Softball takes series from Amherst to claim Little Three, NESCAC West

Softball (16-19-1, 9-3 in the NESCAC) defeated archrival Amherst in two of three games last Friday and Saturday to clinch the Little Three title and the NESCAC West Division in the process. Winning the NESCAC West means that the Ephs will host the NESCAC playoffs in Williamstown starting Friday. After dropping the opening game of the series at home, the women traveled to Amherst, where they won both games of the doubleheader. Three-time reigning champion Tufts, Bowdoin and Wesleyan will join Williams this weekend for the tournament.

Williams traveled to Amherst for Saturday’s doubleheader undaunted after a disheartening loss Friday night. The opening game of the doubleheader looked as though it might turn out grim on Saturday afternoon. After surrendering two runs in the first inning, the Ephs failed to respond until the fourth, when the Eph bats got going. Led by singles from Cedar Blazek ’13 and Merilee Weston ‘13, the team managed to load the bases in the fourth before Carly Ameen ’11 singled to center to drive in two runs. Blazek struck again in the fifth, blasting a two-run homerun to left field after Alison Hart ’12 singled to lead off the inning. The bats continued to make contact in the sixth: Ameen led off the inning with a homerun. After a single by Oriana McGee ’12 got the Eph on base, Hart nailed a double into right center to bring McGee home, giving the Ephs a 6-2 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. Mary Beth Daub ’11 came on to relieve starting pitcher Megan Casey ’13 after Amherst got runners on first and third with one down. The Jeffs managed to plate the two runners in the sixth inning, but Daub shut them down in the seventh for the 6-4 Eph victory. The Ephs had only needed one win on the series to secure a NESCAC playoff berth, and so clinched their spot after the first game on Saturday.

Amherst jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first inning in the second game of the doubleheader. Williams responded with two runs of its own in the top of the fourth inning after Blazek tripled, allowing Hart to score, and later scored herself on an error to tie the game at 2-2 at the start of the fifth inning. The teams tacked on one run each in the sixth for a 3-3 tie, forcing the game to extra innings to decide the series. The Ephs then mounted an impressive rally in the eighth, getting contributions from almost every player on the team to take a three-run lead. The women took advantage of errors, slapped singles, played small ball and ran hard to open a 6-3 lead on a two-run RBI single by Blazek and an RBI groundout from Caitlyn Cain ’11. Daub, who pitched brilliantly in both games to finish with 9.2 innings on the day, did the rest as the Jeffs tried to respond in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Amherst managed to put runners on first and second with two outs, Daub snuffed out any chance of a rally, striking out Amherst’s Christina Anderson to give Williams the series win, the NESCAC West and the Little Three title.

When asked what their mindset was going into the doubleheader, Head Coach Kris Herman said ,“[Winning is] always the goal, but to do that we had to keep making the routine plays, and some great ones if we get the chance. We also focused on having good at bats and just playing with enthusiasm.”

Friday night saw a strong opening few innings from the Ephs. Daub held the Jeffs scoreless until their sixth at-bat, while the Ephs pulled ahead 1-0 in the third inning after Cain drove McGee in to get the women on the board. Williams added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning after a Hart groundout allowed Ameen to score, opening the team’s lead to 2-0. Amherst, however, struck back in the sixth, singling home a run after an error allowed a runner to advance to second. Blazek was quick to respond, blasting a homerun past the Jeffs’ defense in the Ephs’ sixth at-bat for a 3-1 Williams lead heading into the final inning of the day. Amherst came from behind to steal the win from the home team in the seventh: Casey came on in place of Daub to finish out the game and gave up a single, a walk and a three-run homerun to put Amherst up 4-3. Williams managed to get runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the frame, but Cain popped up to the pitcher on a suicide squeeze, leading to a quick double play and ending the game with the Jeffs barely edging the Ephs out 4-3.

“We played well on Friday,” Herman said. “Aside from two bad pitches, we were on our way to winning that game so we were in no way down.”

Considering that the team started the season 0-8, the Ephs have done a fantastic job of turning their season around. The team’s improved consistency was obvious last weekend: During the series with Amherst, Williams only committed four errors while collecting 16 runs on 26 hits.

Daub was named NESCAC Pitcher of the Week for her efforts against the Jeffs.

“We never, ever, feel we are out of a game,” Herman said. “We play to win every time out.”

The NESCAC tournament will be held in Williamstown from Friday to Sunday. Williams will start off the weekend with a game against Bowdoin at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, while Wesleyan will play Tufts at 5 p.m. that night.

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