DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- Sophomore righty Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) allowed only five hits in four complete-game shutouts as the Eastern Connecticut State University softball team rolled through the Little East Conference Tournament, defeating two-time defending champion University of Massachusetts Boston, 8-0, in five innings in Saturday's championship game to claim its fifth tournament title in ten years at the UMD Softball Complex on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Seeded third, Eastern (29-11) defeated No. 4 University of Southern Maine, 8-0 in six innings Thursday on Bolduk's one-hitter, downed No. 5 UMass Boston, 3-0, Friday, on another one-hitter, and moved into Saturday afternoon's final when Bolduk (15-1) avenged her only loss of the season – a week ago by an 8-5 score – with a two-hitter over No. 2 Plymouth State University.
Eastern qualifies automatically for its 21st NCAA tournament in program history, which gets underway Friday, needing one victory to reach 30 triumphs for the 14th time.
It marked the first time in the 22-year history of the tournament that a team won four games by shutout. In 2005, Keene State College won the title with three shutout wins. It also marked the fourth straight year that the No.1-seeded tournament host failed to win the title (as the No. 1 seed, Eastern won the 2015 title on its home field).
Eastern played perfect defense in four games, with Bolduk handling17 chances, freshman third baseman Julia SanGiovanni (East Haven) 12, senior second baseman Jackie Lewis (Mystic) 11, freshman first baseman Brooke Matyasovsky (Orange) 30 and junior shortstop Sara Pisanelli (Wallingford) eight.
In posting her third tournament one-hitter in the final against UMass Boston (23-20), Bolduk helped her cause with a three-run home run that highlighted a four-run fourth inning and gave the Warriors a 6-0 lead. Bolduk retired the final ten hitters in the title game and finished with four strikeouts and no walks, giving her 22 strikeouts and three walks in the tournament.
In a scoreless championship game, Bolduk surrendered a one-out single to senior DP Alyssa Tulley in the second inning, but left her stranded at second with a swinging strikeout. The Warriors countered with all of the runs they would need in the bottom of the inning. With two out and no one on against junior righty Jess Greenspan – the tournament MVP each of the last two years – junior centerfielder Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) drew a walk and junior catcher Megan Hodgdon (Cheshire) followed with a single to center that set up freshman No. 9 hitter Laura Zenk's (Hermon, ME)'s two-run triple to right. It was Zenk's only tournament at-bat.
At right: Sophomore Morgan Bolduk became the first pitcher in the tournament's 22-year history to throw as many as four shutouts.
Driven from the game in the sixth inning of last Saturday's loss to Plymouth (22-18), Bolduk outdueled Plymouth junior lefty Caitlyn Miller this time around, shutting down the Panthers on two hits and one walk and fanning four. Cleanup hitter Matyasovsky drove in the only run of the game with a two-out single that scored sophomore rightfielder Alexis Tyrrell (Torrington). Tyrrell was hit by a pitch with one out, stole her 16th base of the year, and rode home when Matyasovsky drove in her fifth run of the tournament.
In the tournament, LeMere batted .429 with a .636 on-bases percentage, Hodgdon .400, and Tyrrell .364. Matyasovsky led the team with five RBI, Bolduk four and SanGiovanni three. SanGiovanni's hits went for extra bases –a double and two home runs.
Bolduk brings a 0.83 ERA in 109 innings with 94 strikeouts and 14 walks into the NCAA tournament – Eastern's first appearance since 2015.