Baltimore,Md.— Junior third baseman Kaelin Jackson (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional) and sophomore centerfielder Tori Alexander (Woodbridge,Va./Woodbridge Senior) each had a three RBI double as the UMBC Softball team rallied from an early four-run deficit to earn a split with Howard on Wednesday afternoon at UMBC Softball Stadium.
In the first game, UMBC (7-12) found itself down 6-0 with one out in the seventh before mounting a furious comeback and eventually getting the tying run to the plate, before falling, 6-4.
In the second game, Howard (1-11) jumped out to a 4-0 lead after a grand slam four batters into the game, but the Retrievers would rally for an 8-5 win.
The game was tight as both teams combined for five hits in a scoreless first four innings, before the Lady Bison scored three runs in each the fifth and sixth innings to take a 6-0 lead. UMBC loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the seventh, and after a strikeout, Alexander hit an RBI fielder's choice to get UMBC on the board, but with two outs. Freshman left fielder Morgan Peyou (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island) would then slap a single to left to score another run, followed by senior shortstop Bridget O'Malley (Baltimore,Md./Seton Keough) lined a two-run double down the left field line. That was as close as the Retrievers would get, however, as a ground out ended the game.
Junior Jessica Holte (Ashland,Va./Atlee) took the loss and fell to 3-5 on the young season. The lefty pitched 5.1 innings, allowing nine hits and six earned runs, while striking out one and walking none. Sophomore Kim Puccio (Sparta,N.J./Sparta) pitched 1.2 innings in relief, allowing only two hits.
After the first inning grand slam, UMBC would respond almost immediately. Alexander and Peyou walked to start the first, and O'Malley singled before Jackson plated them all with a double to right field. Sophomore first baseman Carly Lesko (New Milford,N.J./New Milford) would tie the game at four in the third with a no-doubt solo home run to left center. The homer was Lesko's seventh of the season, putting her in a tie for ninth-place all time for home runs hit in a sophomore season at UMBC.
The Retrievers would take the lead for good the following inning when Alexander beat out an infield single, stole second and was brought home by a Peyou double to left. The score remained 5-4 until two-outs in the bottom of the fifth, when the Howard third baseman dropped a high pop-up off the bat of Jaclyn Buckley (Vorhees,N.J./East Camden Regional) that extended the inning and UMBC would make Howard pay. Freshman catcher Jenna Stupey (Edmonds,Wash./Kamiak) and sophomore Toni Santonastasso (Galena,Ohio/Pope John XXIII Regional) would each draw a walk to load the bases, and all would score when Alexander hit a double off the wall in straight-away center to extend the advantage to 8-4. Howard would get a run back in the sixth, but that was as close as the Lady Bison would get as the Retrievers would hold on for an 8-5 victory.
Puccio pitched a complete game and tied a career-high with ten strikeouts and improved to 2-2 on the year.
"I thought Kim was great. After the first inning she settled down and took control of the game by getting big out after big out," head coach Joe French said "We needed a take-charge effort like that"
UMBC returns to action on Friday as they host the three-day UMBC Dawg Pound Invitational. However, because Lafayette has suspended all athletic competition due to stomach virus outbreak on its campus, the Leopards will no longer be in the tournament. A new tournament schedule will be released tomorrow morning on UMBCRetrievers.com.