MANSFIELD, Conn. - Controversy and drama have followed the Coast Guard Academy softball team in the NCAA tournament for the last three years and Sunday was no different as the fifth-seeded Bears battled back from a 4-1 deficit before falling 5-4 in eight innings to top-seeded and host Eastern Connecticut in the losers’ bracket final at the Mansfield Regional of the 2012 NCAA Division III Softball Championship.
The Bears, the New England Women’s and Men’s
Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament champions, finish the
season 28-19. Coast Guard had snapped Eastern Connecticut’s
40-game win streak with a 5-0 win earlier in the tournament. The
Warriors improve to 44-2 on the season.
This season, Coast Guard kept fighting as the Bears had to win four of its final six conference games just to qualify for the NEWMAC tournament which they did as the sixth and final seed. The Bears then lost in the second game of the conference tournament and again battled back winning five straight games, including three on the final day to win their third straight NEWMAC tournament championship.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead when junior Holli Bastinck hit her team-leading 10th homer of the season off senior All-American Molly Rathbun.
Coast Guard senior All-American Hayley Feindel,pitching with a broken middle finger, had been called for several illegal pitches during the game, all by first base umpire Richie Silva, so in the fifth when Eastern loaded the bases on three singles, Feindel had to be extra careful, as an illegal pitch call advances runners a base and would tie the game. Feindel got a comebacker and she fired home to get the force for the second out, but Rathbun blasted a grand slam to left to give the Warriors, ranked second nationally, a 4-1 lead.
The Bears would not go quietly as in the sixth, freshman Jesse Richardson and Bastinck drew walks to open the frame before sophomore Kaitlin Ward tied the game with a three-run homer to left.
The game remained tied until the top of the eighth when Arielle Cooper reached on an infield single, was bunted to second and with two outs scored as Stephanie Johnson beat out an infield single that was thrown away allowing Cooper to score the go ahead run.
Coast Guard would not go down without a fight as Ward was hit by a pitch to lead of the home half of the eighth. Following back-to-back strikeouts, senior Jamie Kim made the last at-bat of her career a great one, working a walk. Freshman Erin Lisko was down in the count and fouled off a pitch, but she was called out of the batter’s box to end the Bears season. It was yet another wild moment in the NCAA tournament for the team that was endured so much in the last three NCAA tournaments.
Rathbun allowed six hits and four earned runs while walking five and fanning eight to improve to 33-2 on the season while Feindel (21-10) allowed eight hits and four earned runs while not walking a batter and fanning three to close out her career.
Bastinck had two of the Bears six hit in the game.
Feindel, who missed 16 games this season with the broken finger, finishes her magnificent career as the NCAA Division III all-time leader in wins (124), strikeouts (1,457), innings pitched (1,029.7), games (160) games started (156), complete games (140) and she is second all-time with 62 shutouts. She has a career-record of 124-30 with nine no-hitters and a pair of perfect games.
Feindel and Richardson earned a spot on the regional's All-tournament team.
The trio of seniors on this team, Feindel, first baseman Maddie Buchert and second baseman Kim had a four-year record of 139-40-1, the most wins over a four-year period in school history. Kim played in a school-record 175 games while Buchert recorded 150 careers hits.
They led the Bears to four straight NCAA tournament appearances, three straight NEWMAC regular season (2009, 2010, 2011) and tournament championships (2010, 2011, 2012). Before that senior class stepped on campus the Bears had never won a NEWMAC regular season or tournament championship and never appeared in the NCAA tournament.
Sophomore third baseman Devin Fellman, who had a huge three-run homer in the Bears win over Eastern Connecticut earlier in the tournament, also played the last game of her career as she played two seasons at St. Petersburg College, a junior college, before attending the Academy.
Release courtesy of Coast Guard Academy Sports Information