Softball stumbles twice against Bowdoin

A loss in the NESCAC championship ended both a conference championship run and the 2010 season for softball (17-21-1, 9-3 in the NESCAC) last weekend. Bowdoin, seeded second in the NESCAC East, knocked Williams out of the double-elimination tournament Sunday morning with a 6-0 victory. Saturday’s 8-4 win over Tufts kept the women in the NESCAC tournament, one they had earned the right to host after taking two of three from rival Amherst the weekend of April 30 to claim the NESCAC West title. Saturday’s win came after an 8-1 loss to Bowdoin Friday night.

Inclement weather forced the elimination game against Bowdoin on to be played Sunday morning. Bowdoin had lost to Wesleyan on Saturday, forcing another Eph-Polar Bear showdown. Williams went on to lose 6-0 to a determined Bowdoin squad. Megan Casey ’13 did her best to anchor the Eph defense, but walked four runners while only striking out one. Only three of the Polar Bears’ six runs were earned – the other three came courtesy of five Eph errors.

Head Coach Kris Herman was, understandably, disappointed on Sunday afternoon, but chose to focus on the season as a whole when speaking to her team after the loss. “At that point there is no tomorrow to make corrections for,” she said. “So we mostly talked about the season overall.” The NESCAC West title was a triumph for the Ephs, a young team that was forced to rally after a discouraging beginning to the season.

The double-elimination style of the tournament put Williams up against Tufts on Saturday in a battle to stay in the running for the championship after Friday’s loss. Early on in the game it looked as if the Ephs would be headed home early as the Jumbos pulled ahead. Tufts plated one run in the first inning and three more in the third to take a 4-0 lead that held into the sixth inning. Rain, which had been threatening the game all day, let loose at that point, leading to a 25-minute delay. Upon resuming play, the Ephs exploded, plating eight runs in the top of the sixth inning alone. Allison Hart ’12, Merrilee Weston ’13 and Cedar Blazek ’13 led off the inning with singles to load the bases. After Mary Beth Daub ’11 drove Hart in, Weston was able to score when the Jumbos’ pitcher walked Caitlyn Cain ’11. Carly Ameen ’11 singled for another run before Emily Levy ’13 poked a single through second base, allowing two more runners to score and giving the Ephs a 5-4 lead. Hart then tallied an RBI single before Weston put a cap on the inning, knocking in a two-run double to give the women a commanding 8-4 lead. Casey, who pitched all seven innings, shut down Tufts in the sixth and seventh, securing a season-saving win for Williams. The first-year pitcher only allowed six hits and three walks while striking out three batters.

The first game of the NESCAC tournament saw Williams go up against Bowdoin. Seeded second in the East Division, the Polar Bears were able to upset the Ephs decisively. Bowdoin jumped on starting pitcher Daub in the first inning, setting up for a three-run homerun by Polar Bear Clare Ronan to put Bowdoin up 3-0 from the get-go. What would be the women’s only run of the game came in the bottom of the first. Captain Jess Cross ’10 beat out the throw on a slap hit to third. After Hart moved her over to second, Cross stole third and went home after a Bowdoin error sent the throw into left field, putting Williams on the board at 3-1 as the first inning ended. Polar Bear pitcher Kara Nilan allowed just six hits and no earned runs on the game; she also struck out six Ephs. Bowdoin racked up the runs, tallying eight total for the win and pushing Williams into the losers bracket early on.

Herman was frank when asked about the team’s performance against Bowdoin. “We played poor defense and allowed Bowdoin to gain the advantage early on,” she said. “We were on our heels from the beginning and then our offense was not up to the challenge from Bowdoin.”

The team, which will only graduate Cross, looks to build on its strong, now-experienced roster in order to achieve the desired success next season.

The head coach considered the season productive, if not the success she had envisioned. “We learned a lot, got better all around,” she said of her young squad. “I think every single player improved in more than one area of their game and our team surely improved as a unit. We won the Little Three title, won the division to earn the right to host and beat the reigning NESCAC champs [Tufts] twice. I expect us to be right back there and then some next season.”