Down 5-1 with only six outs remaining against Amherst on Saturday, softball (19-18, 7-5 in the NESCAC) faced the stark prospect of having its season come to an early end. After losing the first two games of the series to the Jeffs (14-18, 6-6), a third loss would have bumped Williams from second in the NESCAC West and out of playoff contention. The Ephs, however, came up big, scoring nine runs in the final two innings to give them a 10-6 win and a berth to the conference tournament.
“We were not at our best on any side of the ball against Amherst, but we won when it counted and we know we can and will be better next weekend,” Emily Fowler-Cornfeld ’09 said.
On Friday, Amherst used a two-run double in the eighth to take down the women, 3-1, in the extra-inning contest. Amherst’s Alex Chang-Graham held the Ephs to just three hits over eight innings, while walking one and fanning eight.
For the Ephs, Margaret Ryan ’08 and Morgan Simpson ’09 combined for a strong effort on the mound. Ryan surrendered only one run in three innings of work, while Simpson gave up two runs in the remaining five frames.
Williams struck first in the second inning when Caitlyn Cain ’11 scored Libby Copeland-Halperin ’09 on a groundout to second.
Amherst responded in the top of the fourth when Emily Neill knocked a solo shot to left. Both teams were silent until the top of the eighth when Neill once again spoiled the Ephs’ day. The Amherst slugger stroked a two-run double to send the Jeffs home with a 3-1 win.
In the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Amherst, the Jeffs won in another two-run contest, this time a 4-2 decision.
Williams got on the scoreboard first with a run in each of the first two innings. Katie Powers ’08 gave the Ephs a 1-0 lead with an RBI double that scored Becky Sansone ’09. In the second, three Eph singles loaded the bases. Sansone then scored a runner with a sacrifice fly.
Down 2-0 in the fourth, Amherst responded. Four hits and two costly errors brought four Jeffs across the plate for a 4-2 advantage, and all the runs Amherst would need to seal the game.
Despite some clutch relief pitching from Emily Fowler-Cornfeld ’09 (2 1/3 innings, two hits and no runs), the Eph bats failed to come to life, giving Williams its second loss in as many days. Amherst reliever Graham-Chang threw the last 5 2/3 innings, allowing only four hits and no runs to earn her ninth win of the season.
A win in Saturday’s nightcap would have given Amherst the sweep and a berth to the NESCAC tournament this weekend. And if the first five innings were any indication, it appeared as if the Jeffs were well on their way to just that.
Mary Beth Daub carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning when the Jeffs collected the first run of the game to take a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Williams evened the score off an RBI single from Cain. But Amherst countered with an offensive punch in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, Amherst’s Holly Trace knocked a double to bring three runners across the plate. Trace came home on an ensuing RBI single to put the Jeffs up 5-1.
Williams gained some ground in the sixth with an RBI single and RBI walk from Cain and Joey Lye ’09, respectively. Fowler-Cornfeld then retired the side in the bottom half of the inning to send the Ephs into their final three outs, trailing 5-3.
Five Amherst errors and three hits opened the floodgates for the Ephs in the seventh as they sent 11 batters to the plate and collected seven unearned runs. Lye, Mary Gelber ’10, Powers and Cain all picked up RBIs in the slugfest. When Amherst finally got out of the inning, Williams was firmly in the lead, 10-5.
The Jeffs only managed one run in the final half inning, effectively ending their season with a third-place finish in the NESCAC West.
“We knew going into the third game, with our season on the line, that we had to leave it all on the field,” Lye said. “We gave all we had, and although it may not have been pretty, it paid off in the seventh inning.”
Lye led the Ephs at the plate, finishing 5-for-8 in the doubleheader and setting two single-season Williams records in the process. With 62 hits on the season she surpasses the record of 60 set by Laura Jacobs in 1999. Her five total bases brings her year-end mark to 85, besting Alana Frost’s 82 in the 2006 season. She also leads the current squad in batting average (.512), runs (40), doubles (eight), triples (three), slugging (.702) and on-base percentage (.572).
Softball will take on Tufts in the first round of the NESCAC tournament this weekend. The Jumbos are the top seed with an 11-1 conference record.