Rathbun fans 11, Godwin and Cooper slug HRs in LEC tourney opener
Above: Arielle Cooper (Stephen Goomrigian photo)
DANBURY, Conn. - Junior All-America Molly Rathbun (Hebron) won her 16th consecutive decision this year without a loss with a complete-game six-hitter and sophomore third baseman Arielle Cooper (Mystic) hit a two-run home run in the first inning to lift top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University to a 7-1 victory over No. 6 Plymouth State University in the opening round of the six-team, double-elimination Little East Conference tournament Thursday afternoon.
In a re-match of last year's LEC championship game won by Eastern, 1-0 in eight innings, Eastern (27-4) advances to play No. 3 seed Keene State College (28-10-1) Friday at noon. The Owls lost a 5-3 decision to fourth-seeded Rhode Island College Thursday afternoon. If Eastern defeats Keene, it will play at 4 p.m. Friday. If it loses, it will play a 6 p.m. elimination game Friday.
Rathbun defeated Plymouth for the third time this year, the second time as a starter. She carried a 7-0 lead into the seventh before Plymouth (17-12) broke through for a run on two singles and an illegal pitch. Pinch runner Hillary Lemelin scored from third when Taylor Mancini was caught attempting to steal second by Eastern freshman Megan Bondy (Mystic). Bondy threw out two runners in the game.
Cooper's fifth home run of the year gave Eastern a 3-0 lead in the first inning and the Warriors later pushed the lead to 7-0 when freshman shortstop Megan Godwin (Manchester) belted her first career home run in the sixth - a two-run shot. In was the first time in three weeks that Eastern had slugged more than one home run in a game.
Rathbun fanned 11 - her seventh game of at least ten strikeouts this year - without walking a batter.
Cooper and junior rightfielder Priscilla Alicea (Stratford) each had two hits for Eastern, which scored three of its runs on batters who reached on walks. The top four hitters in the lineup - Alicea, Godwin, Rathbun and Cooper - combined for six of the team's seven hits, six of its seven runs and four of its five RBI.
Eastern swept Keene this past Saturday, 3-2 and 13-5 in six innings to wrap up its second straight LEC regular-season title.