MIT Softball Falls to Tufts in NCAA Regional Championship, 3-2 (9 inn.)

Freshman Jasmin Joseph
Freshman Jasmin Joseph

MEDFORD, Mass. – Tufts University sophomore Raven Fournier (Springfield, Mass.) drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, which lifted the Jumbos past MIT, 3-2 (9 inn.) in the 2015 NCAA Division III Softball Championship Regional Final at Spicer Field on Sunday afternoon. The win extends the Jumbos' title defense, as Tufts will now play WPI in the Super Regional later this week.

MIT (29-10) commenced the Regional Final with a strong first inning, scoring two runs on three hits. Sophomore Natalie Shifflet (Poway, Calif.) began the frame with a single that sailed over the infield and landed in left field. Freshman Jasmin Joseph (Woodland Hills, Calif.) connected on a pitch that dropped into shallow left field that resulted in her reaching second base on an error by the Tufts leftfielder.

Freshman Amanda Lee (Saratoga, Calif.) – the third batter of the first inning – plated Shifflet with a RBI single down the leftfield line that sent Joseph from second to third base. Joseph would score during senior Ellie Fodor's (Trenton, Mich.) at-bat as she raced to the dish on a throwing error by the Jumbos catcher, which provided the Engineers with a 2-0 advantage.

MIT junior Alexandra Marshall (Glen Head, N.Y.) kept the Jumbos bats quiet throughout the first five innings, yielding just one hit in the bottom of the second as Shelby Lipson (East Brunswick, N.J.) commenced the team's second at-bat with a single to second base. Marshall recorded five strikeouts during the five-inning span, including a pair during the first and third innings. 

Tech attempted to grow its lead during the top of the fifth inning as freshman Katherine Shade (Glencoe, Ill.) began her team's fifth at-bat with a leadoff single up the middle. Natalie Shifflet moved Shade over to second base after reaching first base with a bunt down the third base line. Joseph loaded the bases with a single to shortstop before Tufts senior Allyson Fournier (South Windsor, Conn.) closed out the frame with back-to-back strikeouts.

Tufts' (44-0) offense came to life during the bottom half of the sixth inning when senior Bri Keenan (Portsmouth, N.H.) smacked a pitch over the head of the MIT infield that landed in left center. Senior Michelle Cooprider (Hopkinton, Mass.) – the next batter – tied the game with a two-run homerun to left field – her third homer of the season.

MIT attempted to respond in the top of the seventh when Joseph drew a walk and Lee reached base on a single to shortstop. Fournier, who returned to the circle after being relieved in the top of the sixth by junior Erica County (Arlington, Mass.), concluded the frame with a strikeout.

Tufts tried to score the game-winning run during the bottom of the seventh, but Marshall forced senior Gracie Marshall (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Raven Fournier to fly out to Shade in right field before sophomore Cassie Ruscz (Wolcott, Conn.) fouled out to freshman Zoe Hinton (Aurora, Colo.) at first base. MIT saw just one batter reach base in the top of the eighth as Hinton beat out a throw from third to first after laying down a bunt.

The Jumbos, which did not record a hit during the bottom of the eighth, positioned themselves for the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth when Lipson advanced to third base on a fielder's choice by Marshall. Rachel Fournier – the next batter of the frame – connected on a pitch by Fodor that sailed into leftfield and sent Lipson home for the game-winning run.

Alexandra Marshall, who suffered the setback, pitched eighth innings and recorded eight strikeouts, while allowing five hits, three runs (two earned runs) and one walk. Allyson Fournier picked up her 28th victory in the circle on seven-and-one-third innings of work. Fournier recorded 15 strikeouts, while allowing eight hits and two runs.

Joseph led the Cardinal and Gray's offense with three hits, while Natalie Shifflet, Lee and Hinton each recorded two hits. Hinton registered just one hit.

Despite the setback, MIT concludes its season with the most wins in program history (29), including 16 of 18 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) wins. MIT concluded the regular season with a 10-0 record on the road, along with the second seed in the conference tournament – the highest placement in program history.

This weekend marked the first time the Cardinal and Gray appeared in the NCAA Tournament. They commenced the three-day Regional with an 8-0 (6 inn.) win over Elms College before falling to Tufts on the second day, 3-1. Tech returned to the diamond yesterday afternoon in an elimination game and defeated Wellesley College, 4-0, which setup a rematch with the two-time defining national champions.

Following this afternoon's Regional Final, Marshall, Lee, Joseph and Natalie Shifflet were selected to the All-Tournament Team. Allyson Fournier was tabbed the Most Outstanding Player.