WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – A no-hitter from UMBC softball's freshman pitcher Jessica Holte (Ashland, Va./Atlee) and a grand slam from junior catcher Taylor Hall (Cosby, Va./Cosby) helped the Retrievers to complete the series sweep of Hartford and clinch their first America East Championship appearance since 2011. The Retrievers defeated the Hawks, 10-0, in five innings in Monday's series finale at Hartford Softball Field.
Hall finished the afternoon with a season-best five runs batted in, while sophomore short stop Bridget O'Malley (Brooklyn, Md./Seton Keough) chipped in a pair of RBI. Holte moved into a tie for first with Lauren Nicholson (2003) and Amy Sadowl (2003) for the most wins for a UMBC freshman in program history (18). The rookie also moved into a tie for sixth on the Retrievers' single-season shutout list (four).
UMBC (31-17) wins its eighth league game in its last nine tries to improve to 8-6 in conference play and solidifies its sixth trip to the America East Championships. Hartford falls to 7-28 overall and 1-14 in league action.
"Congrats to Jessica Holte on pitching a gem and kudos to the team for clutch hitting and great defense today," head coach Joe French said. "This team has been focused from the first Fall practice. A coach could not be more proud of a team for last year and having a winning season and qualifying for the America East Championships after a tough go last year."
The Retrievers led-off the second inning with a single from freshman third baseman Kaelin Jackson (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional) and walk from senior first baseman Chelsea Bertoglio (Laguna Hills, Calif./Laguna Hills/Saddleback College). Freshman outfielder Kelly Lane (Albany, N.Y./Colonie Central) drove in Jackson and put runners on second and third with a double to right center. Hartford's catcher Sawyer Fried was unable to hold the third strike on an at bat from junior Mary Hartman (Eldersburg, Md./Century), allowing Bertoglio to cross the plate and put the Retrievers out in front, 2-0.
UMBC was not done in the top of the second inning, as the Retrievers capitalized on a Hawks' error with three straight hits, including a two-run double from O'Malley. UMBC finished the frame with a 6-0 advantage and forced the departure of starting pitcher Lexi Wilkerson after two earned runs on four hits.
The Retrievers led-off the top of the fourth with a pair of singles and added a walk to load the bases. The league's RBI-leader Hall took advantage, launching the grand slam to extend UMBC's lead to 10-0. Zuzana Kudernatschova ended her day in the circle after throwing 1.1 innings and surrendering four runs on four hits. Hall moved into a tie for fourth with Amanda Fefel (2007 and 2010) on UMBC's single-season home run list with 13 on the season and a tie for fifth with Dana Shepherd (2005-08) in career home runs. The junior also ranks in a four-way tie for fifth on the Retrievers' single-season RBI list (50).
Holte struck out four en route to the victory. Ana Alberti came in relief to throw two scoreless innings for Hartford. Wilkers was credited with the loss to fall to 3-8.
The Retrievers return to action for a single-game on Wednesday, April 30 against Coppin State. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. at the UMBC Softball Stadium.