TYLER, Tex. – Sophomore right-handed pitcher Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) recorded her tenth straight complete-game win in post-season competition with a three-hitter as the eighth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University softball team opened the NCAA Division III national tournament by upended top-seeded University of St. Thomas, 2-1, Thursday afternoon at Suddenlink Field on the campus of the University of Texas at Tyler.
A winner of ten straight, unranked Eastern (35-11) moves into a winners' bracket game of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament Friday evening at 8 p.m. against fourth-seeded Texas Lutheran University (36-8), which downed No. 5 Williams College, 7-1, in Thursday's second game. The Bulldogs had advanced to the national tournament by downing Super Regional host and former national champion Linfield College in the deciding game of a best-of-three series in which the teams combined to score 34 runs.
Having lost its opener in each of its past two national tournament appearances, Eastern scored twice in the top of the third inning when it bunched four of its seven hits off first-team All-America righty Kierstin Anderson-Glass (26-4) to erase a 1-0 deficit. Sophomore rightfielder Alexis Tyrrell (Torrington), the team's leading hitter this season, drove a 1-0 pitch up the middle to send home junior centerfielder Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) and junior catcher Megan Hodgdon (Cheshire) with the go-ahead runs.
Named a third-team NSCA All-America Wednesday, Bolduk (21-1) retired 15 straight – 12 on infield outs – before cleanup hitter Chase Shortly singled through the right side to open the bottom of the seventh with the Warriors holding to its 2-1 lead. A sacrifice bunt moved the tying run to second and an infield ground ball to freshman Brooke Matyasovsky (Orange) moved the tying run to third. On a 3-2 pitch, however, Bolduk induced freshman DP Megan Baniecke to hit a game-ending ground ball to senior second baseman Jackie Lewis (Mystic).
Eastern's current winning streak is its longest in five years, when the Warriors strung together 13.
Averaging 2.3 stolen bases per game this year, the No. 23-nationally-ranked Tommies managed only four baserunners against Bolduk, and thus, were limited to just one stolen base. That stolen base came when St. Thomas jumped quickly with a run in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Bolduk issued her only walk of the game to UST's only left-handed hitter – senior centerfielder Kristin McGonigal. McGonigal quickly swiped her 24th bag of the year in 28 tries, and No. 3 hitter Elise Barnes rapped a 2-2 pitch up the middle for the first run of the national tournament. Bolduk left Barnes in scoring position and avoided further damage, however, by getting a pair of infield ground balls to Matyasovsky at first.
Matyasovsky recorded 15 of the 21 putouts in the game, with St. Thomas' predominantly right-handed lineup grounding to Matyasovsky six times.
Anderson-Glass fanned nine without a walk but still sustained her first loss since April 5 – a string of 20 consecutive victories.
Eastern played perfect defense for the seventh time in ten post-season games.