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Freshman Fournier pitches Tufts softball into Division 3 World Series

 Jumbos’ ace Allyson Fournier did not allow an earned run in the Division 3 regionals.

Kelvin Ma/Tufts University

Jumbos’ ace Allyson Fournier did not allow an earned run in the Division 3 regionals.

Ace leads Jumbos back to World Series

Her 2009 squad was almost expected to advance to the Division 3 College World Series, given all of its experience. This season, however, has been a pleasant surprise for Cheryl Pinzino and the women’s softball program at Tufts University.

The Jumbos are headed to the Series for the second time in four years after capturing the Willimantic Regional title this past weekend with a perfect 4-0 record. Tufts (40-5) will open play in the double-elimination tourney Friday against Roanoke in Salem, Va. “I knew we’d be competitive, but I don’t think anybody was sure where we were at to start the year,” said the nine-year coach.

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The Jumbos are led this season by a host of freshmen and sophomores, none more important than pitcher Allyson Fournier.

The freshman hurler from South Windsor, Conn. sports a sparkling 22-1 record and a microscopic 0.36 ERA, which leads Division 3. She also leads the country in strikeouts per seven innings (12.7).

“We have a deep pitching staff, but she’s been our number one all season,” said Pinzino.

Despite boasting three perfect games during the regular season, Fournier saved her best effort for the regionals, where she threw all but the first inning of the tournament, 28 in total, without allowing an earned run.

She also managed to beat a pair of senior All-Americans in the process, knocking off Hayley Feindel (Coast Guard) and besting Eastern Connecticut’s ace Molly Rathbun , who was leading the country in wins and ERA entering the tourney. “She pulled it off against some of the best in the country. Sometimes what you don’t know about the situation is what’s best,” said Pinzino. “It was a hallmark weekend.”

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Fournier certainly wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment, effectively using her riseball regularly while also being able to mix in the changeup to keep hitters off balance.

“When I’m pitching I’m not really all that nervous; it’s just natural for me there,” she said. “I was just trying to win each inning and rely on my defense.”

Fournier had eyes on a few of the Ivy League schools during her college search but chose Tufts, based on its combination of athletics and academics.

She is also a member of the swim team at Tufts, competing in freestyle and breaststroke.

Her time in the pool helped her build shoulder and upper body strength, along with endurance, according to Fournier; two skills that were put to the test with four games in four days.

“I felt I got a lot stronger this season swimming six days a week,” she said. “But it definitely helped that we stayed in the winners’ bracket this weekend and only had one game a day.”

The Jumbos have seven players from the Bay State, including senior Katherine Darveau of Reading, who has served in a utility role this season.

The Jumbos will be playing in slightly hostile territory in the World Series opening round in Virginia; Roanoke College is located in Salem.

But the bright lights and potentially bigger crowd will just be part of the package as the team tries to capture a national championship.

“We are planning on enjoying the ride,’’ said Pinzino. “They’ve earned the right to be here and take it in.’’

Track & field stars shine at N.E. meet

North Reading High grad Caroline McBride placed second in the 10,000 meters at the New England Outdoor Track & Field Championships Saturday at MIT. A junior at Stonehill, McBride shattered her own school record by clocking 37:31.7 and earned All-New England honors for the first time. . . . A pair of local athletes shared track & field athlete of the week honors in the MASCAC last week: Bridgewater State sophomore Joshua Danner-Hicks of Haverhill shattered the school record in the triple jump  (14.38 meters) with his sixth-place finish at the New England meet, while Fitchburg State sophomore Zach Desrochers of Dracut placed fifth in the hammer throw (55.93 meters), and eighth in the discus (45.88).

Nick French can be reached at nfrench33@gmail.com.

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