Softball (32-9, 10-2 in the NESCAC) earned its first NESCAC Tournament title since 2006 last Sunday in an 8-3 victory over four-time defending NESCAC champion Tufts.
Tufts and Williams faced one another three times in this weekend’s tournament with Williams winning 17-4 on Saturday, losing 13-6 Sunday and then winning 8-3. Williams finished with an aggregate score of 31-20 over three contests.
The Jumbos forced a winner-take-all seventh game following a 13-6 victory earlier Sunday. In game seven, Tufts gained an early 2-0 lead. Cassie Ruscz cracked a long two-run home run in the top of the first inning, marking her second home run of the day. Ruscz set tournament records when she scored four home runs and 12 RBIs.
The Ephs answered back quickly when Lexi Curt ’18 hit her own two-run homer in the bottom of the first. Jessica Kim ’19, who had singled, scored ahead of Curt. This marked Curt’s sixth home run, tying her for the team lead.
In the bottom of the second, Brenna Martinez ’18 also went opposite field with a home run to give the Ephs a lead they would not relinquish. The Ephs added a second run in the inning when Melissa Cendejas ’16 singled, advanced to third on two groundouts and scored on Kim’s liner to center with two down.
The Ephs kept the pressure on in the fourth as a walk, a hit batsman and another Cendejas single loaded the bases with one out. Tayler Donze ’16 scored pinch-runner Jill Jenkin ’19 with a sacrifice fly, and co-captain Erica Li ’16, the Ephs’ lead-off hitter, launched the first pitch she saw from Jumbo reliever Raina Galbiati well over the fence in right-center for a three-run homer and an 8-2 lead for the Ephs.
Mackenzie Murphy ’19 bounced back from the Rucsz homer to keep Tufts off the board for five consecutive innings. The Jumbos added a late run in the top of the seventh, but Murphy got Galbiati to ground to short to end the game and give the Ephs the title.
Murphy improved to 14-3 on the season by going the full seven innings and allowing 12 hits and three runs, all earned, while walking one and striking out two.
Both teams had 12 hits in the game. Cendejas was 2 for 3 with two runs scored. Kim, Curt and Murphy were all 2 for 4.
This is Williams’s fourth NESCAC Championship title and head coach Kris Herman’s seventh – the first three were with Tufts.
In game six, Tufts scored 11 runs in the first inning, sending 15 batters to the plate. After Samantha Siciliano led off with a single and Christian Cain walked, Galbiati singled home the first run. Another walk loaded the bases and Summer Horowitz was hit by a pitch making it 2-0. Williams recorded the first out, but Christina Raso followed with a run-scoring single, and it was 3-0.
Maggie Hoffman’s RBI-single put Tufts up 4-0 before Williams made the second out of the inning. However, the Jumbos would score seven more times including an RBI-single by Siciliano, run-scoring walks to Cain and Galbiati and then a grand slam by Ruscz.
Tufts would add to the lead with a single run in the third as Horowitz was once again hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to put Tufts ahead 12-0.
From there, Galbiati – Tufts’ starting pitcher – just had to prevent a big inning. After holding the Ephs scoreless in the first and second, the Jumbos allowed the Ephs to rally for five in the third. Murphy hit a two-run single, and Kacey Cramer ’16 smacked a three-run homer, pulling the hosts within 12-5.
Galbiati kept Williams off the scoreboard in the fourth and fifth, but the Ephs left the bases loaded in the fourth. Williams pulled within 12-6 in the bottom of the sixth with Murphy again producing an RBI base hit.
The Jumbos scored their 13th run with a bases-loaded walk to Ruscz in the seventh. Galbiati retired Williams 1-2-3 to force a final game.
Williams out-hit Tufts with 13. Li was 3 for 4 with a run, while Murphy, Curt and Cendejas all had two hits.
“Winning our first NESCAC championship in 11 years is a pretty big deal and we are excited,” Head Coach Kris Herman said. “It was a great weekend, especially for the offense. Even though we gave up a lot of runs in our loss, we used the second half of that game to get momentum.”
The women will host the NCAA Regional Tournament this Friday.