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PSU Softball drops heartbreaker in ECAC Tournament

            SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Freshman Trish Breault (Millville, Mass.) singled home the only run of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon and fourth-seeded Western New England College advanced past fifth-seeded Plymouth State University, 1-0, in the first round of the ECAC New England Tournament.

            The Golden Bears (29-14) advance to this weekend's double-elimination tournament, which will be played at top-seeded Brandeis University.  Plymouth State completes one of the top seasons in school history with a 25-15 overall record.

            The game was a superb pitching duel between PSU sophomore Kat Roland (Norton, Mass.), who was named to the Little East Conference All-Star team earlier in the day, and WNEC junior Laura Bower (Hudson, Mass.), who was named to the All-New England Region team on Tuesday.  Roland retired the first 11 batters she faced, and surrendered only four hits and no walks through the first eight innings while striking out 12. Bower retired 13 Panthers in a row in the middle innings, matched her career high with 15 strikeouts, and allowed just five base runners through eight innings on two hits, a walk and two batters hit by a pitch.

            The Panthers started the top of the eighth and ninth innings with a runner on second base (due to the extra-inning rule) but couldn't bring either one around to score.  The Golden Bears had the same luxury in their half of the innings and came up empty in the bottom of the eighth, but sophomore Lauren Arsenault (Fitchburg, Mass.) sacrificed the runner to third to start the bottom of the ninth and Breault delivered the game-winning hit with a single to left field. Bower collected her 20th win of the season, improving to 20-8.

            Freshman Melissa Caiazzo (Portland, Maine) and junior Heather Bartolo (Derry, N.H.) each reached base twice and accounted for PSU's only two hits on the day.  Caiazzo was stranded at second base after a single in the second inning, and broke Bower's streak of retiring 13 straight Panthers by drawing a walk in the seventh inning. Bartolo was stranded at second after reaching on a hit-by-pitch in the third, and she singled to put runners at the corners with one out in the eighth inning, but Bowers struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

            The 25 wins for PSU this spring is the second-most in a season in school history, and marks a 12-game improvement over last year. The Panthers were making their fifth ECAC post-season appearance and first since 2003.

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