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UMBC SOFTBALL CLINCHES AMERICA EAST CHAMPIONSHIP BERTH WITH 4-3 VICTORY OVER MAINE
Lauren Nicholson is 19-3 on the season and now holds the school record for wins and winning percentage in a season.
Orono, Maine-UMBC starter Lauren Nicholson earned her school-record 19th win of the season to lead the Retriever softball team (45-18, 11-10 AEC) to its first-ever berth in the four-team America East Championships next weekend with a 4-3 victory over conference rival Maine (35-17, 16-5 AEC) Saturday morning.
The Retrievers advance to the postseason for the first time since 2003 when they won the Northeast Conference regular season title with a 19-3 league record. UMBC also finishes above .500 in conference play for the first time since that season, and their 44 overall wins are the most since 47 in 2002.
UMBC scored twice in the first inning, as center fielder Kali Shirk and first baseman Melanie Denischuk led off with singles and scored on two wild pitches. But the Black Bears tied it in the bottom of the inning on a double, a triple and a single.
The score remained the same until the fourth, when third baseman Reilly Ward led off with a double and shortstop Dana Shepherd reached on a bunt single. Ward was out at the plate on a fielder’s choice but Shepherd stole third and scored on a single to center by designated player Stevie Shore for the 3-2 lead.
The Retrievers loaded the bases an inning later when left fielder Courtney O’Hara led off with a single, Shirk was hit by a pitch and Ward reached on an error. With two outs, O’Hara scored on a wild pitch to give UMBC a 4-3 lead, and Nicholson allowed just two hits the rest of the way to secure the victory.
Nicholson (19-3) earned the victory, her UMBC-record 19th of the season. She allowed three runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out three in seven innings. Her .864 winning percentage in 2006 is also a new school record.
Sarah Bennis suffered the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits in four innings. Jenna Balent blanked the Retrievers over the final three innings on one hit and two walks. She struck out six batters.
Shore went 2-for-4 to lead UMBC at the plate.
The Retrievers will return to