April 5, 2010

The Panther softball team had a busy week, playing five games in four days. The week began as Middlebury earned a split in Wednesday's non-league doubleheader, falling to Skidmore 4-1 in the opener, before taking the second game, 7-4.

Skidmore got off to a fast start in the opener as Carol Brown led off with a double and was quickly plated on another double from Tara DeGeorge to give the Thoroughbreds a 1-0 lead.  They would make it 3-0 later in the inning on back-to-back RBI singles from Cora Crafts and Lauren Tobias.

            Skidmore went ahead 4-0 when a single from DeGeorge scored Christina Gargiso in the second inning.  Middlebury was able to get a run across in the third on junior Megan Margel's (Ridgewood, N.J.) RBI single, but that's all they would score as the Thoroughbreds took the opener, 4-1.

            DeGeorge and Tobias combined to go 4-for-6 with three of the teams four RBI. Margel and sophomore Kira Gordon (Scarborough, Maine) each had two hits for the Panthers. Sam Crose picked up the win for Skidmore, improving to 6-4 on the season.  She tossed a complete game, allowing one unearned run on five hits while striking out four. Junior Ali McAnaney (Northbrook, Ill.) took the loss for Middlebury; she allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings while striking out six.

            In the nightcap, the Panthers got out to the early lead as they took advantage of an error and got out to a four-run lead in the third, highlighted by first-year player Emma Katz (Northridge, Calif.) with a bases-clearing double.

            Middlebury made it 6-0 in the fifth on an RBI double from junior Geena Constantin (Pelham, N.H.) and an RBI single from Katz and pushed the lead to 7-0 in the sixth on another RBI from Constantin.

The Thoroughbreds didn't give up; they broke into the scoring column on a sacrifice fly from Julia Schwartz in the bottom of the sixth.  In the seventh, Gargiso singled home Arielle Manstein and Tobias also scored on the play as Gargiso ended up on third. Brown was able to plate Gargiso on a sacrifice fly and cut the lead to 7-4.

With two outs, Skidmore loaded the bases on a pair of walks from DeGeorge and Lauren Dinsdale and a single from Schwartz, but Constantin got the final out on a strikeout to secure the 7-4 Panther victory.

Schwartz finished with two hits and an RBI for Skidmore as Brown and Gargiso also drove in runs.  Katz, Constantin and junior Emily Burbridge (E. Greenwich, R.I.) each had three hits for Middlebury as Katz finished with four RBI.

Constantin earned the win, allowing four runs on four hits, while striking out eight and walking seven in the complete-game effort.

The Panthers split a pair of games with Amherst on Saturday afternoon, 8-2 and 0-3. With Friday's 4-0 victory, the Panthers take the NESCAC West series with the Jeffs, 2-1.

Middlebury (11-6, 2-1) used 13 hits to earn an 8-2 win over Amherst (9-7, 1-2) in game one of Saturday's NESCAC West softball doubleheader, but Alex Chang-Graham pitched a six-hit shutout in the nightcap to lead the Lord Jeffs to a 3-0 victory.

McAnaney allowed seven hits and two earned runs to earn the complete-game victory for the Panthers, striking out two and walking a pair to improve to 4-2 in game one. Chang-Graham returned the favor in the second game, moving her record to 5-4 with her third shutout of the season.

            First-year player Jessa Hoffman (Golden, Colo.) set the tone for Middlebury in the first game by driving a triple to right field in the first at-bat of the afternoon, later scoring on an Amherst throwing error. Burbridge also tripled in the inning to drive in a run, followed by an RBI-groundout by sophomore Alyson Downing (Rumney, N.H.) and a McAnaney single that chased Lord Jeff starting pitcher Theresa Kelley from the game. The Panthers scored four runs in the first inning and never relinquished the lead.

            The visitors added a fifth run in the fourth inning when rookie Sarah Boylan (Danvers, Mass.) ripped a two-out double off the fence in left field and later scored on a Hoffman single through the left side. Middlebury added its final three runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a Hoffman RBI-triple down the right field line and a Margel two-RBI single. Hoffman and junior Nellie Wood (Hampden, Maine) each had three hits for the Panthers, while Margel went 2-3.

Amherst got its first run in the bottom of the third inning when a rally was started by Jillian Masi, who led off with a single up the middle. After a Jackie Tyler sacrifice bunt and a Carly Dudzik walk, senior Emily Neill delivered a single to right field. It looked as though Neill's hit would load the bases, but Dudzik purposefully got caught in a rundown in between second and third, which allowed Masi to score.

The Jeffs added another when first-years Christina Anderson and Megan Kepnach hit back-to-back singles and later advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Masi then hit a sacrifice fly to left field, allowing Anderson to score on a close play at the plate to make it a 5-2 game. Anderson went 2-for-3 in the game, while Chang-Graham and Masi each went 1-for-1.

Kelley picked up the loss to fall to 3-3, surrendering two earned runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning. Anderson allowed three runs in 4.2 innings of relief, while Chang-Graham closed things out for Amherst by allowing one run in the final 1.2 innings.

            In the nightcap, Middlebury nearly jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when rookie Jessica Poracky (Ramsey, N.J.) singled through the left side of the infield. Gordon was waved around third base, but she was gunned down at the plate by a perfect throw from Kelley in left field. The Panthers were denied their first run, and Chang-Graham shut them down the rest of the way.

All three of Amherst's runs came in the bottom of the fourth inning. Constantin had a no-hitter going after three complete innings for the second time in as many days, but Dudzik ignited a rally with a one-out single down the right field line. Stephanie Clegg broke the scoreless tie when she dropped a two-run single in between the Panthers' shortstop and left fielder in her first at-bat of the afternoon.

Clegg scored Amherst's third and final run when Chang-Graham laced a sharp single into center field, and the Amherst ace took care of the rest to help the Jeffs earn their first conference win. Constantin went 2-3 as the only player from either team with multiple hits in the second game, also picking up the loss on the mound to drop to 4-3. Constantin struck out seven and walked three in six innings, surrendering three earned runs on six hits.

After three full innings of action in Friday's game, the Panthers had managed just a pair of hits off Amherst's Alex Chang-Graham, both of which came in the top of the first inning. Constantin was even more impressive in the circle, taking a no-hitter into the bottom of the fourth.

In the fourth, Amherst put just its second runner on base when Carly Dudzik's grounder up the middle was hit too hard for Constantin to hold on to. In the following at bat, senior Emily Neill broke up the no-hit bid with a grounder up the middle. Despite Amherst putting two runners on for the first time of the day, Constantin ended the threat with a strikeout.

In the top of the fifth inning, Middlebury manufactured a pair of runs using a small ball approach. After a walk and a base hit, the Panthers used a delayed double steal and an Amherst error to bring home the first run of the game. During the same rally, with runners on second and third, Gordon grounded out to second base to plate a second Panther run.

Middlebury scored a third run in the top of the sixth with one out, as Burbridge brought home sophomore pinch-runner Haley MacKeen (Antigonish, N.S.) on a grounder through the left side. The Amherst infield had its second error in as many innings, throwing away the ball at third base looking for a double play. The error ultimately resulted in Amherst heading to the bottom of sixth trailing 4-0.

The Lord Jeffs made a pair of hitting substitutions in the bottom of the seventh, but could not escape going down in order to finish the game. Amherst finished the day with two hits and two errors, while the Panthers managed six hits for their four runs.

Chang-Graham (4-4) went the full 7.0 innings for the loss, giving up six hits and four runs, with one earned run.  She had one strikeout and no walks in the effort. Constantin (4-2) went 7.0 innings for the complete-game shutout win, giving up two hits with five strikeouts and a pair of walks.

• Softball record: 11-6

• Up next: 4/6 @ Rensselaer (2), 4/9 vs. Hamilton - 5:00, 4/10 vs. Hamilton (2) - 12:00