CLERMONT, Fla.—UMass Boston softball (2-6) concluded their season-opening trip at the NTC Classic with a pair of losses Wednesday afternoon, as the Beacons fell 13-6 to Benedictine University of Illinois (3-5) and 1-0 to #15 Plattsburgh State University (6-2).
Despite the fact that the two losses extended their skid to six games, the Beacons played some of their best softball of the week in game two, going toe-to-toe with a Plattsburgh State team that made it all the way to Salem, Virginia and the Softball Championship last May.
Freshman pitcher Emily Gray (New Bedford, Mass.) was one of the brightest spots for the Beacons Wednesday, throwing eight innings of two-run ball against Benedictine and Plattsburgh. Against the Cardinals, Gray threw six scoreless innings, before allowing a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the hard-luck loss. She also added a career-high two hits and her first RBI in game one, while serving as the Beacons designated player.
Senior Kelsey Souza (Braintree) and Erika Vecchiet (Pequannock, N.J.) added three hits apiece to lead the Beacons. A day after being held scoreless and registering just nine hits, UMass Boston tallied six runs and 15 hits across the doubleheader.
Game One: Benedictine University (Ill.) 12, UMass Boston 6
Game one of the day proved to be an offensive battle, as the two teams racked up 31 hits and 19 runs in a 13-6 Eagles victory. The Beacons defensive woes came back to haunt them for a second straight day, as Benedictine turned four UMB errors into three unearned runs.
Sophomore first baseman Kelsey Svenson (Oxford, Conn.) earned her first start of the season and tallied her second career hit and an RBI in the loss.
The Beacons took their first lead in four games in the first inning, when Hemstock smashed a single up the middle to score Souza, who had reached on a single to lead off the game.
After Benedictine raced out to an 8-1 lead by the end of the top of the fifth, UMass Boston responded with their second-best inning of the week in the bottom half of the inning.
Five straight Beacons singled to start off the inning and seven UMB players registered hits in the inning, as UMB scored five runs to cut the deficit to 8-6. Despite the five runs, the damage could have been more, if not for the Beacons scoring just one run with the bases loaded and one out.
Benedictine responded right away with four runs in the top half of the sixth to grab control right back and UMB managed just one more hit over their final two at-bats.
GAME TWO: #15 Plattsburgh State 1, UMass Boston 0
The second game of the day was a pitchers duel, as Gray went pitch for pitch with a pair of Cardinals right-handers. After six and a half tense innings of scoreless ball, Plattsburgh finally broke through for the lone run of the contest, as the rain and winds finally began to pick up over the NTC Main Complex.
Brianna Clarke sent a hard grounder up the middle, with the bases loaded and two outs, to score Megan Price and help the Cardinals outlast the Beacons.
Both teams stranded six runners on base, including a combined eight runners left in scoring position.
Souza and Vecchiet accounted for all three Beacons singles, while Clarke was one of three Plattsburgh State players to record two hits each.
Gray continued her strong start to the season, pitching six and 2/3 innings of one run ball, while allowing 10 hits and striking out three. On the other side, Ashley Marshall earned the win by throwing two and 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of freshman starter Samantha Moss.
The Beacons put together their best scoring chance of the day in the top half of the first, when Asta walked and moved over to second on a Vecchiet single. Both players moved up 60 feet on a wild pitch from Moss with two outs, but Natalia Bouyea (East Longmeadow, Mass.) struck out to end the rally.
Plattsburgh State put a runner on third with just one out in the bottom half of the first, but Gray struck out the next batter and forced a fly out to Bouyea to end the threat.
Getting out of trouble would be a common theme for Gray and the UMB defense, as the Cardinals put runners on in every inning but the sixth.
In the fifth inning, Plattsburgh State started off the inning with back-to-back singles, but Gray induced three straight groundouts and the left side of the infield recorded outs on the lead runner on each of the first two groundballs, to keep the score squared at 0-0.
But while the defense kept the Beacons on the verge of scoring the upset, Marshall made things difficult-striking out five of the seven batters she faced after coming on in relief.
The Cardinals finally broke through in the seventh despite some impressive defensive play by UMass Boston. Samantha Tenney led off the inning with a wind aided double that fell just out of the grasp of Bouyea and moved over to third on a wild pitch. After the next batter lined out to Vecchiet at second base, UMB caught Tenney in a run down and recorded the rare 6-5-2-5-2 putout, when Hemstock did a fantastic job of blocking the plate to keep the Beacons alive.
Three batters later with the bases loaded, Clarke sent a shot just to the right of second base to move the Cardinals to 6-2 on the year.
UMass Boston will return to New England over the weekend and are scheduled to play their first games Sunday afternoon in a doubleheader at Salve Regina beginning at Noon.