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Cathi Aradi

Jumbos One Win From National Championship

TuftsCourtesy of NCAA.com

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Nobody is playing better as a team than Tufts as the Jumbos reached their first national title game with a 6-0 win against Cortland State on Sunday night.

Through the first three days, the Jumbos were playing flawless defense, sensational pitching, timely hitting and firing on all cylinders as they sit one game away from the national championship.

The box scores will show that Tufts has outscored its opponents 19-1, while out-hitting the opposition 26-12, but those numbers are just the end result of a complete team effort for three days.

In the opener, Tufts blanked UT-Tyler 6-0. The Jumbos scored their first run without recording a hit and jumped ahead 4-0 on just three hits.

Emily Beinecke reached base on an error in the second to get things started.  Kris Parr followed up getting hit with a 1-2 pitch to put another runner aboard. Michelle Cooprider moved runners ahead with a sac fly before Gracie Marshall put the Jumbos on the board by hitting a ground ball, allowing Beinecke to cross the plate.

“It’s always our motto to win every inning,” Marshall said, “we played the small game well, put bunts down when we needed them, we had a squeeze, got runners over with sac flies. We moved runners over and scored runs where we could.”

In the bottom of the third, Christina Raso reached on an infield single and was moved over to second on a sac bunt. Bri Keenan added a double to left center to give Tufts a 2-0 lead.

“We had a runner on and I had to put it in play,” Keenan said, “I was just trying to find some green and knew I would get something close to hit and I got in a nice swing.”

A single, walk and a sac bunt put runners on second and third for Tufts in the fourth. An executed squeeze by Raso put Tufts up 3-0, followed by Sara Hedtler grounding out to short stop to bring in another run, giving Tufts four runs on three hits (one infield single).

Tufts knocked off Montclair State 3-1 in a nine-inning game the next night. In the bottom of the sixth, Montclair threatened to break the 1-1 tie before Keenan gunned the runner out at the plate to end the inning.

“Keenan had a night,” Tufts head coach Cheryl Milligan said, “She has a great arm. I don’t even know how many outfield assists she has but certainly there haven’t been too many people scoring from second on her.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Montclair put the leadoff runner on base with nobody out. The ensuing bunt popped up just enough for Raso to make a diving grab and quickly doubled up the runner at first to end Montclair’s chances of scoring.

The game went nine innings with Kennan delivering the RBI-triple, with Marshall batting off multiple pitches before drawing the lead-off walk. This allowed Tufts to extend the inning and get to Keenan.

“We knew every at-bat was going to be a battle,” Milligan said, “[Marshall] was out for a while this year [with] a broken thumb. She’s battling her way back into the lineup and she is having some nice long at bats.”

The Jumbos won 6-0 again on Sunday night to advance to the national championship game. Again, it was the hustle plays and team effort that put the runs on the board.

The first four runs that scored were a result of an infield single.  Hedtler led off the game with an infield single. A couple ground balls in the infield moved her over to third before Marshall brought her home on a base hit up the middle.

In the third, Jo Clair reached on a bunt single, followed by Beinecke’s infield hit.  With two aboard, Cooprider connected on a 1-2 pitch to opposite field bring home Clair to give Tufts a 2-0 lead.  A sac fly from Parr scored Beinecke, giving the Jumbos a comfortable 3-0 lead. Parr also connected on a double in the fifth to score Cooprider, who reached on an infield hit.

The Jumbos made a couple more great plays defensively, including Claire making a diving catch behind the plate on a foul ball and Marshall making an incredible stop and flipping the ball to first base in the sixth.

Then the icing on the cake was sophomore pitcher Allyson Fournier. She tossed 22 innings, allowing just one run while striking out 28 batters.

The small things are adding up in big ways as the Jumbos are one game away from their first national title.