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Panthers split two at ECAC Tourney

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Plymouth State College split its first two games in the ECAC Division III New England Softball Tournament Saturday, defeating Coast Guard 1-0 in the first game and dropping a heart-stopping 12-inning 5-4 contest to Springfield in its second round game.

The Panthers are still alive in the double-elimination event, and will face Coast Guard Sunday morning (10 a.m.) in an elimination game. The winner of that game will face Springfield in the championship round Sunday at 12 noon.

The #2 seed, PSC was able to get past #3 seeded Coast Guard on the strength of a superb, 19-strikeout pitching performance by sophomore Kim Jeffs (Stoughton, Mass.). The Panthers then gave top-seeded Springfield everything it could handle, taking a lead into the bottom of the seventh, eighth and 10th innings, only to see the Pride come back each time to tie it and then win it in the last of the 12th.

Jeffs fanned a remarkable 19 batters in the seven-inning game against Coast Guard. She allowed only four hits, but stranded the runners to record her 13th shutout of the season and NCAA Division III-leading 24th victory (24-6). PSC had only four hits as well, but manufactured a run in the fifth inning on a hit-by-pitch, a walk, a single and a fielder's choice.

The drama started in the Springfield game when PSC took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth, Junior Maria Curran doubled to left and scored on an RBI single by classmate Michelle Knox (Gilmanton, N.H.). The Pride forced extra innings, though, when sophomore Carrie Boyce delivered an RBI single in the bottom of seventh to tie it at 1-1.

With the tiebreaker rule in effect, Knox gave PSC a two-run lead in the eighth inning, driving in a pair with a bases-loaded single. Springfield answered in the bottom half of the inning when New England Player of the Year, senior Ali Gerrish (Plymouth, Mass.), cracked a two-run home run, her seventh HR of the season.

PSC regained the lead in the 10th inning when junior Kristen Balles (Bedford, N.H.) scored on a wild pitch, but the Pride matched it a half inning later when Nicole Coromato scored on a PSC throwing error. Springfield finally won it in the 12th when pinch runner Danielle Lachance (Spaulding, N.H.) scored on a bloop single to shallow left from sophomore Lori Baumann (Pittsfield, Mass.).

Jeffs worked 11.1 innings in the circle for PSC, allowing only eight hits and two earned runs. She struck out 11 but took the loss (24-7). Bri Pearson went the distance for Springfield to earn the win (22-5).