Panthers fall to Beacons in title game for second straight year
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Top-seeded Plymouth State University survived three straight elimination games to reach the Little East Conference (LEC) softball championship game before falling to sixth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston, 4-3, at D&M Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers (26-15) earned a trip to the title game with consecutive wins over second-seeded Eastern Connecticut (4-0), fifth-seeded UMass Dartmouth (4-0) and fourth-seeded Western Connecticut (5-4). PSU's 26 wins were the most since the 2003 team went 30-9.
UMass Boston (17-23) won its second straight title by winning four one-run contests, including two in extra innings.
UMB got off to a good start as sophomore Ari Bilotta (Leominster, Mass.) ripped the game's first pitch down the left field line for a double. After a sacrifice bunt moved her over, freshman Kelly Danahy (Kingston, Mass.) walked and continued on to second. An intentional walk loaded the bases and junior Taylor Pawlina (Woonsocket, R.I.) singled to left to bring in the game's first run.
Sophomore Caitlyn Miller (Lee, N.H.), making her fifth start in three days, got out of the inning without allowing another run and the Panthers' bats responded in the bottom of the inning.
Senior Nina Murray (Saugus, Mass.) smoked a first-pitch triple to right field and, after a foul out, junior Ashley Deyo (Dover, N.H.) singled on a line to left center to tie the game. Senior Abrie Davis (Amherst, N.H.) singled and advanced on the throw to put two runners in scoring position and junior Cassidy Emerson (Concord, N.H.) drove both runners home with a base hit up the middle, just beyond the reach of the diving second baseman.
The Beacons pulled in front with a three-run third. With one out, Danahy tripled just inside the right field line. After a shallow fly ball to left for the second out, Pawlina's soft single to left cut the PSU lead to 3-2. Junior Alyssa Tulley (Lowell, Mass.) dropped a single just inside the right field line to tie the game. It looked like that was all the Beacons would get when the next batter grounded to third, but the ball popped out of the glove of the first baseman allowing the go-ahead run to score.
UMB starter, sophomore Jess Greenspan (Rocky Hill, Conn.), got stronger pitching with the lead. PSU got a runner in the fourth with a two-out walk, and junior Hannah Seidner (Pembroke, N.H.) singled with one down in the fifth, but was erased on a fielder's choice.
Plymouth State had the tying run on in the sixth when Emerson reached as her ground ball to third went between the legs of the Beacons' third baseman. A bunt moved her to second and she took third on a ground ball out, but was stranded when junior Mel Goss (Templeton, Mass.) ripped a hard line drive to right that was hauled in by the right fielder.
Freshman Samantha Cushing (Amherst, N.H.) beat out an infield hit as a pinch hitter to start the seventh, but Greenspan retired the next three batters to close out the game.
Miller suffered the loss to end the year with a 16-8 mark. Junior Kayla Mathieu (Fairfax, Vt.) allowed just a single and walk over the final two innings. Emerson drove in two and seven different Panthers had base hits.
Pawlina finished 4-for-4 for UMB, scoring a run and driving in two. Greenspan (12-14) went the distance, allowing seven hits and a walk while surrendering three runs. Over the final six innings she gave up just two hits and a walk.
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