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Softball: It's Eastern, Easily, in NCAAs

Warriors pound Lesley in opening game of regional, 10-1

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LISTEN.mp3 Post-game interview with Priscilla Alicea (Courtesy of Wayne Norman, WILI radio)

MANSFIELD, Conn. -- Eastern Connecticut State University senior Molly Rathbun (Hebron) twirled a three hitter for her 100th career victory in 112 decisions and  combined with classmate Priscilla Alicea (Stratford) to go 4-for-7 at the plate with four RBI as the top-seeded Warriors defeated  the nation's top-ranked offensive team -- Lesley University --  by a score of 10-1 in  five innings in the opening game of the 2012 NCAA Division III Mansfield, Conn. Regional Softball Tournament at the Eastern Softball Field.

Above:  Priscilla Alicea (Photo by Nicholas Noheimer)

Top-seeded Eastern (41-1)  found success early with an unearned run as junior Arielle Cooper (Mystic) scampered home on an infield miscue for the 1-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the second Alicea smacked a two-RBI double to right center before Rathbun singled to centerfield for another Eastern run.

The regional hosts then opened the game up in the fourth as the Warriors doubled their scoring output as freshman Jacqui Alvarado (Bay Shore, NY), junior Kelly Paterson (Southington) and Alicea connected on run-producing singles as sophomore Megan Godwin (Manchester) drew aN RBI walk.

Lesley, which lost for the first time in its last 15 contests, denied Rathbun her 15th shutout of the season in the top of the fourth. Sophomore Allison Fountain sent the ball to left center and stole second to set the stage for a 13 pitch battle between Rathbun and sophomore Nicole Mercurio. The Lynx batter then singled to left field to drive in Fountain.

A pair of ground-outs helped plate two more runs for Eastern.

Rathbun (30-1) scattered three hits over five innings while striking out seven en route to the victory which ties the program record that she set in 2010. It was her 29th straight win of the season and helped the Warriors  extend their New England winning streak to 40 - one shy of the national record for consecutive wins in one season set by the University of St. Thomas (MN) in 2004  on the way to the first of its two straight national titles.

Senior Cassandra Knox was tagged with the loss as she slips to 10-6 on the year as she allowed eight runs - five earned - on nine hits. Junior Mary Dembinski surrendered a pair of runs on one hit in one inning of relief.

In addition to Alicea and Rathbun, Paterson collected a pair of hits in a 2-for-2 outing with 2-RBI and a run scored as Alvarado touched home plate three times.

Senior Jenna Fralick joined Fountain and Mercurio in the hit column for the Lynx.

Cooper reached on an infield single in the fifth inning  which improved her New England-record hitting streak to 33, equaling the third-longest streak in NCAA Division III history  (11shy of the all-time record set by Heather Bortz of Moravian in the 2003 and 2004 seasons).

Rathbun became the eighth pitcher  in Division III history - third in New England --  to attain the 100-win plateau. Coast Guard's Hayley Feindel and Kim Sears of Wheaton are the only New England pitchers with more.

The victory was the 283rd for Eastern 11th-year head coach Diana Pepin, who needs two to become the winningest coach in program history.

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