Softball beats Amherst, drops title game to Tufts at NESCACs

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Softball (33–5, 12–0 in the NESCAC) fell 3-2 to Tufts on Sunday in the final game of the NESCAC Championship. The loss ended the Ephs’ three-year run as conference champions and their record-breaking 22-game winning streak, which included a win in the quarterfinal round over Bates and a semifinals victory over Amherst. 

“We are really disappointed that we lost, [but] still happy with a lot of pieces of our play this weekend,” Head Coach Kris Herman said.

In the team’s first game of the tournament – a 6-2 win over Bates – a two-out, bases-loaded catcher’s interference call led to a six-run explosion that tore apart a scoreless pitcher’s duel. Friday’s game, which was halted after five complete innings due to darkness, resumed on Saturday morning.

Friday’s quarterfinal was scoreless throughout the bottom of the fifth inning; the Ephs loaded the bases with one out when Riley Salvo ’20, Jessica Kim ’19 and Rebecca Duncan ’20 all singled. After the second out, Kirsten Mapes ’20 appeared to ground out to the pitcher to end the frame, but a catcher’s interference call allowed pinch runner Jenny Hickey ’21 to score for a 1-0 lead. 

Mara Kipnis ’22 then hit a ground ball, which resulted in a two-run error and a 3-0 lead. Gabi Medvene-Cirigliano ’21 grounded a single back up the middle to make it 4-0. To end Friday’s play, Casey Pelz ’19 lined up a two-run single to end the night with a 6-0 lead.

Although the Bobcats racked up two runs on Saturday morning, they were unable to catch the Ephs, who ended the two-day game with 6-2. 

The women returned to the field later on Saturday to face off against Amherst in the tournament’s semifinals round. The Ephs managed to narrowly defeat the Mammoths in a 5-4 win, their 22nd victory of the season.  

The Ephs secured a 5-0 lead early in the game, first breaking through with a single run in the third inning when Mackenzie Murphy ’19 led off with a long triple to center field. Medvene-Cirgliano plated Murphy when she lofted a sacrifice fly to center two pitches later. The Ephs scored four more within the third, after Kim led off the frame with a double down the left-field line. 

Duncan then followed with a hard single to right field to put runners on the corners. She stole second and, after an out, Mapes hit a long double to the fence in left-center field that scored both runners. With two outs, Medvene-Cirigliano’s grounder to short was misplayed, and Mapes slid home ahead of the throw for a four-run lead. Salvo greeted a new Mammoth pitcher with a deep blast to left center for an RBI-double and a five-run lead. 

On the pitcher’s mound, Mapes shut the Mammoths down for the first three innings, extending her scoreless streak to 26 consecutive innings. Amherst, however, rallied in the bottom of the fifth after two walks and a bunt single loaded the bases. Two sacrifice flies and a steal of home made it a 5-3 ballgame before Mapes fanned the final batter of the frame to end it. 

Amherst added another run to the score in the sixth, but Mapes remained composed and struck out the final batter as the game-tying run stood on second base. In the seventh, Murphy came on for Mapes and retired the Mammoths in order, striking out two, to earn her her first save of the season. 

With their 5-4 victory, the women advanced to the NESCAC title game against Tufts.

The Jumbos started strong, bringing the score to 3-0 by the end of the first inning. An outfield error by the Ephs resulted in the game’s first run. Murphy started in the pitcher’s circle for the Ephs. After the first Jumbo run, Murphy retired the final 16 batters she faced and all 15 from the bottom of the second through the bottom of the sixth. Hickey, playing second base, made two stalwart stops on line drives, preventing further runs. 

The Ephs were unable to score until the top of the third, when Kristina Alvarado ’19 doubled to center with two outs and made it home after a subsequent double from Kim.

In the top of the fourth, the Ephs advanced a runner to third with one out, after Kipnis led off with a single. Jumbo pitcher Kristi Van Meter, however, retired the next two batters on a foul out and fly ball to end the inning. Then a pair of errors in the fifth helped the Ephs to put runners on second and third bases with two outs on the board. Van Meter secured the final out on a pop-up. 

Entering the top of the seventh down 3-1, Alvarado led off with a single. Kim followed by lining a shot into the left-center field gap, allowing Alvarado to race all the way home. With Kim on second with no outs, and the Ephs within a one-run victory, Van Meter retired the next three Eph hitters and secured the Jumbo win.

“Although we’d like to have a few pitches back on both offense and defense and for certain would have loved to win our fourth straight title, we feel great going in to the first round of NCAAs,” Herman said.

The women will travel to Cortland, N.Y. to compete in the NCAA Championship next weekend, after receiving an at-large berth. They will face Framingham State on Friday. After the tournament, the team will graduate Alvarado, Jill Jenkin ’19, Kim, Murphy and Pelz.