TYLER, Texas -- Salisbury junior pitcher Rachel Johnson limited Tufts to six hits and one run and the Sea Gulls scored twice in the fourth inning to earn a 2-1 victory against the Jumbos in Game 1 of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship series Monday.
The Sea Gulls (44-3) ended several Jumbo streaks with the victory. It stopped a 31-game winning streak by the Jumbos this season and was Tufts' first postseason loss after 22 consecutive NESCAC and NCAA victories dating to the 2012 season. It was also the first loss of the season for Tufts junior pitcher Allyson Fournier (26-1).The pitching showdown between Johnson and Fournier was scoreless until the bottom of the third when Tufts scored first. Junior third baseman Bri Keenan plopped a pop-fly double into left field and scored when senior catcher Jo Clair doubled into the left-center gap for a 1-0 advantage.
Fournier got the first two outs in the top of the fourth, but a Salisbury rally would give them a lead it did not relinquish. Paige Knussman hit a solo home run off the scoreboard in left to get it started, tying the game at 1. Sophomore third baseman Katie Sebbane and junior catcher Rebecca Hoey continued the inning by working walks. Those were followed by left-side singles from junior right fielder Angela Malgieri and sophomore second baseman Molly Simpson that scored Sebanne to put the Sea Gulls in front 2-1. With the bases loaded, Fournier kept it a one-run game with a strikeout.
Salisbury's Angelia McDowell made a nice sliding catch on Jumbo first-year first baseman Summer Horowitz's fly ball to start the Tufts fourth. That loomed large after Jumbo junior second baseman Gracie Marshall singled to left later in the inning. The Sea Gulls exited the inning unscathed.
Salisbury would load the bases in the fifth after two were out on a Kim Dorsey single, Knussman's single for her third hit of the game and a hit by pitch. However, Fournier escaped the mess by catching a popup.
In the bottom of the fifth, Keenan was hit by a pitch and Clair was intentionally unintentionally walked to put runners on first and second with two outs. First-year left fielder Cassie Ruscz, who has three home runs at the finals, came to the plate, but flied out to right.
Fournier pitched a 1-2-3 sixth and McDowell made another fine defensive play in left on a hard line drive by Marshall that would have been extra bases if not caught in the bottom of the frame.
Tufts' last gasp came in the bottom of the seventh when sophomore shortstop Christina Raso reached on a bunt single. The ball was thrown into foul territory on the play, but Raso was unable to advance. Johnson bore down to get a strikeout and ground out to end the game.
Johnson struck out five with one walk in her outing as she improved to 29-2. Knussman went 3-for-3 at the plate with a run and an RBI.
Fournier, who took her first loss since losing in relief at Babson on April 2, 2013, allowed six hits and two runs with five strikeouts and two walks. She hadn't lost a game she started since May 20, 2012, in a 4-1 defeat to Linfield at the national finals in Salem, Virginia.