SALEM, VA – The Tufts softball team stayed alive at the 2012 NCAA Finals with a 7-1 win over Plattsburgh State in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon at the Moyer Complex. Held to one hit in a 1-0 loss against Roanoke to open NCAA Finals play on Friday night, the Jumbos had 11 hits this afternoon against Plattsburgh.
The Jumbos (41-6) advance to Game 9 of the NCAA Finals to be played on Sunday at noon. They will face defending national champion Linfield (43-6), who lost 5-3 to Pacific Lutheran in a winner's bracket game on Saturday. Plattsburgh finished its season at 35-11.
First-year pitcher Allyson Fournier (South Windsor, CT) went all seven innings for the Jumbos and improved to 23-2 on the season. She allowed five hits and one run with 10 strikeouts and no walks. She has 24 strikeouts in 14 innings at the finals.
The Jumbos struck quickly on offense today against Plattsburgh senior starter Heather Loughran. With two outs in the first, sophomore catcher Jo Clair (Glastonbury, CT) doubled to left-center when the fielders let the ball drop between them. Junior 2B Emily Beinecke (Concord, MA) followed with a single to center, scoring Clair on a close play at the plate for the first Jumbo run of the tournament. Beinecke took second on the throw and scored when first-year 3B Kris Parr (Austin, TX) lined another single to center.
When Jumbo CF Lizzy Iuppa (Paramus, NJ) singled over second base with one out in the second, Plattsburgh brought on #1 starter Ashley Marshall. She settled things down nicely, holding the score at 2-0 though the fourth.
Meanwhile, Fournier got the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the first, but Plattsburgh had runners in the next two innings. In the second, first-year 3B Michelle Iannone led off with a single to left. Pinch-runner Kayla Rabideau was sacrificed to second, but was stranded when Fournier got a strike out and a pop up to end the inning. In the third, Plattsburgh senior LF Dana Mandery was hit by a pitch to lead-off, but was thrown out stealing by Clair. First-year SS Brittany Marshall stung a single through the right side for the Cardinals' second hit, but a Fournier strikeout finished the frame.
Both teams went 1-2-3 in the fourth, with two more strikeouts for Fournier. The Jumbo bats broke it open in the top of the fifth. They loaded the bases with no outs on when Iuppa beat out a slap-single to shortstop and then senior SS Mira Lieman-Sifry (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY) and sophomore LF Sara Hedtler (Wrentham, MA) both used their speed to reach on bunts. Senior 1B Lena Cantone (Southington, CT) then drove a double to left-center that scored two for a 4-0 Jumbo lead. A Clair ground-out to short brought home Hedtler for a 5-0 margin. The Jumbos attempted to squeeze home Cantone from third, but Plattsburgh pitcher Ashley Marshall and catcher Erin Florkiewicz combined to get the out.
The Cardinals put their first two runners on base in the fifth with a hit by pitch and single by senior RF Katie McNally, but the threat was quelled when Iuppa made a nice running catch of a line drive in center and threw to second for a double play.
The Cardinals broke up Fournier's bid for a 13th shutout this spring in the bottom of the sixth. Senior 2B Allison Smiddy doubled to left-center with one out and then came around to score on a two-out single to right by Iannone.
Tufts added to their lead with two more in the top of the seventh. Hedtler led off with a slap single to short. Cantone doubled again over the center fielder's head for her 16th of the year to tie Tufts' single-season record. Clair had her second rbi of the day and 57th of the season with a deep sacrifice fly to left, and Beinecke followed with a single down the third base line to plate another and put Tufts up 7-1.
Fournier added two more strikeouts while setting down the side in the seventh to give Tufts the win.
Jumbo head coach Cheryl Milligan adjusted the batting order after Friday night's struggles and received great results. Cantone and Beinecke led the attack, both finishing 2 for 4 with two rbis and a run. Hedtler was 2 for 3 with two runs at the top of the order and Iuppa went 2 for 2 with a run in the eighth spot.
Iannone finished with two of the Cardinals' five hits. Loughran took the loss, allowing four hits and two runs in 1.1 innings. Ashley Marshall gave up seven hits and five runs in 5.2 innings of relief.
Tufts is now 29-23 in 12 NCAA appearances, including 3-4 in their third time at the NCAA Finals.