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Softball: Warriors One Win from Title

Eastern now 3-0 in LEC tournament after downing Keene, 10-0 


MANSFIELD, Conn. - Two-time Little East conference Softball Tournament MVP Molly Rathbun (Hebron) of Eastern Connecticut State University struck out 15 for her 27th consecutive victory as the Warriors moved into the championship round of the 2012 LEC Tournament with a 10-0 victory over Keene State College Friday afternoon at the Eastern Softball Field.

At right: Molly Rathbun

Top-seeded Eastern  (39-1) which tied the program record for season wins with its 38th straight victory, is  the only remaining undefeated team and needs one win  (in two tries) to claim its third straight title . Second-seeded Keene (25-9-1) faces fifth-seeded Western Connecticut State University (29-14) in an elimination game Saturday at noon. The winner must defeat  Eastern twice later in the day to unseat the two-time defending champions.
Rathbun (28-1) won her third straight tournament game and has now been the pitcher of record in the team's last ten wins. She  allowed only four hits in a game which featured 18 hits but no extra base hits.
Eastern, ranked No. 2 nationally, broke open a tight game with six runs on six hits in chasing  senioir pitcher Emily Albin. Trailing 1-0, Keene threatened against Rathbun in the bottom of the third but Rathbun left runners on the corners with a swinging strikeout to end the threat. The first six batters reached safely for Eastern two innings later. Sophomore, Mattie Brett (Waterford) drove in two runs in the inning with a single, with junior Arielle Cooper (Mystic), junior Kassondra Silva (Hamden), senior Priscilla Alicea (Stratford) and Rathbun all plating one.

Already the program's career hit leader, Priscilla Alicea (at right) reached the 200-hit plateau Friday.

Alicea, Rathbun and Brett all drove in two runs in the game. Alicea had three hits and scored two runs and Rathbun, Cooper and sophomore Megan Godwin (Manchester) all had two hits. Alicea collected her 200th career hit in the game and Cooper extended her program record hitting streak to 31. Rathbun became the first pitcher to shut out Keene this year since the Owls' season-opener.
Eastern 13, Rhode Island 2 (6)

In a battle of teams which had won their Thursday openers, the Warriors opened play Friday with a 13-2  win over third-seeded Rhode Island College.

The Warriors threatened right off the bat in the top of the first. RIC junior pitcher Emily Johnson got two quick outs, but Cooper singled through the left side and Godwin singled up the middle. Brett was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Emily Johnson induced a ground out to get out of the jam.

The Anchorwomen used the momentum to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the frame, courtesy of Stacy Pokora's eighth home run of the year.  It was Pokora's second homer in as many games at the tourney.

Eastern tied the game up and then took the lead in the fourth as freshman left fielder Shannon Martin (Wethersfield) led off with a single through the left side and was lifted for junior pinch runner Courtney Weber (Groton). Weber promptly moved up to second on a wild pitch and Silva delivered a game-tying single up the middle.

With two out and the bases full, Cooper singled to second base, bringing in junior first baseman Kelly Paterson (Southington) and senior pinch runner Christine Yeomans (Durham). Godwin then singled in Rathbun and Brett delivered a lethal blow with a three-run homer (2) to left field, making it a 7-1 advantage for the top seed.

RIC loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning as Johnson doubled, junior right fielder Kristina Gingell singled and freshman first baseman Justin Thoma picked up a base knock. Freshman third baseman Monica Koehler plated Gingell with a one-out walk, but Rathbun recovered to strike out the next two hitters she faced to end the comeback bid.

Rathbun drew a one-out walk in the fifth and Cooper smacked a two-run homer (9) to center field to increase the visitor's lead to seven runs, 9-2.

In the sixth, junior relief pitcher Christine Acker (Milford) and sophomore pinch hitter Stephanie Johnson (Plantsville) each singled, with Acker moving up to third on an Anchorwoman error. With one down, Alicea walked to load the bases. Rathbun helped her own cause with grand slam (4) to center field to make it a 13-2 ballgame.

Rathbun pitched another strong game to get the win, allowing just two runs on five hits to go along with six strikeouts in four innings of work. Acker allowed just one hit in two innings of relief.

Johnson (8-10) took the loss, allowing eight runs on nine hits, to go along with seven walks and two strikeouts.

Cooper went 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, four RBI  and a home run. Rathbun went 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, four RBI and a homer. Godwin was the only other Warrior with multiple hits, posting a 2-for-3 effort to go along with a run scored, two RBI and two walks.

Gingell went 2-for-2 with a walk and run scored. Pokora was 1-for-3 with a run scored, an RBI and a home run.

In three tournament games, Eastern has outscored the opposition 32-2 and outhit them 34-12.  In 16 tournament innings, Rathbun  has struck out 32 and walked four and allowed 11 hits and one earned run (two total).Led by Godwin (.545), Cooper (.545), Rathbun (.500), Silva (.500), Brett (.444) and Alicea (.444),  the Warriors are batting .430 as a team in the tournament and have commited only two errors.
Eastern has now won 11 straight LEC tournament games over three seasons.
Keene, ranked fourth in the NCAA New England region, has won four LEC tournament  titles but has finished second in each of its last three championship game appearances between 2008 and 2010. Western won the last of its three titles in  2004 and last reached the championship round in 2007.






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