Softball repeats as NESCAC West champs

It’s time for softball (23-13, 7-1 in the NESCAC) to take the champagne off the ice. As it has done all season, the Ephwomen used gutsy pitching and timely hitting to come away with 3-0 and 4-2 victories over Amherst (16-12, 6-2) on Saturday. With the wins, Williams clinched the NESCAC West title for the second straight season.

“I’m very proud of the girls, they deserve the credit” said Fran Vandermeer, head coach of softball. “We saved a great weekend of softball for the Amherst weekend, and I’m real proud of how we responded when Amherst made their stab at a comeback in the second game.”

The Ephs didn’t waste any time getting on the board in the opener as they pushed a run across home plate in the top of the first. Kerri McMahon ’05 struck a double into left-center and she was driven in by a two-out double down the left field line off the bat of Courtney Gordon ’05.

In the fourth, the Ephs capitalized on errors by Greta Anderson and Gina Scribner and scratched together another run to take a 2-0 lead. In a simple case of failing to practice the lessons taught in Softball 101, the Jeffs gave the Ephs five outs and dug themselves further into a hole against Katherine Baldwin ’03, who was dominant in yet another complete game shutout.

Williams closed out the scoring in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Mary Baccash ’05 that scored Johanna Rodriguez ’04.

In game two, the Ephs sent Liz Gluck ’05 to the mound. Gluck – who was starting in place of the team’s regular number two, Kate DeLuca ’04, who sustained a shoulder injury during the week – didn’t disappoint, allowing only two earned runs throughout six innings. Baldwin came on to close the game out for Williams, collecting the save in the process.

Held relatively quiet over the first three innings, the Ephwomen put up a three spot in the top of the fourth. A clutch two-out double by Carly Massey ’04 netted two runs for the Ephs, and Gisele Pinck ’02 pushed Massey across the plate with a double of her own.

Amherst touched up Gluck for two runs in the bottom of the sixth before the Eph hurler came up with a pair of big outs with a runner on third and one away.

Williams tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh, however, when McMahon drove in Jess Hartley ’02 from second base on a one-out single down the leftfield line.

Vandermeer sent Baldwin back out onto the mound for the seventh inning of the second game. Baldwin allowed a leadoff single to Becca Binder, but Jessica Allen grounded into a 1-6-3 double play and Kathryn Honderd grounded out harmlessly to third to end the game.

The Ephs will now host next weekend’s NESCAC Championships, which will feature teams from Williams, Amherst, Tufts (25-7, 8-0) and Bowdoin (25-8, 5-2), with whom the Ephs will square off on Friday. The Polar Bears ended the Ephwomen’s season last year with a 9-3 victory in the Ephs’ third game of the 2001 NESCAC Tournament.

“I think if we can come out and put some runs up on the board early we should be able to take advantage,” said Vandermeer. “If our bats manage to be as hot and as timely as they have been, and the defense and the pitching holds up, I’ve got to like our chances.

“Our pitching has been really solid the past two or three weeks, our bats have been coming up big and our defense has been improving all season.”

The Ephs split a pair of non-league games against Keene State (17-10-2) on a beautiful day down at Cole Field on Wednesday, winning the opener 1-0 before falling 6-3 in game two.

Baldwin turned in another dominating pitching performance for the Ephs, recording the complete game shutout while scattering two hits against five strikeouts.

For the first five innings, Owl hurler Missy Zimmerman was just as good, holding the Ephs scoreless on only three hits, but in the sixth inning a determined Williams squad managed to push the only run of the game across home plate.

Hartley smacked a one-out single to left field, and beat the throw to second base from Keene third baseman Nikki Foote on what should have been a fielder’s choice off the bat of McMahon.

With runners on first and second, Baldwin slapped a ground ball with eyes up the middle and into center field, but Vandermeer, the team’s third-base coach, held Hartley at third to load them up for Gordon.

Gordon, who started the game in place of Baccash, who was benched for undisclosed reasons, hit a sharp line drive to left fielder Adria Reynolds on which Hartley tagged and scored from third. A better throw from Reynolds might have nailed Hartley at the plate, but she got in there and the Ephs had the 1-0 advantage they would close the game with.

“Courtney and I work well together, we were on the same page today definitely,” Baldwin said. “I think I hit my spots pretty well, I kept the hitters off balance and that’s a good way to be successful.”

In the second game, the Ephs battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the fourth inning, but Kate DeLuca ’03, who started the game on the mound for the Ephs, struggled in the fifth. Melissa Provost had the big hit in the inning, a towering, two-out 2-2 home run to left-center field which gave the Owls a 6-2 advantage.

Williams pushed a run across the board in its half of the fifth, but Keene State kept the Ephwomen quiet from there on out to ice the 6-3 victory.

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