NEW LONDON, Conn.-Third baseman Cherokee Strickland launched her team-best fourth home run of the season to lead Coast Guard to a 7-run fourth in the nightcap as the Bears split a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference double-header with Smith College of Saturday afternoon at Nitchman Field.
Smith won game one by a final margin of 2-0, eliminating Coast Guard from post-season contention by doing so. Coast Guard is now 14-18 (7-11 NEWMAC) on the year, while Smith is now 15-11 (8-10 NEWMAC).
Smith's victory in the opener secures qualification into the 2014 NEWMAC Tournament for the Pioneers for the first time since the 2008 season. The victory in game one marked the first time that Smith has beaten Coast Guard since an 11-2, five inning triumph on April 19, 2008, snapping a string of 11 straight wins by the Bears in the series.
Game One: Smith 2, Coast Guard 0
Smith pushed across the game's first run in the bottom of the fifth inning and that would be all they would need as the Pioneers rode a two-hitter from sophomore Gina Martucci to a 2-0 game one victory over Coast Guard.
The Pioneers threatened all game, leaving 11 runners on base, but it took until the fifth inning to break through against Coast Guard starter Kristine Kahl. First baseman Tori Brown reached on a throwing error on a sac bunt with nobody out to put runners on the corners for the Pioneers. After a fielder's choice saw shortstop Morgan Kingston gun down second baseman Brittney Blokker (2-4, RBI) at the plate, runners were left on first and second for Smith. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Martucci (3-3, RBI) helped her own cause with an RBI-single to left to plate the game's first run.
Smith would add an insurance run in the sixth. Left fielder Joanna Giordano (1-3, run) led off the inning with a bunt single to third and advanced to second on a sac bunt by catcher Ruth Zimmerman (0-3). She would come in to score two pitches later when Blokker laced a double over the head of Kelsey Gray in right to chase home Giordano for a 2-0 lead.
Martucci took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh but third baseman Cherokee Strickland greeted her with a single to left to start the inning and ruin her bid for a no-no. Things got real interesting when center fielder Kaitlin Ward followed Strickland with a double to the wall in right center to set up runners on second and third with nobody out. Smith then surprised everyone by moving the infield in to try to cut off the run at the plate. Martucci would recover after the back-to-back hits and induce groundouts by left fielder Erin Reynolds (0-2) and DP Hannah Ingerson (0-3) before getting Gray (0-3) on a called third strike to end the game.
Martucci took the win for the Pioneers to improve to 13-4 on the season. She went the distance, allowing just two hits without issuing a walk, striking out five in the victory. Kahl (8-8) was the tough-luck loser for the Bears despite pitching well. She allowed two runs, just one earned, on 10 hits and two walks.
Game Two: Coast Guard 8, Smith 0 (5 innings)
Sophomore Sarah Sorensen made sure an offensive explosion by Coast Guard would stand up as she tallied a four-hit shutout, her second in as many games, as the Bears earned a split with an 8-0 five-inning victory over Smith.
Coast Guard opened the scoring in the top of the first, thrilled to see a new pitcher following the dominance of Martucci in game one. Morgan Kingston (2-3, 2 runs) led off the game with a single off the third base bag, advanced to second on a sac bunt by second baseman Erin Lisko (1-2, RBI, run), and scored on the first of catcher Jessie Richardson's (3-3, 3 RBI, run) two doubles in the ballgame.
The score would remain tight until the fourth when the Bears would create some breathing room. Richardson led off the inning with a single through the right side before Cherokee Strickland (1-3, 2 RBI, run) hit a towering two-run homer over the left field fence to make it 3-0 Bears. A pair each of errors and hits would give Coast Guard a 5-0 lead with runners on first and third for Lisko who singled off the first base bag to chase home another run for a 6-0 Coast Guard edge. Richardson would follow it up with her second double of the day, this one a wicked ground ball that found its way to the right-center field fence, making it 8-0 in favor of Coast Guard.
Sorensen (6-10) went the distance for the Bears, limiting Smith to just four hits on the afternoon to extend her scoreless streak to 13.1 innings, dating back to April 14th. She would allow just one walk and recorded a pair of strikeouts in the ballgame. Tori Brown (0-2) took the loss for Smith, yielding eight runs (three earned) on nine hits over four innings.
Joanna Giordano was 2-for-2 with a double in the game, the lone Pioneer to record multiple hits. Tori Brown and catcher Edie Richardson also registered hits for Smith.
The double-header marked the final home games in the careers of seniors Kaitlin Ward and Kelly Grills.
Coast Guard will wrap up their season on Wednesday, April 23rd when they travel to Willimantic, Conn. to take on the Warriors of Eastern Connecticut in a double-header slated to begin at 5:00 pm.