Softball Smacks Jeffs in Weekend Road Rout

By Joe MacDonald

The Middlebury softball team began its season in Clermont, Florida over spring break and returned to the northeast with a 6-6 record. After defeating conference rival Amherst in the team’s first NESCAC series, the Panthers are second in the NESCAC West standings.

Middlebury split its first doubleheader of the season by losing to Wellesley in the season opener 14-3 and then shutting out SUNY Potsdam 10-0. Jackie Stern ’16 and Kelsey Martel ’15 each had three hits on the day. Erin Giles ’17 (4 IP, 2 H, 2BB, 3 K) and Neve Stearns ’16 (1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K) combined for the shutout in the night cap.

Middlebury split again on day two of its trip, topping Concordia (Wisc.) 7-5 in eight innings and losing to Wisconsin-Whitewater in a 3-1 barn burner. In the first game of the twinbill, Concordia knotted the score at 4 in the bottom of the sixth to force extra innings. The Panthers pushed three across in the eighth to secure the win. The second game of the doubleheader was even more exciting. The game remained scoreless through seven innings. Wisc.-Whitewater finally plated a run in the top of the eighth. In accordance with the tie-breaking rule, Alex Scibetta ’14 began the bottom of the eighth on second base, and was singled home by Kimber Sable ’14 to tie the ball game. Unfortunately, Middlebury allowed two runs in the ninth and could not score any runs in the bottom half. Stearns pitched eight innings of one-run ball in the contest.

The Panthers rattled off two wins on Monday, March 24 against Lawrence, 11-7, and St. Catherine, 8-1. Sable gathered three hits and three RBIs in the first game, while Sarah Freyre ’17 carried the offense with two hits and RBIs in the latter game.

Middlebury continued its winning ways with an easy 14-3 victory over Rochester Institute on Wednesday, March 26. Stern and double-play partner Hye-Jin Kim ’17 each gathered three hits in the blowout. Later in the day, the Panthers lost a tight 4-3 battle to Elmhurst despite a two-hit effort from Freyre and four effective innings from Stearns in relief.

On Thursday, March 27, Middlebury bested NESCAC East competitor Colby 4-0. Lizzy Morris ’14 and Stearns combined for the shutout, with Morris getting her third win and Stearns her second save of the young season.

The trip ended on a sour note however, as Middlebury dropped their final three games in Florida. Later in the day on Thursday, Luther College bested the Panthers by a score of 8-1. The following day, Middlebury dropped a pair, starting with a 9-2 loss against Chicago and culminating in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Lawrence.

After a handful of rainouts, Middlebury traveled to western Massachusetts to battle the Amherst Lord Jeffs in the teams’ first conference series of the season. The Panthers claimed the series opener on Friday, April 4 with a 1-0 victory. Morris was dominant, throwing a no-hitter and earning her fourth win of the year. The lefty struck out five and walked one.

“I also had no idea it was going on until the game was over,” Morris said of the no-hitter, “I didn’t feel any different than I do before any other game physically, but I was aware that winning our first NESCAC game was crucial for our morale.”

Middlebury was victorious again in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader by a score of 4-1, as Stearns allowed just one run through four innings and Morris followed up her dazzling performance from the day before with three shutout innings for the save. The Lord Jeffs finally got the best of the Panthers with a 6-1 win in the nightcap, as Middlebury managed just six hits and committed three errors.

“Winning the series this weekend put us into a great spot in-conference and we’re excited,” Morris said, “but I think that we’re also conscious that we need to continue to work hard in order to meet our potential for this season.”

The Panthers continue their NESCAC schedule with a series against Wesleyan at home this weekend.

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