SALEM, Va. — By becoming the first Division III team to win three straight NCAA softball championships, the Tufts Jumbos have earned the right to be mentioned alongside such softball powerhouses as UCLA, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge.
The Jumbos finished the season a perfect 51-0 and closed the year on a Division III-record 53-game win streak with two wins Monday over Texas-Tyler in the NCAA Championship Series. Tufts won game one of the best-of-three series 2-0 and rallied from two runs down in the sixth to score a 7-4 victory in game two.
Tufts hasn’t lost since falling 2-1 to Salisbury in the opening game of the NCAA Championship Series on May 26, 2014.
In the three NCAA divisions, only UCLA (1988-90) in Division I and Cal State Northridge (1983-85) and Cal State Bakersfield (1988-90) in Division II have won three straight crowns.
The Jumbos rallied from two runs down in the top of the sixth, scoring four times to claim a lead it would not relinquish. Cassie Ruscz hit an one-out homer to left to get Tufts on the scoreboard, pinch hitter Raina Galbiati drove in two runs with a single to center and Christina Raso doubled home another run.
Texas-Tyler (50-5) fought right back in the bottom half, getting one run back on Shelby Shelton’s single down the left field line before four-time NFCA All-American and Tournament Most Outstanding Player (for the third straight year) Allyson Fournier struck out fellow All-American Vanessa Carrizales to escape a bases-loaded jam.
The previous inning Jackie Mendez hit the first home run off Fournier this season, a solo shot to left with two outs, which was the first earned run she allowed in 54.2 innings. Mendez also scored the first Patriot run, coming all the way around from first (she got on with a two-out walk) when Carrizales reached on a throwing error.
Ruscz added some insurance in the top of the seventh with her second homer to left in as many innings.
KK Stevens homered to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and Texas-Tyler loaded the bases with two out, but Fournier induced a fly out to left to end the contest.
Fournier finished with six strikeouts, but walked five and allowed nine hits in the win. Counterpart Alaina Kissinger scattered six hits and allowed one run over five innings for the Patriots, while All-American Kelsie Batten was the losing pitcher in relief, allowing four hits and five runs in two-thirds of an inning, but only two of the runs were earned, as Texas-Tyler made three of its five errors in the sixth.
In the opening game, Fournier struck out seven and walked two in a two-hit shutout and Gracie Marshall went 2-for-2 and Bri Keenan drove in both Jumbo runs.
With one out in the fifth, All-American Raven Fournier singled to right and Samantha Siciliano walked. Marshall followed with a single to center to load the bases.
Keenan then singled to left center to score both Fournier and Siciliano.
Whitney Burt and Stevens provided Texas-Tyler’s two hits, while fellow All-American Kelsie Batten allowed five hits and struck out three in the first 4.1 innings before Alison Kissinger allowed nothing over the final 1.2 innings.
Jumbo teammates Michelle Cooprider, Keenan and Ruscz joined Fournier on the All-Tournament team, while Batten, Christa Hartnett — who had ESPN SportCenter’s No. 1 Top Play in Sunday’s win over Salisbury — and Mendez were selected for the Patriots.
Tufts matched Linfield’s 51 wins in the Wildcats’ 2011 title run for the most by a team in a season in Division III history. Texas-Tyler, meanwhile, had the second-most wins in a Division III season.