NEW LONDON, Conn-Freshman Kristine Kahl limited the Eastern Connecticut offense to just one run on four hits in game one to get head coach Donna Koczajowski her 400th career win while sophomore Jessie Richardson was 5-for-8 at the plate as the Coast Guard softball team picked up an impressive split against the national powerhouse. In their final tune-up before the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference tournament, the Bears (21-14) came out amped up on Senior's Day, doing just about everything right as they knocked off Eastern (24-10) by a 3-1 count in the opener before falling 8-2 in the nightcap.
Donna Koczajowski registered the 400th win over her 16 year career, all at the Coast Guard Academy. She has a record of 400-234-1.
Game One: Coast Guard 3, Eastern 1
Coast Guard scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning and then held on to defeat Eastern 3-1 behind the pitching of Kahl and the game planning of Koczajowski. The game plan the Bears decided to employ was to intentionally walk Eastern All-American senior Arielle Cooper, "we decided we wouldn't let Cooper beat us," said a confident Koczajowski.
Junior Kaitlin Ward led off the fourth by reaching on a hit-by-pitch and stole second before coming around to score on a line drive single to center by senior Stacia Sarwinski. Sarwinski would advance to second on the throw before moving along to third when freshman Hannah Ingerson reached on an error by Eastern senior starting pitcher Christine Akcer.
The error chased Akcer from the game and sophomore Shannon Martin came on in relief. After walking freshman Kelsey Gray to load the bases, Martin served up a single through the right side by Richardson to score a run and keep the bases loaded for sophomore Erin Lisko. Lisko delivered a single of her own, up the middle, to give the Bears another run for a 3-0 advantage. Eastern was able to escape further damage by inducing consecutive pop-ups to freshman shortstop Alyssa Hancock as Coast Guard left the bases loaded.
Kahl had a shutout working through six when the Bears would again threaten to score. They loaded the bases with one out courtesy of singles by Ingerson, Richardson, and Lisko. However, freshman reliever Emily Komornik got freshman Morgan Kingston to ground into a fielder's choice that forced Ingerson out at the plate and then got senior Holli Bastinck to ground out to second to end the threat as Coast Guard left the bases loaded for the third time in the game.
Eastern made things interesting in the seventh, when, after consecutive ground outs, Hancock singled up the middle and Kahl issued her third intentional pass of the game to Cooper. Junior Mattie Brett then came up and hit a sharp grounder up the middle to score Hancock and move Cooper to second. After a wild pitch put runners on second and third, Kahl was able to get freshman Alicia White to line out to Gray in left to preserve to the victory.
Kahl's line on the day included seven innings pitched, one (earned) run on four hits, and four walks (three intentional) and striking out one as she picked up the win to improve to 13-6 on the season.
Akcer took the loss for the Warriors to fall to 7-2, tossing 3 1/3 innings, surrendering three runs (two earned) on four hits, a walk, and a hit batter while recording a pair of strikeouts.
Game Two: Eastern 8, Coast Guard 2
Eastern came out of the gate guns ablaze and set the tone early by tallying a first inning run off freshman starter Sammy Yuknat en route to an 8-2 triumph over the hosts. A leadoff single by Brett and a walk by Hancock brought up Cooper. Coast Guard again stuck to their game plan by issuing the first of four intentional passes in the night cap. The gamble seemingly paid off as the Bears got out of the inning giving up only one run, a sac fly by senior Kelly Paterson to score Hancock.
Coast Guard would get the run back in the bottom of the second inning. After two quick outs, consecutive singles by Sarwinski and Ingerson set up a two-out RBI by senior Catherine Walker to tie things up at 1-1.
The Warriors would hang a four spot the next half inning after their first four batters of the inning reach. Hancock started things with a single to left, followed by an intentional walk to Cooper, and consecutive RBI singles by White and Paterson to give Eastern a 3-1 lead. Juniors Megan Godwin and Jen Tamindzija would follow with sac flies to center and right, respectively, to push the Eastern lead to four, at 5-1.
After a leadoff single by Richardson in the bottom half, the Warriors got the next three batters in order to bring their potent attack back to the bat. A bloop single by senior Katie Sokoloski and a line drive double to left center by Brett put runners on second and third with nobody out. This would lead to RBI groundouts by Hancock and White to give Eastern a pair of insurance runs.
Coast Guard would get one back in the bottom of the fourth to cut the margin to 7-2 when Ward led off the inning with a single to center that was kicked by Hancock allowing her to reach scoring position. This enabled her to score on Sarwinski's line drive single to center a batter later.
Eastern would close the scoring in the fifth when Godwin reached on an error by Lisko at second, who then proceeded to throw the ball into the Coast Guard dugout, allowing Godwin to reach second on the play. After Tamindzija sacrificed her to third, Godwin would come around to score on sophomore pinch-hitter Sam Rossetti's single through the right side.
Sophomore Erin Miller earned the win for Eastern, firing a complete game effort, allowing just two runs on eight hits while striking out four. Yuknat took the loss for the Bears, throwing a complete game and yielding eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and five walks (including four intentional).
The Bears return to action on Saturday, April 27th when they travel to Norton, Mass. to play 3rd-seeded Babson in the NEWMAC Tournament opener at noon. The rest of the schedule will be determined later that day, depending on the result of the first game; a win would mean that Coast Guard would play Wheaton (Mass.) immediately after while a loss would give the Bears a week off to prepare for an opponent yet to be determined (either MIT, Springfield, or Wellesley).
With the split, head coach Donna Koczajowski keeps her record above .500 all-time against the Warriors, at 14-13. The games were the final home games in the careers of Bastinck, Summer Dupler, Sarwinski, and Walker.