SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Plymouth State College captured the ECAC Division III New England Softball Championship Sunday by winning three consecutive elimination games, including a stunning sweep of top-seeded Springfield College on its own diamond, Potter Field.
The second-seeded Panthers began the day with a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Coast Guard, eliminating the Bears. PSC then needed to defeat Springfield back-to-back, and the Panthers did just that, pulling out 1-0 and 8-1 triumphs. It is PSC's first ECAC Softball Championship since 1985.
Plymouth State completes the season with a sparkling 30-9 overall record. The Panthers had never won more than 20 games in a season until winning 24 last spring. Coast Guard wrapped up a 26-13 campaign, while Springfield ends up at 33-12.
Sophomore pitcher Kim Jeffs (Stoughton, Mass.) was selected the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. She started four of PSC's five games, finishing with a 3-1 record and a 0.87 earned run average. Jeffs fanned 53 batters in 32.1 innings of the tournament, good enough to set the NCAA Division III all-time record for strikeouts in a season (375).
PSC remained alive by winning the first game over Coast Guard, 3-1. Jeffs went the distance for the Panthers, scattering nine hits while striking out 12. The Panthers trailed 1-0 after five innings, but plated three runs in the last of the sixth and Jeffs shut the door in the seventh.
Junior Michelle Knox (Gilmanton, N.H.) started the Panther rally with an RBI double, driving in classmate Maria Curran (Scarborough, Maine), who had singled. Senior Adriene Harvey (Nantucket, Mass.) then delivered the game-winning hit, a two-run homer to center field. It was Harvey's eighth round-tripper of the season, setting a new Panther record, and extended her PSC career record to 20.
The second game of the day featured a pitcher's duel between Springfield sophomore ace Brianne Pearson (Brockton, Mass.) and PSC freshman Rose Eaton (Concord, N.H.). Eaton had the edge, allowing only five hits while striking out four. She improved her record to 4-2, posting her first shutout of the season. PSC gave Eaton the only run she needed in the fifth inning, plating an unearned run following two Springfield errors.
Jeffs came back to go the distance in the final game of the tournament, striking out 11 Pride and allowing only five hits and one run. She picked up her NCAA Division III-leading 26th win of the year, completing the campaign with a 26-7 record and a 0.65 ERA.
PSC scored eight times on nine hits and seven Springfield errors, as only two Panther runs were earned. The Panthers took the lead with three runs in the third inning, added two in the fifth before putting the game away with three more in the sixth. Knox and Harvey had two hits apiece for PSC, with Knox smacking her first home run of the season and driving in three. Curran also blasted her second homer of the season for PSC, and sophomore Annie Metz (North Chelmsford, Mass.) drove in two runs.
The Panthers advanced to Sunday's competition after splitting two games on Saturday, edging Coast Guard 1-0 before falling to Springfield in a 12-inning heartstopper, 5-4.