Softball Slides to Third in NESCAC Championship; Finishes 19-16

By Sydney Read

Middlebury’s run for the NESCAC softball championship fell just a little bit short last weekend. The Panthers fell to the nation’s top-ranked team, Tufts, in their first game of the conference tournament on Friday, May 2, and then knocked Bowdoin out of the double elimination tournament on Saturday, May 3.

Middlebury could not top Williams in the semifinal round, with the Ephs defeating the Panthers 8-5 in order to advance to the next round of the tournament.

In the tourney opener on Friday, May 3, the Panthers faced Tufts and the 2013 NESCAC Pitcher of the Year, Allyson Fournier, who blanked the Panthers and allowed just one hit.

Tufts got one on the board in the first inning, but the Panthers kept a close game until the fourth, when Tufts pounded out five to make it a 6-0 game. The Panthers were unable to answer, and Tufts snuck in one more run in the sixth to make the final score 7-0.

Despite the tough loss and looming risk of elimination, Middlebury bounced back on Saturday morning, pulling out a 2-0 win to knock Bowdoin out of the tournament and put themselves back in the fight for the championship. LizzieMorris ’14 proved key for the Panthers, as she struck out a whopping 12 Bowdoin batters over the course of the game.

The game was scoreless until the fifth inning when Carlyn Vachow ’16 and Kelsey Martel ’15 each scored. Both teams looked poised to score some more, but nobody else managed to make it across home plate.

The Panthers battled it out with Williams later that day, but heartbreak ensued as they were unable to defeat the Ephs. The Ephs started the game out with a bang, scoring three in the first. Hye-Jin Kim ’17 came out roaring though, and she put one on the board for Middlebury in the second and then again in the third.

Williams plated another four in the fourth, securing a 7-2 lead. The Panthers closed the gap though, adding three runs in the fifth. Emma Hamilton ’17 scored off of captain Emily Kraytenberg’s ’14 sacrifice fly, and then Kim smashed a two-run single to score Kimber Sable ’14 and Christina Bicks ’15 to make it a 7-5 game, putting the Panthers hot on the Ephs’ heels.

The Ephs managed to get one more run in the sixth though, and the Panthers were unable to answer. With the win over Middlebury, Williams advanced to the NESCAC championship round where they were defeated by Tufts 10-2. It is the third consecutive conference title for the Jumbos.

Both Tufts and Williams will represent the NESCAC in the upcoming NCAA tournament, with the Jumbos earning the conference’s automatic berth by virtue of their win in the NESCAC tournament and the Ephs being awarded an at-large bid to the 62-team field.

With the loss, Middlebury finishes the season with an overall record of 19-16, including an 8-4 mark in conference play. The Panthers, who were regular-reason runners-up in the NESCAC’s western division, would have likely needed to win the conference tournament in order to gain a berth in NCAAs. The Panthers have not participated in the national tournament since 2011.

The end of the season means that the collegiate softball careers of the team’s six seniors have also drawn to a close. Sable, Alex Scibetta ’14, Emily Smith ’14, Alexa Lesenskyj ’14, Kraytenberg and Morris have taken the team into the NESCAC postseason each of the past four seasons, including a trip to NCAAs during their first year.

In addition to the team’s achievements during their time at Middlebury, the six seniors have garnered several individual accolades during their careers. Morris has earned All-NESCAC honors during each of her first three years on the squad and will merit consideration for the conference’s Pitcher of the Year award this year, while Kraytenberg received a second-team All-NESCAC nod after her sophomore season.

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