Softball falls in NESCAC title game

Heading into the weekend, women’s softball knew that even though Colby was hosting the NESCAC tournament, the road to the conference’s automatic bid for the national tournament would go through perennial powerhouse Tufts. The Ephwomen made a valiant run over the weekend, but came up short, 4-1, in what would be their fifth game in two days to Tufts in the deciding championship game. The Ephs finished the season at 16-15.

For the first time in the history of the double elimination NESCAC tournament, the automatic bid came down to a seventh and deciding game. After having lost to Tufts in the first round of the tournament, Williams stormed through the backdraw and defeated Middlebury 7-1, Colby 1-0 and then Tufts 2-1. The last win against Tufts gave the Jumbos their first loss of the tournament, forcing a rubbermatch between the two teams for the championship.

Williams drew first blood in the final game, scoring in the fourth inning as Katherine Baldwin ’03 drove in Alana Frost ’06 from third with an RBI single giving the Ephs the momentum and a 1-0 lead.

However, in the bottom of the fourth inning the Jumbos answered with four runs including a three run double by Julie Fox, who made the Ephs pay for intentionally walking two batters to get to her. The three-run lead would hold up the rest of the game thanks to strong pitching by Jumbo Caroline Grieco.

As disappointing as the loss was, Head Coach Fran Vandermeer had nothing but good things to say about her team. “I’m really proud of the way the girls battled back after losing the first game,” Vandermeer said. “It showed a lot of character to win three straight games to force a final game seven. It is just really tough trying to win three games in one day.”

The Ephs’ road to force a decisive game began with a 7-1 thrashing of Middlebury. A focused Eph team led by captain Kate DeLuca ’03 on the mound held the Panthers to a lone run while Liz Gluck ’05 (one hit, two RBI), Kristen Massimiano ’03 (2-of-4, RBI) and Kerri McMahon ’05 (2-of-4, RBI) took care of business on offense.

After mowing down Middlebury, the Ephs won a pitching duel against host Colby in the first game on Sunday 1-0. Baldwin threw seven scoreless innings, giving up only six hits and striking out three to shut down the host team. McMahon hit an RBI double in the first to drive in Mary Baccash ’05 for the only run of the game. The victory against Colby set up a rematch against Tufts.

Riding high, Williams jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Tufts, and held off a seventh inning rally to win 2-1. Baldwin had a hand in both runs, scoring an unearned run in the second and then driving in Massimiano in the fourth.

Clara Hard ’06 pitched an incredible game in what was the biggest game of the year for the Ephs. She would pitch again the very next game and went six more innings, but took the loss in the championship game.

For the Ephs, a season that got off to a rocky start with an injury and some tough early season losses ended up on a positive note. Last year the Ephs fell to Tufts in the championship game without having beaten them. This year, having to play three full games in one day caught up to the team only three innings shy of the NCAA tournament.

Women’s softball team graduates five seniors Coach Vandermeer described as “the heart and soul of this team” and “such a pleasure to coach.” Tracey Henderson ’03 and Courtney Hunter ’03 had the best years of their careers and were steady fixtures in the outfield corners and clubhouse. Massimiano’s athletic ability in centerfield and at the hot corner in addition to her .364 batting average will be sorely missed next spring.

The emergence of Hard was encouraging, but the team will be hard-pressed to replace veteran starters pitchers Baldwin and DeLuca. Baldwin was one of the teams’ best hitters besides being an overpowering pitcher. As for DeLuca, her team-best 2.83 ERA (unlike her size four cleats) leave some huge shoes to fill on the mound next year. “DeLuca has been an inspiration to us all,” Vandermeer said. “Everyone has learned a lot from the perspective she has and how she approaches every game.”

Next year, the Ephs will return 11 players and will again be in the hunt for a NESCAC Championship.

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