TYLER, Tex. – Sophomore righty Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) tossed her sixth shutout in 12 post-season starts and junior shortstop Sara Pisanelli (Wallingford) drove in the only run with a sixth-inning suicide squeeze to propel the eight-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University softball team into the semifinals of the 2019 NCAA Division III national tournament with a 1-0 elimination round win over second-seeded Illinois Wesleyan University Saturday afternoon at Suddenlink Field on the campus of the University of Texas at Tyler.
Eastern (36-12) is one of four remaining teams in the original field of eight in the double-elimination tournament and faces unbeaten third-seeded Emory University (38-12) Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET in the second game of the day. In the first game at 1 p.m. ET, unbeaten No. 4 seed Texas Lutheran University (37-8) meets once-beaten seventh-seeded Trine University (37-7).
The two remaining once-beaten teams would each need to win twice Sunday to advance to the best-of-three championship round which begins Monday.
Bolduk (22-2) rebounded Saturday after failing to finish the game for the first time in post-season in Friday night's 7-6 loss to Texas Lutheran. In handing Illinois Wesleyan its second 1-0 loss of the tournament, Bolduk recorded her tenth shutout of the year. She pitched a four-hitter with four strikeouts and two walks and stranded two runners in scoring position.
The one-run decision was the fifth straight involving Eastern, which has won four of them. Prior to knocking off second-seeded Illinois Wesleyan, Eastern had opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over top seeded University of St. Thomas (Minn.).
Batting ninth in the order, junior catcher Megan Hodgdon (Cheshire) got the winning rally going in the top of the sixth when she singled to center on a full count. Bolduk sacrificed pinch runner Katelyn Miller (Wallingford) to second, and after sophomore rightfielder Alexis Tyrrell (Torrington) sent Miller to third with a single, Pisanelli dropped a bunt down on the second pitch from first-team All-America pitcher Ally Wiegand and Miller slid home ahead of the throw from first baseman Colleen Palczynski.
Bolduk escaped two jams to keep the shutout intact, and also benefited in the fourth when a one-out bunt with a runner on first was initially ruled to have glanced off a diving Hodgdon before bouncing foul, which would have put two runners on. Following an appeal, it was ruled that Hodgdon did not touch the ball before it went foul. Bolduk followed by strikeing out the batter and freshman third baseman Julia SanGiovanni (East Haven) ended the inning when she threw out Brittany Murphy with a throw from her knees after diving to her left to smother the drive.
With Saturday's game still scoreless in the bottom of the fifth and two out and a runner on second base, No. 9 hitter Julie Josten singled to center on the first pitch she saw from Bolduk, but pinch runner Courtney Barrett was held at third when the throw came in from junior centerfielder Sabrina LeMere (North Branford). Bolduk stranded Barrett by getting leadoff hitter Jillian Runyon to pop to Pisanelli at short.
Bolduk protected the one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth when Wesleyan – making its fourth straight trip to the national tournament and placing second last year – collected two hits in an inning for the only time. With two outs and two on, LeMere raced to her left to haul in a long drive by Hayley Earl.
In the seventh, an infield error on a difficult bouncer to the right side put the tying run aboard for the Titans, but Bolduk got Runyon to bounce back to the mound on an 0-2 pitch to end the game.
Terrell had two of Eastern's six hits and freshman first baseman Brooke Matyasovsky (Orange) reached twice with a second-inning single and a sixth-inning walk.
The Eastern and Emory softball programs will be meeting for the first time. The No. 18 nationally-ranked Eagles defeated No. 6 seed Randolph-Macon University, 7-5, Thursday and Trine, 2-1, Friday. Both Emory and Texas Lutheran were idle Saturday.