Moment of Truth for Softball This Weekend

By Sebastian Sanchez, Sports Editor

The Middlebury team headed to Middletown, Conn., for their third West NESCAC series against the Wesleyan Cardinals this past weekend. After taking the previous series from Hamilton, the Panthers were riding into Middletown with a four-game win streak and a chance to keep it going.
On Friday, April 21, Allison Quigley ’18 started on the bump for Middlebury. Quigley, who would throw her 10th complete game of the season, is one of Middlebury’s most reliable pitchers, sitting at an 8-5 record.

The Panthers took the lead in the top of the first when Olivia Bravo ’20 tripled to the gap in right-center. Bravo, who is hitting an impressive .379 with 15 RBI’s, scored on a single from fellow first-year Melanie Mandell ’20. Although Wesleyan would score in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 1-1, it would be their only run of the game.

Quigley got into a jam in the bottom of the third when the bases were loaded with one out. But she quickly worked herself out of trouble with a fielder’s choice and a groundout to end the inning, setting the stage for the Panthers to take the lead in the fourth.

Carrying that momentum, Middlebury was able to score two runs. Hye Jin-Kim ’17 plated Quigley and Sarah Freyre ’17 after a single to right field that extended their lead to 3-1.

In the top of the sixth, the guests added onto their lead when Quigley doubled to center and scored on a Freyre double to right. Leading 4-1, both Freyre and Mandell scored on an error to give the visitors a 6-1 advantage. Kim reached first following these two runs and later scored on a groundout by Siobhan O’Sullivan ’17. Quigley would hold the Cardinals scoreless in the seventh for her ninth win of the season.

Freye, a team captain, earned NESCAC Player of the Week hitting .522, recording her 100th career hit in a 5-1-1 week for the Panthers. She belted six doubles to go along with a home run, eight RBI’s and nine runs scored.

Due to poor weather conditions, Saturday’s double-header was moved to Sunday, April 23, and Wesleyan proved harder to put away this time around. In the first inning, the Cardinals got on the board with an RBI double to left field and almost scored again, but Ali Della Volpe ’18 had other plans. Wesleyan’s Julie McDonald hit a fly ball to left field with the bases loaded; Della Volpe, however, caught the ball for the second out and fired a laser to Liza Tarr ’19 gunning down the runner trying to tag up for the third out of the inning.

“In my head this was just another routine play,” Della Volpe said. “I knew ahead of time that if the ball came my way, it was going home. I stayed calm and was prepared to do what I had to do to get the out.”

The hosts tacked on two runs in the bottom of the third inning, however, to give them a 3-0 advantage. Middlebury’s offense, though slow to get started, finally picked up at the top of the fifth.

Mandell scored on a double by Marybeth Stone ’20 cutting the lead to 3-1. Freye joined Stone on base and both scored on a double from Gardner tying the game 3-3. The score remained that way until the top of the eighth inning when O’Sullivan hit a solo homerun to deep center field, giving the Panthers a 4-3 edge.
The hosts answered back in the bottom of the inning, plating one run and tying the game. The Cardinals almost won in the eighth, but O’Sullivan threw out Estella Zeng at the plate trying to score and sent the game into the ninth. Middlebury was unable to score in the ninth, however, and with two outs in the bottom of the stanza, Wesleyan’s Julie McDonald singled to right to end the game.

“As a team, we knew that we had played strong defense and exploded on offensive,” Kim reflected. “But honestly, we were just missing some timely hits.”
Irene Margiotta ’19 tossed the first five innings, followed by Quigley who recorded the loss. Quigley, however, struck out a pair making her the fifth pitcher in softball history to record 200 career strikeouts — she sits at 201.

“This season is different from others because we have a small team and only two pitchers,” Gardner said. “We rely on our pitchers every game and [Quigley] is always there ready to pitch when we need her — so is [Margiotta]. Both of them are extremely valuable to our team and are great team players, as they are always willing to step on the mound when we need them.”

In the nightcap, Middlebury jumped on Wesleyan early, scoring twice in the first inning. Freye reached first and later scored on O’Sullivan’s double in the gap; Gardner followed right behind with a double of her own giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead. At the top of the third, Freye drove in two runs with a double to center and then scored on a base hit by O’Sullivan. With a 5-0 advantage, Middlebury only gave up one run in the fourth. Margiotta pitched another complete game to earn the 5-1 win for Middlebury giving up only one run on three hits.

The Panthers return home for their final NESCAC series against Williams College on April 28 and 29.

“The mentality really is one game at a time,” Kim said. “But it’d be really run to sweep Williams. Moving forward? ‘Work hard and get better everyday,’ in the words of our captain.”