Softball climbs to second in NESCAC West

With 10 games left in the season, softball (9-17, 4-2 in the NESCAC) claimed its second NESCAC series of the season last weekend as the team defeated Middlebury at home. The women took the series when a walk off hit by Merrilee Weston ’13 capped a remarkable extra innings rubber match victory for the Ephs. The series win came after the women dropped two games to Keene State on the road early last week.

The women currently sit in a tie for second in the West division and are looking to make a push towards the top of the division behind the arm of pitcher Mary Beth Daub ’11 and the bat of Cedar Blazek ’13, who was named NESCAC Player of the Week for her performances against Keene and Middlebury. The team must claim sole possession of first or second in the division to advance to the NESCAC finals.

Sunday’s showdown against Middlebury, which would decide the series after the teams split Saturday’s doubleheader, was an extra-innings thriller and one of the best games of the season. Middlebury took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first after two walks and two singles plated one run for the Panthers. Williams struck back during the bottom half of the inning; with two outs, Weston and Caitlyn Cain ’11 each hit RBI singles before a wild pitch allowed Weston to score as well, giving the Ephs a 3-1 lead after one action-packed inning. Daub and Panther pitcher Geena Constanti matched each other pitch for pitch, neither giving up a run in the fourth, fifth or sixth inning to keep it a one-run game at 4-3 in favor of Williams heading into the top of the seventh.

Middlebury’s third baseman Sarah Boylan hammered a two-run home run in the seventh inning to put the Panthers up 5-4. The Ephs were able to respond in the bottom of the inning, however. After a single, a sac bunt and a groundout which led to a bad throw, right fielder Oriana McGee ’12 hustled home to score the tying run, forcing the game to extra innings. The Panthers again took the lead in the 10th, scoring a run after a string of singles to pull ahead 6-5. The Ephs, however, showed their strength and confidence going into the bottom of the 10th. Refusing to be denied a series victory, the team rallied, as Allison Hart ’12 led off with a double and Blazek hustled to second after lining a single into center field and the throw held Hart from going home. After a Daub groundout, Weston came up to the plate and smacked a single past the Panther second baseman, plating Hart and Blazek for a walk-off 7-6 win.

“Sunday we just never quit,” Head Coach Kris Herman said when asked about the team’s remarkable performance in the extra innings contest. “Down a run in both the bottom of the seventh and the 10th, we just found a way to come back and win. So many kids came up big at the plate, we got great pitching and our defense was solid. Winning series is the name of the game – it means we control our own destiny moving forward.”

On Saturday, the first game of the Middlebury doubleheader got the women off to a slow start on the weekend. The Panthers were in control throughout the game, scoring two runs in the fourth and then four runs in the sixth while allowing only one Eph to cross home plate to give themselves a 6-1 cushion heading into the seventh inning. Blazek homered in the bottom of the seventh to cut the Middlebury’s lead to four, but Middlebury’s Constantini quickly put an end to any hopes for a comeback. Three Williams errors on the game did not aid Daub, who hurled an impressive seven innings while giving up only one earned run. The women ended the first game of the series with a 6-2 loss.

The second game of the day was a different story, however. The Ephs tied the game up at 2-2 after the Panthers scored two in the second, and the women continued to bat in the third, scoring three runs in the inning for a 5-2 lead. Middlebury scored twice in the fifth to cut the lead to 5-4, but Eph pitcher Megan Casey ’13 got out a bases-loaded jam to keep her team ahead as the Panthers’ fifth at bat wrapped up. The Ephs immediately responded to the Panthers’ charge in the bottom of the fifth; Weston drew a walk before Blazek crushed a ball into left-center for her sixth homerun of the year to give the Ephs a 7-4 lead. One more Middlebury run narrowed the gap to 7-5, but the women claimed the win to go 1-1 on the day.

While Herman expressed pride regarding her team’s winning weekend, she remains cautious going forward, still looking to address the problems that have plagued the Ephs all season. “At this point we are trying to achieve some consistency. We are talented but, like any young team, don’t always play well. We need to find a way to have a consistently high level of play, on defense especially.” Herman, however, remains optimistic about her team’s postseason chances: “Winning the NESCACs is certainly within our reach.”

The doubleheader at Keene State on Wednesday marked a rough two games for the women. Keene jumped out to an 8-0 lead by the third inning of the opening game, eventually going on to win by a score of 10-1. The Ephs’ lone run came off an RBI double by Kaitlin Dinet ’13, who plated Blazek for the score. Williams picked up its offense in the second game of the day, but it was not enough to win. Led by Weston, who went 2-4 with one run and two RBIs, the Ephs scored seven runs on just nine hits. Dinet, however, struggled on the mound, allowing five earned runs in only two innings. Keene State won 10-7, sweeping Williams for the first time since 2001.

The scores for the doubleheader against RPI last night came in too late to report, but the team will continue its week with a three-game series at Hamilton starting at 5 p.m. Friday.

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