Bears Walk-Off With Split, Keep NEWMAC Hopes Alive

Bears Walk-Off With Split, Keep NEWMAC Hopes Alive

NEW LONDON, Conn.-Third baseman Cherokee Strickland drilled a 3-0 fastball over the centerfield fence to give the Coast Guard softball team a thrilling 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Springfield College in the second game of a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference double-header on Monday afternoon. After falling 13-8 in the opener, the Bears rallied from 1-0 and 5-3 deficits in the nightcap to salvage a split of the twin-bill and keep their NEWMAC Tournament hopes alive.

With the split, Coast Guard improves its record to 11-17 (4-10 NEWMAC) on the season while Springfield drops to 16-7-1 (9-4 NEWMAC). The win in the second game snapped a four game losing streak by the Bears at the hands of the Pride and a three game losing streak overall.

In order to qualify for the NEWMAC Tournament, Coast Guard will likely have to win their four remaining conference games and get some help along the way. If they were to do so, they would own head-to-head (the first) tie-breakers over both MIT and Smith.

Game One: Springfield 13, Coast Guard 8

Springfield used a five-run fifth inning to rally from a 7-6 deficit to claim a 13-8 victory over Coast Guard in game one. The inning saw four different players record RBI singles and another draw a bases loaded walk as every Springfield starter recorded at least one hit in the ball game. Six players had multi-hit games as the Pride recorded 20 base knocks, led by second baseman Brielle Engelbrecht who was 4-4 in the game, including a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to extend an 11-8 lead.

Springfield struck first in the top of the opening inning when shortstop Melissa Nelson (2-5, 3 RBI, 2 runs) scored on an error which allowed DP Johanna Burke (1-4) to reach with two outs. The Bears would knot things up in the bottom half of the inning on a solo home run by leadoff hitter and shortstop Morgan Kingston (2-2, RBI, 3 runs) who drilled the first pitch she saw over the left field fence. Three batters later, third baseman Cherokee Strickland (3-4, RBI) launched the first of her two home runs on the day over the wall in left for a 2-1 Coast Guard lead.

The Pride would respond with a pair of runs in the second inning to regain a one-run advantage on an RBI groundout by center fielder Christina Leader (1-5, RBI, 2 runs) and a double by Engelbrecht (4-4, 4 RBI, 3 runs).

After tying the game up on a single up the middle by Lisko, catcher Jessie Richardson (1-4, 2 RBI) doubled in a pair with a line shot to the left center gap giving Coast Guard a 5-3 edge after two innings of play.

Both sides hung crooked numbers in the fourth – a three spot for Springfield and a pair of runs for Coast Guard – and the Bears led 7-6 into the fifth before the Pride broke through with a huge inning.

Leading 11-8 into the top of the sixth, Engelbrecht drilled a two-run home run over the wall in center field to provide some insurance for Springfield and remove any doubt.

Freshman reliever Nicole Cring (3-0) picked up the victory in relief of senior starter Jennifer Joseph who lasted just two innings against the Bears. Cring went four innings, allowing three runs – all earned – on four hits and a pair of walks while recording a strikeout. Sophomore reliever Sarah Sorensen (4-10) was saddled with the loss for the Bears, surrendering 7 runs on 10 hits and a pair of walks against one strikeout over the final three innings.

Game Two: Coast Guard 6, Springfield 5

After allowing a pair of runs in the top of the seventh, Coast Guard found themselves trailing 5-3 entering the bottom of the final inning before Erin Lisko (2-4, 2 runs) scored on a wild pitch and Cherokee Strickland (3-4, 3 RBI, 2 runs) hit a two-run walk-off home run on a 3-0 count to give the Bears a 6-5 win and a split on the afternoon.

Springfield opened the scoring in the top of the third as Christina Leader (2-4, RBI, run) led off the inning with her first of two singles on the game, advanced a base each on hits by Melissa Nelson (2-4, run) and left fielder Jenna Webb (2-4) before coming in to score on a sac fly by Johanna Burke (1-3, RBI, run).

Coast Guard would respond an inning and a half later when Jessie Richardson (3-4, 2 runs), Strickland, and center fielder Kaitlin Ward (1-3, RBI) led off the bottom of the fourth with consecutive singles to tie the game. Two batters later DP Hannah Ingerson (0-2, RBI) delivered a sac fly to center to plate Strickland with the go-ahead run. The lead would be short-lived as Springfield would get a run back when Nelson led off the fifth with a single to short and scored on a two-base error on Jenna Webb's single to left.

The Bears would echo the Springfield call in the fifth with Lisko scoring – following a fielder's choice to get on – on Strickland's bloop single down the right field line. But, once again, Springfield would answer right back a half inning later when right fielder Ally Rivelli (0-2, run) scored on an bobble during a transfer of a fly ball to right.

First baseman Caitie Holik (1-4, RBI, run) doubled home flex-runner Ashley Marino from second to give the Pride a 4-3 edge. After the Bears threw a runner out at the plate for the second out of the inning, Leader dropped a perfectly place slap to third that Strickland had no play on for the Bears to double the Springfield advantage to two runs.

Kingston led off the bottom of the seventh with a line drive that was snagged by Nelson for the first out before Erin Lisko hit a 1-1 pitch through the left side to get a runner on for Coast Guard. Richardson followed that up with her second double of the day (first of the game) into the left center gap to put a pair of runners in scoring position with just one out to set up Strickland's heroics. After the first pitch by Marino went to the backstop, Lisko made it about 25 feet down the line before deciding not to chance an out at home. The very next pitch found its way by the catcher as well and this time Lisko took advantage, scoring on a bang-bang play at the plate to cut the deficit to one at 5-4. The wild pitch allowed Richardson to move up to third on the play, setting the tying run just 60 feet away. After a third straight ball saw Strickland with a 3-0 count the Vancleave, Miss. Native drilled Marino's 3-0 offering over the center field fence for her first career walk-off home run.

Sophomore Kristine Kahl (7-7) went the distance in the nightcap to pick up the victory for the Bears, surrendering five runs (three earned) on nine hits. Marino (4-5) suffered the loss, going all 6 1/3 innings for the Pride, allowing six runs on 11 hits while striking out five.

Coast Guard will be back in action on Friday, April 18th when they travel to Boston, Mass. for a 3:00 pm NEWMAC double-header against Emerson College. The Bears will return home on Saturday, April 19th when they host their final NEWMAC double-header against Smith College at noon in their home-finale before closing out the regular season in Willimantic, Conn. when they take on the Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State in a 5:00 pm double-header.

Head Coach Donna Koczajowski: