MEDFORD, Mass. – Eastern Connecticut State University played perfect defense for the sixth straight game and sophomore righty Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) won her 16th game in 17 decisions and drove in two runs with a single and a home run in a 6-3 win over WPI in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Medford, MA Softball Regional Friday afternoon at Spicer Field.
By winning 30 games for the 14th time in the last 37 years, third-seeded Eastern (30-11) advances to Saturday's noon winners' bracket against top-seeded Tufts University, which crushed fourth-seeded University of Saint Joseph Friday, 11-0, in five innings.
A win Saturday against Tufts would move the Warriors within a victory Sunday of its 14th NCAA regional title since 1982. A loss Saturday at noon in the double-elimination tournament drops the team into an elimination game Saturday at 5 p.m.
Eastern's defense, which handled 108 chances without an error in four Little East Conference games last weekend, was perfect on 33 attempts against WPI. Senior second baseman Jackie Lewis (Mystic) had six assists and three putouts to lead the way.
In Eastern's first NCAA tournament victory in seven years, Bolduk pitched her 13th complete game in 15 starts and the Warriors overcame a one-run deficit by scoring two unearned runs in the fourth inning on two hits, two walks and a dropped fly ball in center to take a 3-2 lead.
Making her second consecutive start in the post-season, freshman DP Laura Zenk (Hermon, ME) drew a bases loaded walk for the first run of the fourth inning that tied the game at 2-2, and Bolduk slapped an infield single to second base to drive in junior centerfielder Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) with the go-ahead run. LeMere had singled with one out earlier in the inning, moved to second on the outfield error and to third on the walk to Zenk.
Freshman first baseman Brooke Matyasovsky (Orange) extended the lead to 4-2 with a one-out solo home run in the fifth – her team-leading ninth of the year and second in the post-season.
The team's leadoff hitter, Bolduk had homered with one out in the third to stake Eastern to a 1-0 lead. It was her fourth home run of the year and second in as many games
Clinging to a 4-3 lead, Eastern added two key insurance runs in the top of the seventh on freshman third baseman Julia SanGiovanni's (East Haven) single that drove in freshman pinch runner Grace Leone (Brick, NJ) and Matyasovsky. Junior shortstop Sara Pisanelli (Wallingford) had walked with one out in the inning and Matyasovsky doubled her to third.
After pitching 25 scoreless innings in last weekend's Little East Conference tournament, Bolduk was reached for two runs in the third inning that moved second-seeded WPI (32-10) into its only lead, 2-1. With one out and the bases loaded in that inning, Pisanelli threw out Hailey McCasland trying to score from third on a ground ball, but with two outs and two on, Cassie Graca singled up the middle to send in Marissa Gonzales (hit-by-pitch) and Caraline Wood (single).
Trailing 4-2, the Engineers cut the gap to one with a run in the bottom of the sixth on doubles by Kylie Juarez and Leila Camplese, but Camplese was later nailed trying to take third on an infield single to Pisanelli that ended the inning.
Batting cleanup, Matyasovsky reached three times, contributing her 13th multiple-hit game of the season by going 2-for-3 with a walk and scoring two runs. Bolduk also had two hits and drove in two runs.
Ranked sixth nationally in earned run average, Bolduk pitched an eight-hitter with four strikeouts and two walks. Katie Martin (12-3) and Mckenzie Phillips combined on a seven-hitter for WPI, which had won 22 of its previous 25. Martin was lifted after four innings with her team trailing, 3-2, but Phillips surrendered her ninth home run of the season to the second batter she faced in Matyasovsky, who poled her ninth of the year (most by a freshman at Eastern) over the left field fence.
NCAA DIVISION III
MEDFORD, MA REGIONAL TOURNAMENT
Hosted by Tufts U. at Medford, MA
1.Tufts U. (30-8); 2. WPI (32-9); 3. EASTERN CONN. (29-11); 4. U. of Saint Joseph, CT (27-17).
Friday, May 10
Game 1: EASTERN CONN. 6, WPI 3
Game 2: Tufts U. 11, U. of Saint Joseph, CT 0 (5 inn.)
Saturday, May 11
Game 3: EASTERN CONN. (1-0) vs. Tufts U. (1-0), noon
Game 4: WPI (0-1) vs. U. of Saint Joseph, CT (0-1), 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 12
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, noon
Game 7 (if necessary), 2:30 p.m.