PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Behind a pair of dominant pitching performances and some timely hitting, #4 UMass Boston softball swept a pair from #1 Plymouth State University to win the program's first-ever Little East Conference Tournament Championship.
#4 UMass Boston 3, #1 Plymouth State 1 (Game Resumed from Friday)
#4 UMass Boston 6, #1 Plymouth State 2
(UMass Boston 28-11)
(Plymouth State 23-17-1)
HOW IT HAPPENED
Needing two wins at D&M Park to earn the title, the Beacons dominated the conclusion of game one, winning in just under an hour, to force a winner take-all game two.
Freshman Jess Greenspan (Rocky Hill, Conn.) took over from there, as the Little East Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player allowed just a pair of runs, with the Beacons already leading 5-0. In her final three tournament appearances-all elimination games, Greenspan gave up just five runs, four earned in 24 innings, and went 3-0 with a save.
With the win, UMass Boston earns the Little East Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Beacons will find out their first round opponent and the site of competition on Monday at 1 p.m., when the DIII Softball Selection Show airs on NCAA.com.
Saturday's action resumed with the Beacons leading 2-0 in the bottom of the second. The Panthers got a run back in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Greenspan shut the hosts down in order over the final three frames.
Greenspan and Annie Thomas (Lunenburg, Mass.) combined for a dominant game one in the Championship Series. Thomas allowed just three hits and one earned run over the first four innings, to move to 2-1 in the LEC Tournament, and avenge a loss on Thursday against the Panthers. Greenspan took over in the fifth and retired nine-straight, including one strikeout.
Senior Gia Raczkowski (Stoneham, Mass.) had already provided all the offense the pitchers would need on Friday morning. The senior's two-run single in the first inning had given the Beacons a 2-0 lead.
Plymouth State's Kayla Mathieu kept the Beacons quiet on Saturday, after they had gotten to starter Allison Moylan for two runs in 1.1 innings. Mathieu pitched all 4.2 innings on Saturday and gave up just three hits and one run scored.
In the first inning on Friday, UMass Boston struck for a pair of runs. Prusmack led off with a single and Morse walked. After a groundout pushed both runners into scoring position, Raczkowski's single past the third baseman allowed both runners to score.
Plymouth State cut the deficit back to one in the fourth. Back-to-back walks and a double steal put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Thomas forced a foul out for the first out, but Nina Murray belted a liner to center that easily could have scored both runners. Instead, freshman Giovanna Bonilla (Queens, N.Y.) tracked it down in right-center for the second out, with pinch runner Autumn Beyor tagging and scoring from third. Thomas induced a groundout to second for the final out, to keep the score 2-1.
UMass Boston added a key insurance run in the fifth. Prusmack led off with a single, stole second, and then raced home on Morse's single that split the infield.
Greenspan didn't need any help, as she retired all nine batters she faced-to earn her program record third save of the year.
UMass Boston jumped all over the Panthers with two runs in the first and three more in the fifth, to cruise to the program's first-ever LEC Championship.
Prusmack and Morse keyed the offense at the top of the order. The pair combined for six hits, three runs scored and an RBI.
The real star was the Beacons' ace. Greenspan kept the Panthers off the scoreboard for the first five innings, en-route to her 19th win of the year. The freshman scattered nine hits and two runs (one earned) across seven innings. She also struck out two and walked one.
Plymouth State, who was also making their first LEC Championship Series appearance, was forced to use three pitchers in the loss. Starter Caitlyn Miller took the loss, after allowing seven hits and five earned runs across 3.1 innings.
After Greenspan stranded a runner at third in the top of the first, UMass Boston jumped all over Miller in the bottom of the inning.
Prusmack and Morse opened the inning with infield singles and Raczkowski loaded up the bases with a hit by pitch. UMass Boston took the lead on the next play, as Prusmack easily beat the throw home on a squeeze bunt from Taylor Pawlina (Woonsocket, R.I.). Tulley followed with a hard hit grounder to second, that allowed Morse to cross the plate.
Plymouth State would put runners in scoring position in the second and third, but Greenspan was able to get a strikeout and a groundout for the third out.
The Panthers had their best chance of the day in the fourth. With one out, the Beacons committed an error and Murray singled down the right field line to put two on with one out. The next batter grounded back to Greenspan who got the lead runner. She then induced one final groundout to get out of the Beacons out of the jam.
That would cost Plymouth State, as UMass Boston pieced together a three-run bottom of the fourth. Senior Lauren Mitsiaris (Taunton, Mass.) opened the inning with a single and Braga and Prusmack followed with singles of their own to load the bases.
Morse made it 3-0 with a drive through the left-side that plated Mitsiaris. Vento tacked on a hit by pitch to score Braga and Raczkowski worked a walk that allowed Prusmack to trot home.
Plymouth State scored their first run in seven innings in the top of the fifth. Senior Katie Kennard belted a double to start the inning, and Emma Rhodes laced a triple just over the head of a Beacons' outfielder with one out. Greenspan kept the score at 5-1, when she retired the final two batters on popups to Mitsiaris at first base.
Bilotta got the run back for the Beacons in the bottom half of the inning. After Tulley worked a leadoff walk and moved to second on a bunt, Bilotta followed with a blast to the fence in left-center, to make it 6-1. The Beacons loaded the bases with one down, but Hannah Seidner got a double play ball to get out of the jam.
Kennard added an RBI single with two outs in the sixth, but Greenspan got the final out to leave two runners on base.
In the seventh, Greenspan allowed a one-out single, before getting back-to-back groundouts to start the celebration in the infield.
BY THE NUMBERS
- UMass Boston softball continues to rack up program firsts this year. The Beacons won a share of their first-ever LEC Regular Season Title last weekend and earned their first-ever LEC Tournament and NCAA berth on Saturday.
- In 10 innings on Saturday, Greenspan allowed nine hits, two runs (one earned), and walked one batter.
- Vento became the 14th player in program history to reach 100 career hits, with a leadoff single in the bottom of the third inning of game 1.
- Morse came into the LEC Tourmament with 11 runs batted in in 33 games. The senior captain had five RBI in six LEC Tournament games, including RBI hits in both games on Saturday. She finished the LEC Tourmament hitting 7-for-16 with four runs scored, five RBI and five walks.
- Prusmack was just as hot, if not hotter. The freshman leadoff hitter finished the tournament 10-for-23 with eight runs scored and three stolen bases.
- Morse tied assistant coach Sue Kililea ('13) for the program record for games played in game two (147).
- Raczkowski moved into third-place in program history with her three RBI on the day (79). She is 10 shy of Kililea's program record (89).
- Mitsiaris set the program record for career putouts (864) in game two. With her 19 putouts on the day, she passsed Lisa Polsonetti ('12) who recorded 860 in her four-year career.
#4 UMass Boston will advance to regional play next week. The Beacons will find out the exact teams, site and date on Monday at 1 p.m.