TYLER, TX - The Tufts softball team earned itself a day off at the NCAA Championship Finals as the Jumbos took a 5-2 winner's bracket victory over Montclair State on Friday night at the University of Texas Tyler's Suddenlink Field.
The Jumbos are now 2-0 in the tournament, joining Salisbury as the only undefeated teams remaining. Both teams will have the day off on Saturday while their opponents-to-be play. On Sunday at 3:30 pm, Tufts will take on the winner of the East Texas Baptist versus Wisconsin-Whitewater elimination game wthich is being played Saturday at 7:30 pm.
Tonight, the Jumbos (44-3) got the best of a match-up between two of the nation's top pitchers as Tufts junior Allyson Fournier faced Montclair senior Alex Hill. Tufts had 13 hits and five runs in the game, including another home run by senior catcher Jo Clair. Hill fell to 31-5 in the pitcher's cricle while the Red Hawks dropped to 42-7 overall. Meanwhile, Fournier improved to 24-0 allowing three hits and one run with eight strikeouts and three walks.
Fournier walked two in the top of the first inning, but Gracie Marshall turned a double play on a ground ball in the middle of it to help hold Montclair scoreless.
Tufts would grab a quick lead with two in the bottom of the first. Junior 3B Bri Keenan doubled to right field and Clair was intentionally walked. Keenan scored on a single to left by first-year DP Cassie Ruscz and Clair came home on a single to left by junior CF Michelle Cooprider. With runners on first and third and one out, Hill prevented further damage with a strike out and a fly out.
The Jumbos had runners on first and second with no outs in the second with the help of a Raso single, and later loaded the bases with two outs, but did not score in the inning.
Fournier struck out the side in the fourth for Tufts and the offense added to the lead. Keenan's infield single preceded the third home run of the tournament for Clair to give Tufts a 4-0 advantage. She now has 23 on the season and 66 in her career.
The Red Hawks closed to within 4-1 in the sixth as Dana Amato homered to center field with two outs.
Keenan had her third hit of the game with one out in the Tufts sixth, and then Clair snuck a bunt down to third base. Ruscz singled down the left field line and Keenan scored her third run of the game for a 5-2 Jumbo lead.
Senior Lauren Giglio was brought on in relief to start the seventh for Tufts, but after Hill singled and Zeller walked Fournier returned. She retired the first two batters she faced before Jaclyn Allegrett singled to right scoring a run. With the tying run at the plate, Fournier struck out Brooke Powers to lock down the win.
The Jumbos' 2-3-4 of Keenan, Clair and Ruscz combined to go 8 for 10 with five runs and four rbis in the game. Raso also had two hits for the Jumbos.
The victory was the 21st straight in the post-season for the Jumbos dating back to the start of the conference championship tournament last spring.
Game Photos by Alonso Nichols / Tufts