MEDFORD, Mass. – Sophomore righty Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) recorded her fifth shutout in her last six starts and the Eastern Connecticut State University softball team played flawless defense for the seventh straight game in a 2-0 win over No. 1 seeded and host Tufts University Saturday to advance to the championship round of the NCAA Division III Medford, MA regional tournament at Spicer Field.
The win is the second in as many days in the four-team, double-elimination tournament for third-seeded Eastern (31-11), which has two chances to win one game against Tufts beginning at noon Sunday in order to secure its 14th NCAA regional crown since 1982. Tufts advanced to Sunday by surviving a three-run WPI first inning for a 4-3 win in Saturday's third game.
The winner of the tournament advances to next weekend's best-of-three Sa uper Regional.
In Game 5 Saturday at 5 p.m., Tufts (31-9) faces the winner of a 2:30 elimination game between second-seeded WPI and fourth-seeded University of Saint Joseph (CT). That winner must beat Eastern twice to win the title and advance.
A winner of 14 of 15 at home this year prior to Saturday, Tufts managed only four hits (three singles) and six baserunners against Bolduk (17-1), who was coming off Friday's opening eight-hit, 6-3 win over WPI.
Now 6-0 with five shutouts and a 0.54 earned-run average in six post-season starts since her only loss of the season, Bolduk stranded four in scoring position Saturday as the Warriors evened their all-time NCAA record against Tufts at 1-1 (the Jumbos had shut out Eastern, 5-0, in the final of the 2012 regional at Mansfield to advance to the national tournament).
While Bolduk was fanning five and walking only one, the Warriors backed her with single runs in the third and in the sixth. With one out in the third, freshman third baseman Julia SanGiovanni (East Haven) reached on one of the six walks issued by losing pitcher Kristi Van Meter (13-3) over her 5 1/3 innings. A wild pitch sent her to second and with two out, junior centerfielder Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) doubled home pinch runner Kayla Santos (Peabody, MA).
While Bolduk held Tufts hitless and to one baserunner (walk) in the middle innings, the pitcher helped her cause with a one-out RBI single down the left field line to chase in freshman Laura Zenk (Hermon, ME) from second to make it 2-0 in the sixth. Zenk had walked with one out and moved to second on pinch hitter Kamdynn Moroney's (Newtown) single to center.
Bolduk allowed baserunners in five of seven innings. She gave up a two-out single in the first, a one-out double in the second, a leadoff single in the third, a one-out walk in the fifth, and a leadoff single and a fielder's choice in the seventh. After Jamie Stevens' double in the second, Bolduk got a swinging strikeout and infield ground ball to end the inning. With Eastern holding to its 2-0 lead in the seventh, Bolduk left the tying runs aboard with two strikeouts looking and a game-ending fly ball to sophomore Alexis Tyrrell (Torrington) in right.
Bolduk and LeMere (two doubles) each had two of Eastern's six hits off Van Meter and reliever Gillian O'Connor while Zenk reached three times on walks.