After having its eight-game winning streak snapped by Western Connecticut (19-6) on Friday, women’s softball (20-12, 5-1 in the NESCAC) took the first step towards capturing the Little Three title following a doubleheader sweep of Wesleyan (8-20, 1-5) on Saturday. Earlier in the week, the Ephwomen took two from the Smith Pioneers (15-14).
In the first game against Wesleyan, the Ephs turned an early 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 come-from-behind victory.
“It definitely helped a lot to go down early and then eventually take the lead,” said Jess Hartley ’02. “That was huge going into the second game – it definitely put some wind into our sails.”
Cardinal pitcher Jenn Wasserman shut the Ephs down through the first two innings, while it looked like Eph hurler Katherine Baldwin ’03 might just be having one of those days after allowing a leadoff single to Wasserman followed up by a Kate Marcinie RBI triple. Baldwin hung tough, however, and struck out the heart of the Cardinal lineup to strand Wasserman at third.
Baldwin came out shaky again in the second inning, allowing back-to-back extra-base hits to Lindsay Wasserman and Sue Frost before again battling back to strand a runner in scoring position, thereby keeping the Ephs within striking distance.
Williams evened the score in the top of the third after Courtney Hunter ’03 and Gisele Pinck ’02 scored on a one-out RBI single off the bat of Hartley.
The Ephs took the lead with a two-run fifth inning in which Pinck and Hartley scored; Baldwin helped her cause with a two-out RBI triple to score Hartley, giving Williams a much-needed insurance run.
In game two, the Eph bats came alive despite a one-hour rain delay in the top of the first. Despite the threatening weather, Williams scored runs in each of the game’s five innings: three runs in the first inning, two in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth and five in the fifth.
Though she doubtless appreciated the support, the way Kate DeLuca ’03 was pitching, the only run she would need was the very first one of the game. DeLuca shut down the Cardinal bats for five innings before the game was called per the mercy rule with the Ephs leading 14-0.
“The team came out and got a ton of runs in the first few innings, and that always helps you settle down on the mound,” said DeLuca. “I went out there and my curve and changeup were working. I think I did a good job keeping their hitters off balance. Between that and the defense being incredible behind me, I thought it was a real good team effort.”
Williams dropped a pair of close games at Western Conn., its eight-game winning streak becoming history following 1-0 and 5-3 losses on Westside Field in Danbury.
“They were both really close games,” said Hartley. “We had our chances early, but they had the best pitching we’d faced all year and we just couldn’t come up with the big hit.
“They were two great games, two pitching duels, but, unfortunately, on that day we couldn’t come away with the victories.”
Action was delayed by an hour in this game as well, but it was a battle right from the start. Unfortunately, Baldwin was out-dueled by Sarah Zaslaw; Baldwin allowed one unearned to cross the plate in the fifth inning on an error by Hunter in left field. That one run was the difference in the game as the Ephs lost a heartbreaker 1-0.
In the nightcap, the Ephwomen took at 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. Tracey Henderson ’03 drove in two runs when Western Conn. first baseman Melissa Walsh couldn’t handle what should have been the second out of the inning.
The Westerns cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth, but put up three runs on three hits and one walk in the fifth to forge ahead to a 5-3 lead.
With runners on second and third with two women down, Christine Valie smacked a single to right field to plate Yvonne Howard with the go-ahead run and Cherie Baley to give Western Conn. an insurance run. Williams went down one-two-three in the seventh inning to close out the game.
Prior to the streak-snapping doubleheader against Western Conn., Williams swept a doubleheader against the Smith Pioneers, winning the first game 8-0 and the nightcap 8-1 victory.
Williams will now prepare for a Saturday showdown with Amherst. The Ephs currently trail the Jeffs by half a game in the NESCAC West, but are in position to move into first place in their division if they can come up with wins in both games.
“Amherst has never been as important as it is this weekend,” DeLuca said. “We really want to host NESCACs next weekend and we’re going to need to take two from Amherst to do that.”