Last arm standing
Tufts hurler Fournier outlasts foes to lead team onward
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- The stars were shining bright in Eau Claire on Friday night.
Although the overcast skies covered the ones up high, the brightest stars sat center stage and lit up Gelein Field at Carson Park in the second round of the NCAA Division III Softball national finals.
Tufts’ Allyson Fournier and Montclair State’s Alex Hill rank among the top three nationally in nearly every pitching statistical category this year. The two aces went head-to-head as the much anticipated pitching duel lived up to the hype in a nine-inning thriller, before Tufts pulled away with a 3-1 victory.
“That was quite a battle,” Tufts head coach Cheryl Milligan said,.“They did a great job. Hill did a fantastic job on the mound. That’s the excitement, two good teams going at it.”
In the end, it was Fournier picking up her 23rd win of the season by tossing nine innings, allowing just three hits, one run, and fanning 12 batters. Her counterpart, Hill, also tossed the nine-inning complete game, scattering 12 hits, while allowing three runs.
Fournier tops the nation in ERA (0.40), strikeouts per seven innings (12.8), and hits per seven innings (2.05). She has won 14 consecutive games and has allowed just seven earned runs all year, never yielding more than one earned run in a game all season.
“Allyson always gets us a good game. We always know Allyson is capable of shutting down a team,” Stated Milligan after Tufts opening win against Texas-Tyler.
In the first two games of the national finals, Fournier has allowed just one run in 16 innings against two teams that were ranked in the top five nationally entering the tournament.
The lone run surrendered by Fournier came off the bat of Montclair State’s Dana Amato on a solo shot to right field in the fourth inning on Saturday night.
Holding a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth, Fournier was set to face the heart of the Montclair lineup including Armato and Hill. With one out, Fournier got the best of Armato forcing her to chase a high fastball for her 12th strikeout of the night.
“I wasn’t allowed to give her anything near the strike zone,” Fournier said, “we were just going high and in the whole time and the last one was really high.”
Sunday, she faces the red-hot Red Dragons of Cortland State, who cruised past Luther 9-1 on Saturday.
“We trust Allyson will give us another good game on the mound,” Milligan said. “We’re going to try to be us tomorrow.”
Fournier added, “I’m thinking the same I was [Saturday] with hitting my spots in the corners and keeping the ball away from the center.”
Tufts has one of the top hitting teams in the nation, have not committed an error in the national finals, always come up with the big plays in crucial situations, and they have Allyson Fournier. That combination has contributed to 16 consecutive victories and has Tufts two wins away from a national title.