Softball Takes Series Over Wesleyan, Earns NESCAC Playoff Spot
Issue   |   Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:49
Doug Turner
Alena Marovitz ’17 currently leads the NESCAC in doubles, hitting an impressive 17 so far this season.

The purple and white clinched their first NESCAC playoff spot since 2012 with a 10-inning win against Wesleyan on Saturday. The team followed up a solid 9-6 win over Western New England University during the week with a commanding victory, 11-2. The weekend saw two low-scoring games with Wesleyan, followed by the final 9-7 win that sent the team to the post-season.

Amherst claimed an early lead in the first game against WNEU, scoring three runs on two hits. Kyra Naftel ’19 opened with a triple, which was closely followed by a Sammy Salustri single that scored Naftel. Salustri later scored when Lauren Tuiskula ’17 reached on an error at second base. Annie Apffel ’17 cracked a solo home run in the fifth inning to widen the gap.
In the bottom of the sixth, WNEU scored three unearned runs, mostly due to errors in the outfield. Each team scored once in the seventh to send the game into an extra inning. The bases were loaded with two outs in the eighth inning, creating plenty of pressure for Salustri at the plate.

However, a catcher’s interference moved her to first base and scored Tuiskula for the winning run. Alena Marovitz ’17 doubled, scoring two insurance runs for Amherst. Gina Pagan ’18 stepped in for Lorena Ukanwa ’19 in the circle to earn the win.

The second contest in the doubleheader would have ended in five innings, but two home-runs from the Golden Bears’ McKenzie Pezze and Katie Wood extended the game into a sixth stanza. The purple and white took a commanding lead early in the game, scoring six runs in the first two innings. Highlights of this burst of scoring included a home run by first-year Sara Buck. The game ended in the sixth inning after Amherst strung together four singles for three runs.

The Amherst team faced NESCAC Little Three rival Wesleyan University for a series of three games over the weekend. Friday’s lone contest ended in a 2-1 victory for the purple and white on their senior night and was marked by strong pitching and small hits. Lorena Ukanwa ’19 and Jackie Buechler ’17 combined for nine strikeouts to earn the win. Tied at 1-1, the game entered an eighth inning. The Cardinals were unable to capitalize on their extra opportunity, as Amherst got their opponents’ first three batters out. The purple and white took the game when Nicolette Miranda ’16 scored on first-year Julia Turner’s walk-off single after a nine-pitch at bat.

Wesleyan took the next game, tying the series. Amherst started the game down, but evened the score in the third inning when Naftel scored Taylor Summers ’16 with a sacrifice fly. Wesleyan scored twice in the sixth and the struggling Amherst batters couldn’t close the differential, ending the game. The Cardinals out-hit their opponent 10-4, a statistic that gives a likely explanation for Amherst’s loss. Summers, however, held up her teammates by notching half of the team’s hits.

The two teams, ranked side-by-side in the conference, battled for the game, the series, and a playoff opportunity on Saturday afternoon. Again, Wesleyan scored first, but Amherst fought back with three runs in the next inning. Miranda tripled for two RBIs and Apffel added another run with a sacrifice fly. The purple and white scored three more times in the fourth inning — Miranda and Annie Murphy ’19 both hit doubles that led to an RBI apiece. The Cardinals worked their way back in the sixth and seventh, leaving it tied at six.

The game remained scoreless for two more innings, until Amherst’s final push in the top of the tenth. Marovitz, hot at the plate that day, hit her third double to score Naftel, followed by a Buck fly-out that scored Salustri. Finally, Tuiskula singled to score Marovitz and finish up the team’s scoring. Wesleyan’s final three batters couldn’t stand up to the Amherst pitching and Ukanwa retired the side to send the purple and white to postseason. Ukanwa put on an impressive performance, coming in for relief in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings in a game that she originally started in the circle.

The Amherst team finishes the regular season ranked second in the West division, behind Williams, and will face Tufts in the first round of playoffs. This will be a tough opponent, as Tufts — the defending three-time national champion — is ranked first in the East division and has a perfect 12-0 in-conference record this season. The game will be played at Williams on Friday at 5 p.m.