional site and opponent on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. when the NCAA broadcasts the Selection Show on NCAA.com.
Junior captain Taylor Pawlina (Woonsocket, R.I.) was the offensive leader for a second-straight game. The Beacons' center fielder went a perfect 4-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Fellow junior Alyssa Tulley (Lowell, Mass.) added a hit and a RBI, while Gigi Braga (Medford, Mass.), Ari Bilotta (Leominster, Mass.) and Kelly Danahy (Kingston, Mass.) each were credited with a hit and a run scored.
For the second time in the LEC Tournament, Plymouth State ace Caitlyn Miller took the loss against the Beacons. The sophomore lefty left after five innings, having allowed eight hits and four runs (three earned).
Cassidy Emerson led the hosts, while lead-off hitter Nina Murray added a triple and a run scored.
In a rematch of the 2017 LEC Championship Series, #6 UMass Boston came in to Saturday with a much easier challenge this time around, needing just one win to claim the title.
The Beacons jumped off to a great start in the top of the first. Bilotta doubled just inside the third-base bag to lead off the game and the Beacons loaded up the bases with one out on a Danahy walk and an intentional walk to Roxanne Vento (Arlington, Mass.). Pawlina made the Panthers pay, when she laced an RBI single to left field to score Bilotta. Miller got out of the jam thanks to a rocket line drive right at the third baseman and a fly out to left.
Plymouth State responded back with a vengeance, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. Murray opened the inning with a triple to dead center and easily scored on Ashley Deyo's RBI single. With two runners in scoring position and one out, Emerson delivered an RBI single just past the Beacons' infield to make it 3-1.
Plymouth State followed with a single, but Greenspan recorded a strikeout and induced a grounder back to the circle to strand two.
After a quiet second inning, UMass Boston roared back to take the lead in the top of the third.
With one out, Danahy tripled to the wall in right, but was stuck at third base after a fly out for the second out. Pawlina followed with an RBI single and advanced to second when she caught the defense sleeping. Braga worked a walk to put two runners on and Tulley tied the game by lacing an RBI single just inside the right-field line.
The Beacons took the lead for good on the next batter, as Giovanna Bonilla (Queens, N.Y.) put the ball in play on the left side and the first baseman dropped the potential third out to allow Braga to score.
Greenspan and the Beacons defense took over from there. Pawlina made a diving effort in center in the bottom of the third inning and Bonilla added a strong running catch in the second.
The Beacons had to work through minor jams in the sixth and seventh. In the sixth, Plymouth State put a runner on first with one out, but Braga made a running play on a ball hit up the middle to get the second out and Bonilla raced in to catch the third out with a runner on third.
In the bottom of the seventh, Plymouth State put the leadoff hitter on with a single, but Greenspan got three consecutive fly outs to secure the title.
BY THE NUMBERS
- UMass Boston went 4-0 in the LEC Tournament for the first-time ever. The Beacons trailed for just 1.5 total innings all weekend.
- All four of UMass Boston's wins came by one-run. UMass Boston is now 11-2 this season in one-run games.
- The Beacons are the first team to go back-to-back in the LEC Tournament since Eastern Connecticut State University won three in a row from 2010-2012.
- UMass Boston is the first sixth-seed to ever win the LEC Tournament. Only two prior six seeds had ever made the LEC Championship Series: University of Southern Maine in 2002 and Rhode Island College in 2014.
- Greenspan pitched every pitch for UMass Boston in the 2018 LEC Tournament. The now two-time MOP of the Tournament went 4-0 and allowed just 13 earned runs over 33 innings (2.75 ERA). In nine career LEC Tournament games, Greenspan is 7-0 with a save and one no-decision.
- Pawlina finished the LEC Tournament 11-18 (.611) with four runs scored, three RBI and one stolen base. The junior reached 100 career hits in Friday's win over Western Connecticut State University.
- UMass Boston is now 13-11 all-time in the LEC Tournament and 12-3 over the past three LEC Tournaments.
- Vento moved into second-place in program history in career hits (144) with her second hit on Friday night against Western Connecticut State.
- As a team, UMass Boston hit 44-140 (.314) over the course of the weekend. The Beacons came into the wekeend hitting under .285 on the season.
UMass Boston will find out their regional site and opponent on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. when the NCAA broadcasts the Selection Show on NCAA.com.