Three-time defending champion Warriors bounced after one-run losses
MANSFIELD, Conn. -- Behind the complete-game four-hit pitching of junior Michelle Sylvestre, fifth-seeded Rhode Island College avenged two regular-season losses with a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University that eliminated the Warriors from the 2013 Little East Conference Softball Tournament at the Eastern Softball Field Saturday.
At right: Christine Akcer
After outscoring its first two tournament opponents by a 12-4 margin, Eastern (28-14) was handcuffed by third-seeded Western Connecticut State University freshman Alexandra Sabith in a 1-0 loss - only its second shutout loss this year -- in the winners' bracket final Friday night, then was shut down by Sylvestre Saturday afternoon and eliminated from the tournament after three consecutive championships.
Western went on to its first LEC title in nine years with a 1-0 victory over Rhode Island (23-23) Saturday afternoon after the Anchorwomen had forced a deciding game with a 6-0 triumph earlier Saturday.
Eastern senior Christine Akcer (Milford) threw a complete-game five-hitter in the loss. Akcer (7-5) did not allow an earned run and walked only one, but a two-out error in the first inning opened the door to both of Rhode Island's runs and the Warriors played catchup the rest of the day.
At left: Alyssa Hancock
Freshman shortstop Alyssa Hancock (Waterford) slugged her third home run of the year with one out in the first for the Warriors, who threatened several times thereafter but could not break through again. After allowing Hancock's home run, Sylvestre gave up a two-out single to junior second baseman Jen Tamindzija (Malden, MA) in the second, a leadoff single by No. 9 batter Stephanie Johnson (Southington) in the third and senior first baseman Kelly Paterson's (Southington) one-out single in the seventh. An infield throwing error in the seventh moved Eastern junior leftfielder Megan Godwin (Manchester) to third base, but Sylvestre got an infield ground out to end the game.
While Eastern was able to tee off on Keene State College freshman ace Mariah Crisp in a second-game win on Friday, it couldn't produce against Sabith or Sylvestre. Sabith had thrown a complete-game four-hitter in Western's 7-4 victory over Eastern and a split of the regular-season doubleheader. Although the Warriors had soundly beaten Rhode Island twice during the regular season, they faced Sylvestre only briefly in a two-inning relief appearance in the first game.
While Akcer and sophomores Shannon Martin (Wethersfield) and Erin Miller (Waterford) were effective pitchers in the tournament for Eastern, the Warriors batted just .250 in four games after compiling a .343 batting average in the regular season.
Senior third baseman Arielle Cooper (Mystic), Martin and Johnson were the only starters to bat .300, and the Warriors were limited to only four extra-base hits after averaging nearly three per game during the regular season.
Western will be awarded the automatic bid granted the LEC tournament champion, and Eastern will await word on an at-large selection when the bids are extended Monday.