After Strong Start, Softball Cooled Off by Midd.
Issue   |   Tue, 04/02/2013 - 22:51

Softball started the season off strong over the break, compiling a 9-3 record in their Florida tournament before going 3-2 back up north. The Jeffs used strong pitching from co-captain Teresa Kelley ’13 to grind out close wins over Plymouth State and Bowdoin, while the team’s bats — led by Donna Leet ’15, Kaitlin Silkowitz ’14 and Carolyn Miller ’14 — came alive in decisive wins over teams such as William Paterson, Framingham State and Southern Maine. All three Florida setbacks came in close games, including an 8-7 loss to 15th-ranked Plattsburgh State.

The team began play against Allegheny College, and Kelley, an All-Region player last year, shut down the Gators in a dominant two-hit, 12-strikeout performance. Offensively, Amherst got on the board in the first two innings before opening things up with a three-run fifth inning. The Jeffs took advantage of Allegheny’s six errors as Leet reached first on a miscue.

Co-captain Reilly Horan ’13 singled to keep things going before Miller cleared the bases with a huge triple. Allegheny recorded two straight outs but allowed Alyssa Sherwill ’15 to reach on another error as Miller came home to cap off the scoring in a 5-0 victory.

The Jeffs began well later that day against high-ranked Plattsburgh State, with the team getting two runs out of essentially nothing in the first. Leet got on base with two outs, and Horan drove her in thanks to a fielding error that left Horan on third. She promptly came home on a wild pitch, and the Jeffs took a 2-0 lead into the second.

After both teams scored three in the second, the pitchers buckled down and neither team could manage runs in the next two innings. The Cardinals picked up the scoring again in the fifth, scoring three and chasing Arielle Doering ’14 from the mound. The Jeffs made it 6-6 with a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning, but Plattsburgh struck once again in the sixth to make it 8-6 and the Lord Jeffs could not answer back.

Amherst split two again the next day, losing to SUNY Geneseo before stopping their slide with a big 6-5 win over Hope. Both teams’ starters were roughed up in the early game as the offenses were clicking. The Blue Knights struck first, scoring on a wild pitch in the top of the first but crucially leaving two on base. Amherst answered with their own steal of home in the bottom half, setting up a pattern of consistent scoring.

Geneseo added a couple runs to make the score 3-1 heading into the bottom of the third, when the Jeffs used aggressive baserunning and fielding errors to take the lead. The teams traded runs in the fourth with Amherst maintaining a one-run lead, but the Blue Knights exploded in the sixth for four runs and an 8-4 lead. Amherst found itself down 10-5 in the bottom of the seventh, but they started the inning off with four straight hits to make it 10-8. The rally fizzled, however, leaving the Jeffs 1-2 and looking for improvement.

That improvement came later in the morning against Hope. The Jeffs continued to pitch by committee as Caroline Sealander ’15, Doering and Kelley combined to allow five runs on just seven hits. Offensively, Sherwill led the charge with a big two-RBI single in the sixth to make it 6-3, while Miller went 3-for-4 .

Sitting at 2-2 after the Hope victory, the team ripped off four straight wins thanks to quality pitching appearances and strong hitting against lesser opponents. The streak began against William Patterson, where the Jeffs smacked the Pioneer pitching around for 16 hits. Idalia Friedson ’15 went 4-for-4 to headline a long list of strong performances, and Kelley closed out the win with a scoreless two-inning relief shift to lead to a 9-5 victory.

Kelley turned right back around to start against Plymouth State, where she went six innings and allowed one run.

Offensively, Amherst managed just eight hits in a pitchers’ duel, but Leet smacked a triple and was driven in in the third and Miller drove in Horan in the fifth to provide just enough offense in a tight 2-1 game. First-year Nicolette Miranda ’16 came in with two runners on in the seventh and recorded a clutch save.

The Jeffs won both games on Thursday, pounding a hapless, winless Framingham State 13-4 before having Kelley one-hit Bowdoin in a 3-0 triumph. Amherst got all the offense it needed in the first against the Polar Bears when Leet drove in Kelsey Ayers ’15 on a sacrifice fly.

The Jeffs’ streak ended against Wisconsin-Stevens Point, losing 1-0 as they managed just six hits against the Pointers’ ace. Three two-out singles in the fourth doomed the Jeffs, who nevertheless received strong pitching in the losing effort.

The team finished up its trip with three straight blowouts as the offense and defense clicked in tandem, beating Dubuque, Southern Maine and SUNY Oneonta. The Jeffs mercy-ruled both Dubuque and Oneonta and effectively ended the Southern Maine game 15 minutes in with a seven-run first inning. Kelley continued her dominance by one-hitting Oneonta, while Kelley and Miranda combined to three-hit Dubuque.

Back in Amherst, the Jeffs took two from WPI and beat Middlebury on Friday before losing two on Saturday to drop the series. WPI opened the first game of the doubleheader with a solo shot to take the lead, but Kelley buckled down after that, striking out six and giving up just one more hit in four innings’ work.

On offense, Miller responded with a home run of her own in the second to tie things up. Leet drove in Kelley with a sacrifice fly in the third to take the lead before Amherst blew things open in the fourth, scoring six thanks to another homer, this time a career first for first-year Brianna Cook, and some timely doubles. Already leading 8-1, Amherst added two more runs as Miranda pitched two innings in mop-up work, allowing three runs to make the final score 10-4.

In the second game, a 4-2 victory, the Jeffs jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, allowing another home run but scoring thanks to two-out hits in two consecutive innings and skillful use of sacrifice bunts. Ayers added an insurance run in the sixth with a triple, and WPI managed to score one in the seventh before their rally petered out. Doering went six strong innings on the mound allowing only three hits, and Sealander closed out the game.

The Middlebury series started promisingly with a 4-3 win, as Kelley threw a complete game three-hitter to outduel the Panthers’ starter. Amherst broke open a 2-0 game in the top half of the seventh, only to see the Panthers rally back and put the tying run on third before Kelley finished things off.

The Jeffs’ hot streak came to a halt on Saturday as Middlebury came up with 10-4 and 11-3 victories. The Jeffs gave up three unearned runs to open up the first game, but quickly bounced back and tied things up at 4-4 in the fifth as Horan drove in two with a triple. Unfortunately for the team, the Panthers exploded in the sixth for six runs to put things out of reach, getting to both Doering and Sealander.

Amherst started off the second game strong, as Leet ripped a two-run homer after Silkowitz singled up the middle.

Middlebury’s bats continued to be hot, however, putting up three runs in the first and another in the third before a five-run fourth inning, aided by two errors. The Jeffs got one back in the fifth but left two runners on base, and the Panthers scored two in the bottom of the sixth to activate the mercy rule and end the game.

The team returns to action with a packed slate this week at home, hosting Westfield State for two games on Wednesday before a Thursday doubleheader against Smith and a weekend three-game series against Hamilton.