WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - The Plymouth State University softball team lost a pair of tough Little East Conference games Sunday at Eastern Connecticut State University, dropping the first game, 1-0, and falling short in the nightcap, 6-5, at ECSU's Howard Spector Field.
Eastern Conn., last year's LEC regular season co-champion and this year's preseason favorite, is now atop the conference with a 4-0 mark, 12-4 overall, while PSU ends the day at 2-2 in the LEC, 11-6 overall. ECSU is ranked second and PSU sixth in this week's Division III New England poll.
The first game was a duel between two of the LEC's top pitchers. Senior Courtney MacFarland (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton) had another strong pitching performance for the Panthers, allowing just one run on three hits and no walks and striking out five, but she was out-dueled by ECSU freshman Molly Rathbun (Hebron, Conn.), who tossed a one-hit shutout with one walk and 12 Ks. Rathbun is now 10-1 with a 0.59 earned run average, while MacFarland is 6-3 with a 0.74 ERA.
Eastern scored the only run of the game off MacFarland in the last of the sixth inning when junior Katie O'Toole (Waterbury, Conn.) led off with a pinch-hit single, and after a sacrifice bunt and a pinch-runner, junior Kim Church (Farmington, Conn.) delivered a clutch RBI double. Rathbun then retired the Panthers in order in the top of the seventh to seal the win.
Freshman Allie Luisi (North Kingstown, R.I.) had the only hit for PSU in the opener, a lead-off single in the fourth inning.
Senior Rachel Denny (East Haddam, Conn.) smacked an RBI single in the first inning of the nightcap to give the Warriors are early lead. A Panther error led to two unearned runs for Eastern in the second inning, the second run coming home on a two-out bases-loaded walk drawn by Rathbun.
PSU came back to tie the game at 3-3 with three runs in the third. Luisi and junior Sammi Romano (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Reg.) reached on two-out singles, and sophomore Andrea Pydynkowski (Danvers, Mass.) cracked her team-leading third home run of the season to left field.
Eastern regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the third on RBI singles by freshman Priscilla Alicea (Trumbull, Conn.) and sophomore Rachel Soychak (Mahopac, N.Y.), and extended the score to 6-3 on a run-scoring single in the fourth by senior Courtney Caswell (Wakefield, R.I.)
PSU attempted a comeback with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Junior Kay LaBrie (Somersworth, N.H.) led off with a double and scored on an infield out in the fifth and Pydynkowski did the same in the sixth, but Rathbun came on to shut down the Panthers in order in the seventh.
PSU returns home for what will hopefully be the home opener this week at D&M Park. The Panthers are scheduled to host Castleton State College Tuesday and Lyndon State College Thursday in non-conference doubleheaders (3:30 p.m. both days), contingent upon the weather and a dry field. Eastern Conn. plays at Wheaton Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.
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