Following a dominant sweep of Hamilton to open conference play, the Amherst women’s softball team continued its recent run of good form, sweeping a doubleheader against the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Wednesday and then taking all three games in this past weekend’s series against Middlebury.
Against MCLA, the Mammoths faced little competition in either affair, prevailing 9-0 in the first matchup, followed by a dominant 8-1 win in the second game.
Amherst did most of its work early on in game one, notching multi-run innings in all of the first three frames. After a single and a hit-by-pitch put runners on second and third with two outs, Annie McCluskey ’20 smacked a double into left, driving in two runs in the bottom of the first.
Then, after staving off a MCLA threat in the top of the second, Amherst put together its most comprehensive rally of the day, notching four runs on four hits, keyed by a pair of triples from Julia Turner ’19 and McCluskey, who added another two RBIs to her scoreline.
The third saw the last three runs of the game, with the Mammoths using three singles and some timely running on the base-paths to add another three runs on the board, firmly putting the game out of reach.
Lorena Ukanwa ’19 then came into the game as relief for starting pitcher Jackie Buechler ’17, who had given Amherst three strong scoreless innings. Ukanwa finished off the shutout, pitching two perfect innings and striking out four of the six batters she faced.
In the second game, Amherst started the first inning strong once again, taking an early 2-0 lead thanks to another RBI from McCluskey and a single from senior captain Alena Marovitz. However, the Mammoths were unable to do much more offensively for the next few innings, and only the masterful pitching of junior stud Gina Pagan, who went four scoreless innings while allowing only one baserunner, kept Amherst in the lead.
The Mammoths then blew the game open in the bottom of the fourth, posting four runs off of a Marovitz homer, a McCluskey sac fly, and a pair of nice hits from Lauren Tuiskula ’17 and Kyra Naftel ’19.
Although MCLA did manage to put one run on the board in the top of the fifth, an unearned one at that, two more Amherst runs in the bottom of the inning boosted the Amherst lead to 8-1, before Tuiskula closed out the game in the top of the sixth.
In the Mammoths’ first game against Middlebury on Saturday, the team again exploded offensively, notching an 11-1 victory in five innings.
As opposed to the games against MCLA, in both of which Amherst jumped out to early first-inning leads, the Panthers stymied the Mammoths for two innings, allowing only one player to reach base. However, Pagan topped that, striking out four of the first six batters Middlebury sent to the plate and retiring the other two for a perfect two innings.
The potent Amherst offense finally broke through in the bottom of the third, when the Mammoths managed to send 14 runners to the plate, with 10 of them making it all the way around the bases. Highlighted by a bases-clearing Marovitz triple and a two-run double from Tuiskula, Amherst managed eight hits in the inning.
After a scoreless fourth for both sides, Amherst tacked on its final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth before Middlebury managed a consolation run in the top of the sixth.
The doubleheader games on Sunday, on the other hand, proved to be much closer affairs. Amherst’s first win, by a slender 3-0 margin, depended upon another pair of strong outings from Buechler and Ukanwa, who combined to pitch seven scoreless innings, while allowing only three hits and one walk.
On the offensive side for the Mammoths, Ally Kido ’18 drove Tuiskula home in the top of the third for the first run of the game and Marovitz, the next batter, scored Naftel with a sac fly.
Amherst tallied an insurance run in the top of the seventh, with a two-out RBI single from Sammy Salustri ’19, and Ukanwa slammed the door on any hope of a Middlebury comeback, pitching a perfect seventh to notch the save.
The second game proved an easier affair for the Mammoths, as they hopped out to a 3-0 lead after three innings, one which they never relinquished in the 7-0 victory. Although Naftel led the way, going 4-5, no Amherst player scored more than one run or notched more than one RBI.
Indeed, the most impressive individual performances once again came from the Mammoths’ pitchers. Ukanwa and Pagan combined for yet another shutout, tallying more strikeouts (seven) than hits and walks combined (six).
With the series sweep, Amherst’s conference record now stands at 6-0, good for first place in the NESCAC West division, while the team boasts a 17-6 record overall.
The Mammoths will seek to lengthen their current eight-game win streak when the team takes on Smith on Wednesday, April 12, in a home doubleheader. The first game will start at 3:30 p.m. and the second will begin at 5:30 p.m.