Mansfield - Leadoff hitter Devin Fellman provided the exclamation point, a towering three-run home run that just cleared the fence in center field.
But it was two feisty at-bats by Coast Guard Academy's No. 8 hitter Jamie Kim and No. 9 hitter Erin Lisko prior to Fellman's blast that provided a two-out spark in the fourth inning at Eastern Connecticut State University's plush new softball complex on Friday.
Kim fought off a 1-2 pitch to line a two-out base hit to center, driving in the game's first run, and Lisko followed by lifting an 0-2 pitch up the middle to make it 2-0. Fellman's seventh home run of the season, also on a 1-2 pitch, came moments later, and that was it.
That made it fifth-seeded Coast Guard 5, top-seeded Eastern Connecticut 0, in the winners' bracket of the NCAA Division III tournament's Mansfield Regional.
And just as swiftly as a Hayley Feindel fastball zoomed past ECSU's hitters, gone was Eastern's 40-game win streak, gone was pitcher Molly Rathbun's 29-game win streak and gone was third baseman Arielle Cooper's 33-game hitting streak.
"Eastern's a great team and we have a lot of respect for them," said Feindel, the winningest pitcher in Division III history, who is finally back to 100 percent after suffering a broken middle finger on her pitching hand eight weeks ago. "We knew coming in they were going to be a strong team, but that's who we want to play.
"We want to play the best, so when we walk off that field we know we earned it."
What Coast Guard earned was a spot in today's winners' bracket final against second-seeded Tufts at 4 p.m. Tufts beat St. John Fisher 3-0 in Friday's final game.
"This is new territory for us," said Coast Guard coach Donna Koczajowski, whose Bears (28-17) had to play out of the losers' bracket in previous postseason trips, including winning three games last Saturday to win their conference tournament. "We've earned our right to be here, so this is something new for us and exciting."
Feindel allowed only two hits, had 10 strikeouts and retired 12 consecutive hitters during one stretch. She was also helped by her defense, including a diving play by Fellman at third to rob Cooper of a hit in the third and diving catch by centerfielder Kaitlin Ward an inning later.
"This was the epitome of team play," Feindel said. "We all won that game. We had people getting clutch hits from the top to bottom of the lineup and some amazing game-changing plays in the field."
Feindel (21-8) and Rathbun (30-2) overpowered their opponents until the fourth, when Ward lined a one-out single to left, advanced to second on a wild pitch and took third on an infield out. Stacia Sarwinski walked and it looked like Rathbun might survive the threat when she got Kim in a 1-2 hole, but the senior singled up the middle. Waterford's Mattie Brett, playing center for the Warriors, made a strong throw home that would have nailed Ward, but the ball hopped over catcher Megan Bondy and Coast Guard was on its way.
"I actually did say to the team before the game that it's going to be a pitchers' duel for the most part," Fellman said, "so all we're going to need is one or two innings of stringing together some hits. We only had that one inning."
Rathbun, who was removed an inning later, gave credit to the Coast Guard hitters and said the only pitch she wished she could have back was the ball that Fellman launched out of the park.
"The home run was definitely a mistake, a rise ball right at the letters," Rathbun said. "I definitely have to get that up near the eyeballs because (Fellman) is a really tough hitter. I just have to tip my cap to them. They did a really good job, but now I know what I have to do the next time."
To get to a next time, Eastern will have to play out of the losers' bracket beginning with an elimination game at 11 a.m. today against Rochester.
"This was a big day for us," Koczajowski said. "We were hoping to face (Eastern) early and maybe hopefully face them in the finals. It was great for us and gives us confidence against Molly because she's a great pitcher.
"Everyone's in synch right now and we're finally peaking. That's great for us and that helps out Hayley to be looser on the mound."
And rested, a luxury Feindel and the Bears haven't been afforded in past tournaments.
"That's a big deal for us," Feindel said. "That was one of our goals ? to stay in the winners' bracket for the first time in my career. It will be nice to get some extra rest tonight."