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NCAA Preview: NCAA's top staffs meet in RI

NCAA Preview: NCAA's top staffs meet in RI

2011 NCAA Division III Softball Tournament 
Hosted by Rhode Island College
Dayna A. Bazar Softball Facility (Providence, RI)
No. 7 Lesley (29-6, 16-0 NECC) vs.
No 2 Coast Guard (36-2, 15-1 MASCAC, No. 6 NFCA Top 25)
Thursday, May 12, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
Series: 1-0, Coast Guard

Runs at a premium: Six of the nation's 22 best pitching staffs will be among the eight teams at the Providence, RI, region of the NCAA Tournament. NECC Pitcher of the Year Cassandra Knox and the Lynx are ranked 13th nationally in ERA at 1.50. Led by Hayley Feindel, Coast Guard boasts the nation's top ERA, at 0.49. In 38 games, the Bears have allowed 21 runs, 17 earned.

Host Rhode Island College, the No. 4 seed in the eight-team bracket, has the nation's 14th best ERA at 1.52, fifth-seeded Worcester State is 17th at 1.67, No. 3 seed Endicott is 21st at 1.77, and top-seed Eastern Connecticut State is 22nd with a 1.86 ERA.

For Lesley, Knox enters NCAA's 13-4 with a 1.31 ERA, while NECC Player of the Year Jennifer Dorval is 15-2 with a 1.51 ERA.

Batters up: Lesley will counter the nation's top pitching staff with the nation's top offense. The Lynx lead the country in batting average at .409 and lead the nation in runs per game at 9.23. Jennifer Dorval, the NECC Player of the Year, goes into NCAA's hitting .565, good for third nationally and first among all freshmen. All fellow All-NECC First Teamers, Emily Mangiaratti is hitting .435 with 46 runs, Gabrielle Brixey is hitting .434 with five triples and 34 RBI's, and Alyson Durben is hitting .427 with nine doubles and 34 RBI's. Six of Lesley's nine starters are hitting above .410 for 2011.

Four-peat: Lesley won its fourth consecutive conference title on Saturday in its 3-1 triumph over Elms College. The Lynx have won every softball championship in the three-year history of the NECC and won their final championship in the North Atlantic Conference in 2008. Lesley's seniors, led by All-NECC First Team honoree Alyson Durben, have won a championship in all of their four years on campus.

NECC's finest: Six Lynx were honored by the NECC on Monday. Pitcher Jenn Dorval was named NECC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, and Cassandra Knox was named NECC Pitcher of the Year for a second straight year. Joining Dorval and Knox on All-NECC First Team were outfielders Gabrielle Brixey and Alyson Durben and designated player Emily Mangiaratti.  Jenna Fralick was named to All-NECC Second Team.

We're back: This year marks Lesley's second all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and the team is 0-2 in NCAA Tournament play. The Lynx qualified in 2008 as North Atlantic Conference Champions, losing two tightly contested games, 3-2 to Rivier and 1-0 to NEWMAC foe Wellesley. Then freshmen, Alyson Durben went 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored in the tournament, and Ashley Cunningham went hitless in four at-bats.

Streakers: The Lynx ride a school-record 19-game winning streak into the tournament. Lesley's last loss was over a month ago, an 8-7 defeat on April 10 at Wellesley College. NEWMAC champion Coast Guard sails into NCAA's on a four-game winning streak. Its last loss was 2-0 on Friday, April 22 in the NEWMAC Tournament to Springfield College, a team the Bears shut out twice three days later in capturing the NEWMAC Championship and an automatic NCAA bid.

Last meeting: When the teams last met on March 8, 2009 in Kissimmee, FL, Coast Guard won 11-0. In her second career game, Lynx infielder Jenna Fralick walked twice and stole her second base of the season. Making her second career start, Hayley Feindel held the Lynx hitless for four innings in a combined no-hitter. In her first career start, Lesley's Cassandra Knox took the complete game loss, striking out two.

Common ground: Wellesley College is the only common opponent shared by both teams. Lesley dropped a pair at Wellesley on April 10, losing 6-2 and 8-7, while the Bears took a pair of 3-0 victories from the Blue five days later. With its losses at Wellesley, Lesley is 0-2 against the NEWMAC. Thursday's game will be the Bears first against the NECC this season. Coast Guard is 1-0 all-time against NECC opponents, with the win coming in 2009 against Lesley.

Benway honored: Lesley head coach Jen Benway was honored Monday by the NECC with her first Coach of the Year award in her 12 years. After going undefeated at 16-0 in league play and 29-6 overall, including perfect records against the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (4-0) and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (2-0). Lesley's 19-game winning streak is the longest in school history, and the Lynx were honored with six All-NECC recipients.

2011 NCAA Division III Softball Tournament  (Hosted by Rhode Island College)
Thursday, May 12th
Game 1--#1 Eastern Connecticut vs. #8 Husson, 10:00
Game 2--#4 Rhode Island College vs. #5 Worcester State, noon
Game 3--#3 Endicott vs. #6 St. Joseph (Maine), 2:00
Game 4--#2 Coast Guard vs. #7 Lesley, 4:00

Friday, May 13th
Game 5--Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 , 10:00
Game 6--Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, noon
Game 7--Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 2:00
Game 8--Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 4:00

Saturday, May 14th
Game 9--Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, 10:00
Game 10-Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, noon
Game 11--Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 2:00
Game 12--Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 4:00

Sunday, May 15th
Game 13--Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, noon
Game 14--Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, 2:00

Monday, May 16th
Game 15 (if necessary)-- rematch of Game 14, 10:00