WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Sophomore Ashley Sullivan (Trumbull, Conn.) cracked a two-run triple in the first inning and classmate Kim Church (Farmington, Conn.) added a two-run home run in the second inning Thursday afternoon and top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University went on to defeat sixth-seeded Plymouth State University, 6-2, in Game One of the Little East Conference Softball Tournament at ECSU's Howard Spector Field.
The Warriors, 25-10, advance in the double-elimination championship bracket and will play again Friday at 1:00 p.m. against the loser of Game Three. The Panthers, 24-13, will play another game on Thursday, meeting fifth-seeded University of Southern Maine in an elimination game at 7:00 p.m. The Huskies were defeated by second-seeded Rhode Island College in Game Two of the tournament, 6-3.
Church led off the bottom of the first for Eastern Conn. with a single to left. Two outs later, clean-up hitter and senior co-captain Krystle Denny (West Haven, Conn.) drew a walk and Sullivan put the Warriors on the board, knocking in two runs with a triple to right field.
PSU bounced right back with two runs in the top of the second inning. Freshman Melissa Caiazzo (Portland, Maine) led off with a single through the left side, and after classmate Andrea Pydynkowski (Danvers, Mass.) reached on a fielder's choice that erased Caiazzo, sophomore Sammi Romano (Kingston, N.H.) cracked a home run to center field to tie the score at 2-2. It was Romano's fourth homer of the season.
Eastern took the lead for good with a pair of unearned runs in the last of the second inning. Senior Casey Mahoney (Willimantic, Conn.) reached base on a two-out error, and the next batter was Church, who smacked her fourth home run of the season to left field.
The Warriors added single runs in the fourth and sixth innings on an RBI single by Denny and a pinch-hit solo home run by freshman Rachel Soychak (Mahopac, N.Y.), her first of the season. That was plenty of run support for Eastern junior Katie Pensiero (Stamford, Conn.), who shut down the Panthers after the second inning.
Pensiero earned the victory (12-4) with a complete-game effort, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out two. Sophomore Kat Roland (Norton, Mass.) suffered the loss (11-5) for PSU, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits and three walks while fanning four.
Church, Denny and Sullivan all had three hits for the Warriors, who swept the regular-season series from Plymouth State, 9-8 and 7-3, back on Apr. 6. Caiazzo was the only multiple-hit performer for the Panthers with a pair of singles.
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