DANBURY, CT - Junior Sofia Palacios (San Fernando, CA) belted a grand slam to send the game into extra innings and finished the day with six runs batted in, but the Western Connecticut State University softball team dropped a 9-8 decision, in nine innings, to University of Massachusetts Boston in the first round of the Little East Conference Tournament on Tuesday.
All six teams to qualify for the tournament will now play the finals at Plymouth State University on Thursday and Friday, May 4 and 5. The Colonials, will face elimination when they take on the top seeded Panthers in the noon game on Thursday. Plymouth State defeated intra-state rival Keene State College, 2-0, in opening-round action. UMass Boston, now 24-10 and seeded fourth to this tournament, take on #5 seed UMass Dartmouth, who defeated second seed Eastern Connecticut, 4-0 today. The complete championship bracket and schedule can be found at www.littleeast.com.
The Colonials, now 18-20, raced out to a 4-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning. Palacios put WestConn on the scoreboard when she hit a two-run single to the gap in right center field.
For three innings, the starting pitchers on both sides, Jess Greenspan (Rocky Hill, CT) for the Beacons and Sara Tenke (Glen Cove, NY) for the Colonials, did not allow a run.
That changed quickly in the top of the fifth inning as UMass Boston scored eight runs, six of them coming off Tenke before she was pulled for Angelina Miller (Holbrook, NY).
Roxanne Vento (Arlington, MA) greeted Miller with the big blow, a grand slam home run over the wall in left center field.
Gia Raczkowski (Stoneham, MA) followed with a solo home run and Miller's day was done.
Kiera Prusmack (Houston, TX) also had a pair of RBI in the frame.
The Beacons, which were picked to win the conference in the pre-season coaches poll, scored what proved to be the game-winning run in their half of the ninth inning. With two outs, Kaitlyn Morse (Arlington, MA) singled up the middle to score Prusmack, who earlier reached on a fielder's choice and moved onto second base when Lauren Mitsiaris (Tauton, MA) was caught in a run down at the plate.
Thomas withstood a lead-off double by Hart in the bottom of the ninth, when she struck out two of the final three Colonial batters. She worked two and two-third innings, allowed just two hits, struck out four and walked two. She is now 4-1 on the seaon.
Tenke, who re-entered the center circle in the eighth inning, suffered the loss and evens her record at 6-6. On the day, she went six innings, gave up seven runs on nine hits while striking out four and walking four.
Hart went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored to join Palacios for nearly half of WestConn's 13 hits on Tuesday.
Taylor Pawlina (Woonsocket, RI) had a team-high three hits for the winners while Prusmack, Morse, Vento and Mitsiaris each contributed a pair of hits.