PLYMOUTH, N.H.—For the second time in less than 12 hours, #6 Softball earned a thrilling, extra-inning, walk-off win-this time to move on to the 2018 Little East Conference Championship Series.
#6 UMass Boston 7, #4 Western Connecticut State University 6 (11 Innings)
(UMass Boston 16-23)
(Western Connecticut State 17-23-1)
HOW IT HAPPENED
After a thrilling back-and-forth first 10 innings that saw the Beacons trail for the first time all postseason, junior Gigi Braga (Medford, Mass.) came in to score all the way from first base on a Colonials throwing error to lift the Beacons to a 7-6 win.
The fourth and final game of Day 2 of the Little East Conference Tournament had it all. The final two unbeaten teams traded leads and phenomenal defensive plays to extend the game four extra frames.
UMass Boston sophomore pitcher Jess Greenspan (Rocky Hill, Conn.) proved to be one of the heroes for a third-straight game. Greenspan threw all 11 innings and 163 total pitches, to move to 3-0 in the tournament. She allowed 10 hits and six runs, while striking out two in the win.
Junior Taylor Pawlina (Woonsocket, R.I.) delivered a Beacons' record four hits in a postseason game and added a run scored and an RBI.
Freshman Kelly Danahy (Kingston, Mass.) had three hits and a run scored, while Roxanne Vento (Arlington, Mass.), Ari Bilotta (Leominster, Mass.) and Kiera Prusmack (Houston, Texas) each delivered two hits and an RBI.
Braga led the Beacons with a team-best two runs scored in the victory.
Western Connecticut State sophomore Charline Plascyznski went 3-3 with a run scored, an RBI and two walks for the "visiting team."
For the third-straight game, UMass Boston got off to an early lead.
The Beacons scored two runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead. With two down, Prusmack started the rally with a single and moved to second on a Danahy single. Vento gave the Beacons the lead with an RBI single and Pawlina came through with an infield single to score Danahy from third base.
Western cut the deficit in half in the top of the fourth, but Greenspan stranded the bases loaded with a foul out to first.
UMass Boston came through with two more, two-out runs in the fourth inning. With Cassidy Gaeta (North Reading, Mass.) on first and two down, Bilotta roped an RBI triple into the right-field corner and raced home on a Prusmack RBI single.
The Colonials came all the way back in a lengthy top of the fifth inning that included a rain delay. Sarah Tenke cut the deficit to 4-3 with a two-out double and after a 30-plus minute delay, the Colonials took the lead on back-to-back RBI hits with one out. Once again the damage could have been worse, but Greenspan stranded two runners in scoring position with a foul out and a fielders' choice.
Head coach Natalia Ardagna's scrappy squad immediately responded. The Beacons took advantage of two Colonials errors with two outs to take the lead right back (6-5).
After the first scoreless inning since the second, Western extended the game with one out left in the seventh. With two down, Plascyznski doubled with two outs and easily scored on Erica Bower's RBI triple. Greenspan locked down from there, by getting Jenna Gaudioso to groundout to the catcher.
UMass Boston put the winning run on first in the bottom of the inning two times, but couldn't walk-off just yet.
The Beacons loaded the bases in the eighth and 10thinnings, but both times couldn't quite squeeze across the winning run.
Meanwhile the Colonials threatened in the top of the 10th-but Greenspan and company came through. With two on and no outs, Greenspan struck out Gaudioso and then Prusmack made a tremendous diving catch in shallow left-center to start an inning-ending double play.
UMass Boston finally scored the run they needed in the 11th. Braga used her speed to force an error on a comebacker to the circle to leadoff the inning. Alyssa Tulley (Lowell, Mass.) followed with a single on the left side and that's when things got crazy. The Colonials tried to get Braga at second but the shortstop's throw airmailed the second baseman and flew into right-center field. Braga popped out of her slide and raced around the basepaths for the Beacons' second-straight walk-off win.
BY THE NUMBERS
- UMass Boston has now made it to three-consecutive LEC Championship Series. The defending LEC Champions defeated #1 Plymouth State in two games in 2017, and fell in Game 1 to Western Connecticut State in 2016. UMass Boston is the first program to reach three-straight title games since Eastern Connecticut State did it from 2010-2012.
- Head coach Natalia Ardagna earned her 200thcareer win in the victory. She has 181 wins at UMass Boston and 19 in her lone season at Simmons College.
- Greenspan improved to 6-0 all-time in seven career appearances at D&M Park (all in the LEC Tournament). The sophomore earned a save in her only other appearance.
- In their last two LEC Tournament meetings, UMass Boston is 2-0 against Western Connecticut State with wins in nine innings (9-8) and eleven innings.
- The Beacons had not played a double-digit inning game since 1999, when they fell in 10 innings. UMass Boston has played at least one game longer than 11 innings, as Carol McCarthy is credited with pitching 12 innings in a game against the University of Southern Maine on April 29, 1982.
- UMass Boston has now walked-off five times this season. The Beacons only walked off three times the previous two years.
- The Beacons recorded their second-most hits of the season in the win (16) and tied their season-high with four stolen bases.
#6 UMass Boston will play at Noon on Saturday in the first game of the 2018 LEC Championship Series. The Beacons will play the winner of Saturday's game 1 (10 a.m.) between #1 Plymouth State University and #6 Western Connecticut State University. UMass Boston needs to win just one game on Saturday, while the winner of game 1 will have to win the Noon game, to force a third game of the day at 2 p.m.