MEDFORD - Pinch hiitter Renee LeClaire scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the WPI softball team defeated Salve Regina 4-3 on the first day of the NCAA Regional at Tufts Friday afternoon.
The Engineers (36-7) advance in the winner's bracket and will face Tufts on Saturday at 11 am in game three of the weekend. The Seahawks (24-17) fall into the loser's bracket and will play an elimination game against Becker on Saturday at 1:30 pm. Tufts defeated Becker 2-0 in the first game of the Regional earlier on Friday.
LeClaire walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth for WPI, then was sacrificed to second by Jacquelyne DiTroia. While attempting to steal third as Nina Murphy-Cook was striking out swinging, LeClaire scored when the catcher's throw went into the outfield.
Starting pitchers Clare Doolin for WPI and Kelsey Boarman for Salve dueled in a scoreless game until the late innings. The Engineers had runners on second and third with one out in the second inning, but Boarman got a groundout and a strikeout to end the threat. With speedy Seahawk Francesca Galeazzi on second after a single in the fifth, Doolin deflected a shot up the middle to DeTroia at second and the Engineers recorded the third out on a ball that would have produced the game's first run.
A two-run double to the right-field fence by Ama Biney highlighted a three-run fifth inning for WPI. DiTroia and Murphy-Cook both singled in front of Biney and scored. Biney then came home on a Salve error and it was 3-0 Engineers.
WPI made a pitching change in the sixth and the Seahawks capitalized, scoring three unearned runs to tie the game. A double down the left-field line by Lexi Soucie put runners on second and third and led to the first Salve run on a groundout by Genevieve Benoit. Pinch-hitter Lindsay DelGrego then singled home Soucie. The Seahawks continue on, loading the bases and tying the game on another WPI error. Engineer relief pitcher Kelsey Saucier came on with the bases loaded and two outs in the inning and got a strike out to keep the game tied.
Salve Regina would rally again in the seventh, loading the bases with two outs. Saucier got out of it again with a ground ball. Biney walked with one out and stole second in the WPI seventh, but was left there and the game went to extras.
WPI won with just five hits. Saucier took the victory in relief, allowing four hits and no runs with six K's and a walk in 3.1 innings.
The Seahawks totaled 13 hits, including three by Galeazzi and Soucie. Megan Guest was 2 for 4. Boarman took the loss giving up five hits and four runs (two earned) with five strikeouts and four walks in 8.2 innings.