The Husson University softball team suffered a pair of heartbreaking one-run losses to nationally ranked teams on Saturday and was eliminated from the NCAA Division III Tournament at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.
Defending national champion Virginia Wesleyan nipped Husson 3-2 in the winners bracket game before host Amherst avenged Friday’s 6-1 loss to Husson with a 1-0 victory in an elimination game.
No. 22 Amherst and No. 9 Virginia Wesleyan will square off on Sunday with Amherst needing to beat Virginia Wesleyan twice to advance.
In Saturday’s elimination game, senior Talia Bloxham tossed a three-hitter and drove in the game’s only run with an infield single to lead the Mammoths to the win.
Bloxham had a no-hitter until one out in the sixth when Katie Windsor singled for the Eagles. The Eagles had a glorious opportunity to tie or win it in the seventh but Bloxham pitched her way out of it.
Meagan Gosselin opened the seventh with a base hit and Julia Gregoire followed with a single to put runners on first and second with nobody out. But Katie Raymond popped up her sacrifice bunt attempt to catcher Jess Butler and Bloxham struck out Teagan Blackie and Madelyn Fowler to end it.
Amherst scored the game’s only run in the fifth. Butler singled to right to lead off the inning and America Rangel sacrificed her to second. One out and a wild pitch later, Bloxham’s infield single delivered Butler from third.
Bloxham, who had surrendered a two-run homer to Kenzie Dore while throwing two innings of relief on Friday, struck out 12 and walked three while throwing 124 pitches, 75 for strikes. She is now 10-3.
Old Town’s McKenna Smith also turned in a three-hit gem with four strikeouts and two walks. She threw 73 strikes among her 111 pitches. Smith, who transferred to Husson from Division III Saint Anselm College (N.H.), suffered just her fourth loss in 22 decisions.
The North Atlantic Conference Pitcher of the Year allowed only seven hits and two earned runs in 17 innings of work during the tournament for a sparkling earned run average of 0.82.
Amherst, now 26-8, had beaten Rochester 10-0 in five innings earlier on Saturday in an elimination game. Husson concluded its season at 27-11.
In the winner’s bracket game, Virginia Wesleyan, 35-11, built a 3-0 lead against Husson starter Jen Jones but just one of the three runs was earned.
The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an error by third baseman Dore, a sacrifice, Ariana Rolle’s single and a passed ball on Gosselin.
They added two more in the fourth on Caitlin Myers’ leadoff homer, a hit batsman, a sacrifice and a throwing error by second baseman Katie Windsor after she caught a pop up and tried to throw out the runner trying to advance from second to third.
Husson broke through with two runs in the sixth and nearly tied it. NAC Player of the Year Dore drew one of her four walks in the game and she was forced at second on a Gosselin fielder’s choice.
Gregoire singled and Jess Pomerleau pinch ran for her. Pomerleau and Gosselin each stole a base to put runners on second and third. Freshman Brianne McCabe singled them both home. Tatyanna Biamby came on to pinch run for McCabe and a two-out walk moved her to second.
Fowler singled to center but center fielder Rolle threw Biamby out at the plate to preserve the one-run lead.
In the seventh, a Windsor single, a wild pitch and a walk to Dore put runners on first and second with one out. But reliever Sofia Eskola got Gosselin on a pop up and Gregorie on a ground ball to end it.
Emily Seale pitched six innings of five-hit, two-run ball with five walks and three strikeouts to notch her 21st win in 25 decisions. Eskola earned a save.
Jones allowed four hits and three runs, just one earned, over four innings. She walked two and struck out one. Smith came on in relief and pitched three innings of hitless shutout ball.
Caitlin Myers had a single to go with her homer and Haleigh Settle had a double for the Marlins. Windsor had two singles for Husson.