TYLER, Tex. – Kayla Oliveira pitched five shutout innings in relief before surviving a three-run Eastern Connecticut State University uprising in the bottom of the seventh inning to carry fourth-seeded Texas Lutheran University to a 7-6 win over the eighth-seeded Warriors Friday night in a winners' bracket game of the 2019 NCAA Division III national tournament at Suddenlink Field on the campus of UT-Tyler.
Eastern (35-12) had four of its ten hits in scoring three runs off Texas Lutheran (37-8) starter Jordaine Bishop in the first, but utilizing an effective changeup, Oliveira (17-3) limited the Warriors to three hits over the next five innings after replacing Bishop after Eastern No. 9 hitter Megan Hodgdon (Cheshire) singled leading off the second.
Down 7-3 in the seventh, however, the Warriors finally solved the junior righty by scoring three times on three hits before Oliveira's tenth strikeout of the game stranded the tying run on third and winning run on first to end the game. The one-run game was the fourth straight in post-season for Eastern, which lost for the first time.
Eastern plays an elimination game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET against second-seeded Illinois Wesleyan University (39-9), which remained alive Friday with a 5-3 victory over sixth-seeded Randolph Macon University. In the first game Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, No. 7 Trine University faces No. 5 Williams College in the first of the day's two elimination games. Saturday's two survivors join unbeatens Texas Lutheran and Emory University -- the lone remaining unbeatens -- Sunday. The Eastern-Illinois Wesleyan winner faces Emory at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday after the Trine-Williams survivor meets Texas Lutheran at 1 p.m. ET.
The win is the 15th in the last 16 games for the Bulldogs, who were coming off a 7-1 opening win Thursday over No. 5 seed Williams College. Eastern had won its tenth straight by stunning top-seeded St. Thomas, 2-1, in Thursday's opener.
No. 8 nationally-ranked Texas Lutheran entered play with a .366 team batting average and 184 stolen bases, and, like Eastern, had made a habit of knocking off higher-ranked and/or higher-seeded teams to get to Friday's winners' bracket. Ranked third in the final NCAA West Regional poll, the Bulldogs had whipped top-ranked and host East Texas Baptist, 6-1 en route to the Marshall, Tex. Regional title earlier this month, then travelled 2,000 miles less than a week later to outslug No. 2 regionally-ranked Linfield College and win the McMinnville, Ore. Super Regional in three games.
Against Texas Lutheran, Eastern scored three times in the bottom of the first on back-to-back run-scoring hits by freshmen Brooke Matyasovsky (Orange) and Julia SanGiovanni (East Haven) and a two-out single by junior Sabrina LeMere (North Branford), but the Bulldogs answered with the tying runs in the second and went ahead with three in the third.
Leading 6-3, Texas Lutheran added what proved to be a vital insurance run in the sixth on a walk, bunt single and infield ground ball.
Having pitched ten post-season complete games, Eastern sophomore righty Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) was lifted with a runner aboard and one out in the third with Eastern trailing 6-3 and was saddled with her second loss against 21 wins. Making her first pitching appearance in nearly a month, junior lefty Morgan Sanson (Thomaston) shut down the Bulldogs on one run and one hit the rest of the way. She walked two and struck out two and also singled and scored and drove in her first run of the year in the three-run seventh.
SanGiovanni and LeMere each had three of Eastern's ten hits. SanGiovanni had two doubles and drove in a run. LeMere drove in runs with a single in the first and doubled and scored in the seventh. Bolduk singled leading off the game and scored the team's first run and kept the rally alive in the seventh with a two-out single that pulled the Warriors to within a run.
Sanson was able to neutralize a Bulldog lineup which included four left-handed hitters. Lutheran's lethal top four hitters were limited to two hits and a run scored, but the bottom five hitters had seven hits, scored six runs and drove in four.