NORTON, MA – Senior righty Kayla Merrill pitched a complete-game five-hitter for her fifth shutout of the season as the Husson University softball team downed Eastern Connecticut State University, 7-0, in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Norton, Massachusetts Regional Tournament Friday afternoon at Clark Field on the campus of Wheaton College.
Eastern (29-7-1) had a six-game winning streak ended and falls into an elimination game Saturday at 1:30 against Johnson & Wales University. Husson (27-11), winning only its third NCAA game in 15 tries, faces the Wheaton Collegfe Friday at 11 a.m. in the winners' bracket. With a win Saturday, Husson would advance to their first regional championship game on Sunday.
Husson, a winner of 22 of 26 games since returning from a 5-7 Florida trip, had five of its nine hits off three Eastern pitchers go for extra bases. Leading 1-0 on a second-inning sacrifice fly, the Eagles scored three times in the fifth on three hits, a hit batter, error, and three wild pitches. Chelsea Brennan's fifth home run of the season leading off the inning made it 2-0 and Husson scored twice more after there were two out.
The Eagles tacked on three more runs in the seventh after there were two out and none on, four consecutive batters reaching safely on another hit batter, single and consecutive RBI doubles by Deb Colpitts and Sami Schultz.
Despite tatting .336 as a team, Eastern was no match for Merrill (16-4), who allowed only one hit in each of the first five innings, fanning six without a walk in her 14th route-going performance in 19 starts. Merrill got swinging strikeouts to end the first, second and fifth innings, stranding one runner in each of those frames. The Warriors never had two consecutive batters reach safely, with Merrill setting down the final eight batters of the game after senior leftfielder Shannon Martin's one-out double in the fifth (Eastern's only extra-base hit).
Eastern senior righty Erin Miller had pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout in the Warriors' 1-0 victory over Husson in the 2015 season-opener at Winter Haven. Friday, she was lifted on the short end of a 2-0 score with a runner on first and none out in the fifth. Junior righty Emily Komornik struck out the first batter that she faced and got a second out on a sacrifice bunt before the Eagles pushed across two runs on an RBI double by No. 3 hitter Lyndsay Merrill, an infield error and wild pitch.
Prior to Husson's three-run fifth inning, Eastern got a two-out single by senior first baseman Sam Rossetti in the first, a leadoff single by sophomore second baseman Gina Georgetti in the second, leadoff bunt single by sophomore rightfielder Danielle Robillard (Swansea, MA) in the third and leadoff single by sophomore catcher Kristyn Ryan. The Warriors came up empty in each of those innings against Merrill.