Softball (35-6, 9-3 in the NESCAC) took home its third consecutive NESCAC championship at Amherst this weekend, beating Trinity 7-1, Tufts 5-1 and Bowdoin 5-3.
On Saturday, the Ephs rode a five-run outburst to move past Trinity 7-1 in the quarterfinals. The streak came in the bottom of the second, when they scored five times on three hits. Kirstin Mapes ’20 led off with a well-placed bloop single to center and took second on a wild pitch. Rebecca Duncan ’20 then hit a comebacker that resulted in a throwing error, allowing Mapes to score and Duncan to take second. Tri-captain Margo Beck ’18 drew a walk, and tri-captain Brenna Martinez ’18 grounded a single through the left side to load the bases.
Casey Pelz ’19 and Riley Salvo ’20 were then hit by back-to-back pitches to force home two runs and give Williams a 3-0 lead. Jessica Kim ’19 and tri-captain Lexi Curt ’18 then drove home runs with back-to-back sacrifice flies, Curt’s a long drive to straightaway center that was snared at the fence.
After Trinity scored its only run of the game in the top of the fourth, when Cassidy Schiff led off with a double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Katie Haghdan, the Ephs answered with a run of their own, with Pelz blasting a solo home run to left center in the bottom of the frame. The Ephs’ final run came in the fifth, when Duncan doubled with two outs and came around to score on an error to make the final score 7-1.
Later that day, in the second round, Martinez ignited a five-run rally for the Ephs with a three-run home run, and Duncan twirled a complete-game four-hitter as the women eliminated Tufts 5-1 in the semifinals.
The Ephs trailed 1-0 after a solo home run in the top of the fourth by Jumbo Emma Della Volpe. But the Ephs were able to get to the conference leader in ERA, Tufts freshman Kristi Van Meter, in their half by producing a little two-out magic. Mackenzie Murphy ’19 led off with a single but was erased on a grounder by Duncan. With two outs, Beck ripped a single to left to put runners on first and second and bring up Martinez. She worked the count to 3-2 before hammering a pitch to deep left that easily cleared the fence for a three-run homer and a two-run Eph lead.
Pelz kept things going by ripping a double into the gap in left center field. Salvo followed with a line drive RBI single to right center to make it 4-1. Kim lined a single to deep right that chased Salvo to third and took second on the throw. Curt then hit a soft blooper to short and reached on a misplay as Kim scored for a 5-1 advantage.
Tufts put runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Duncan fanned Raven Fournier to end the contest. The Ephs’ right-hander allowed four hits and three walks over seven innings while striking out three. The Ephs had eight hits in the victory.
In the championship round against the Polar Bears, the Ephs authored their 14th come-from-behind victory this season, and their dramatic seventh-inning rally — the sixth time they’ve posted a win in their final at-bat — helped them secure the gold and an automatic berth into the 2018 Div. III NCAA Tournament.
As always, it took nearly the entire roster to pull it off, but the big blow came from Curt, who launched a moonshot of a home run to left field with no outs in the top of the seventh to turn a 3-2 Eph deficit into a 5-3 lead. Duncan shut the door in the Bowdoin half of the seventh to give the Ephs their sixth overall title in program history. The 5-3 win over the Polar Bears was the Ephs’ 14th straight victory.
“60 feet. Next batter up. That’s what we’ve been about all year,” head coach Kris Herman said of the win. “We showed that’s who we are again today.”
The Ephs trailed the Polar Bears 3-1 entering the top of the seventh. Pelz ignited the rally by lining the first pitch she saw into the gap in right center field for a lead-off double. Salvo was next up and lined a 1-1 pitch into left to put runners on the corners. Kim got ahead 3-1 before grounding a ball back up the middle for an RBI single that made it 3-2.
Up stepped Curt, the all-time leader in homers and RBIs at Williams. She took ball one, looked at strike one and then swung and missed to fall behind 1-2. On the next pitch, she drove a ball straight over the left-field fence for a 5-3 lead and the 36th home run of her Williams career, setting a single-season RBI record in the process.
“There were no outs,” Curt said. “I knew we had a slew of great hitters coming up behind me, and once that sunk in, the pressure just fell off.”
Duncan induced the first Polar Bear batter of the bottom of the seventh to ground out to Martinez. Bowdoin’s Maddie Rouhana – who had lined a two-run, opposite-field home run to right in the bottom of the fourth to give the Polar Bears a 3-0 lead – worked a walk after a 14-pitch at-bat. Kim caught a shallow pop-up for the second out, and an Ali Miller pop-up to Martinez was the final out that secured the NESCAC championship.
Duncan earned the win, going all seven frames and allowing just three hits while giving up two walks and striking out six. She moved to 15-3 on the season.
The women look forward to a playoff matchup against Husson at home on Friday.
The Ephs will graduate Beck, Curt, and Martinez.