May 9, 2011

            The Middlebury College softball team won its first NESCAC Championship, going 3-0 at Tufts en route to the title. The Panthers will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance when they travel to Ithaca for an NCAA Regional May 12-15.

In game one, sophomore Jess Poracky (Ramsey, N.J.) drove a two-run double to deep right field in the first inning and Panther pitchers senior Geena Constantin (Pelham, N.H.) and rookie Elizabeth Morris (Kenilworth, Ill.) made it stand for a 2-1 victory over Trinity College in game two of the NESCAC Softball Championship at Tufts University's Spicer Field on Friday afternoon.

Middlebury jumped on Trinity starter Kristen Anderson quickly. Sophomore Jessa Hoffman (Golden, Colo.) and senior Leslie Crawford (Mount Vernon, Wash.) hit back-to-back singles to lead off the first inning. After a sacrifice bunt by senior Megan Margel (Ridgewood, N.J.),  both scored on Poracky's double. Anderson was able to work out of further damage with a pair of ground outs.

            The game settled into a pitcher's duel over the next three innings. Constantin allowed just two Trinity hits over the first four innings. Anderson would let only one more Panther batter touch second base when Margel hit a one-out double in the third and advanced on a wild pitch. However, she was stranded at third to keep the score 2-0 Middlebury.

            Trinity came close to tying the score in the top of the fifth. Sophomore Amelia Mostovoy hit a one-out single and senior Melanie Orphanos followed with a base hit. Mostovoy moved to third and Orphanos took second on the throw. Sophomore SS Caroline Blanchard singled to left to score Motovoy, but the ball was hit so sharply that Orphanos was held at third. After a walk loaded the bases, Constantin got a ground out to end the inning with Middlebury up 2-1.

            With Morris on in relief for Middlebury in the seventh, Trinity rallied with two outs. First year pinch hitter Claire Prosperi singled and Blanchard followed with her third hit of the game to put the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first. However, Morris got a pop-up to close out the victory with her fourth save.

            Constantin went six innings allowing five hits and the one run with three strikeouts and one walk while improving to 7-2.

            Trinity out-hit Middlebury 7-5, with Blanchard finishing 3-4 and Mostovoy at 2-3. Anderson pitched all six innings for the Bantams, allowing five hits and two runs while walking one and striking out one.

            Middlebury advanced to the championship round with a 2-0 victory over the Jumbos of Tufts University on Sunday morning at Spicer Field. The game had started on Saturday afternoon but was suspended due to rain.

            Middlebury began the scoring in the first inning against Jumbo senior starting pitcher Izzie Santone. Crawford reached on a one-out single and then scored all the way from first base on a double from Margel. Santone was able to strand Margel at third base when she struck out sophomore Emma Katz (Northridge, Calif.) to end the frame.

            Tufts threatened in the home half as junior CF Lizzy Iuppa led off with a bunt single. With one out, junior 1B Lena Cantone singled. The next two batters, first year C Jo Clair and sophomore 2B Emily Beinecke, both flied out to center field to leave the two runners on base.

Santone retired the Panthers in order each of the next two innings, while on the other side, Middlebury starter senior Ali McAnaney (Northbrook, Ill.) gave up a pair of hits but the Jumbos could not take advantage.

            The Panthers loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fourth via a single from Margel and some shaky fielding for the Jumbo infield. Santone was able to close the door though by striking out the final batter of the inning.

            Play would be suspended after four full innings with Middlebury leading 1-0, and re-started Sunday morning after about a 19-hour delay.

Senior Nellie Wood (Hampden, Maine) led off for Middlebury to restart the contest and drilled a home run to center field to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage. They continued to threaten in the inning, but sophomore Rebecca DiBiase entered the game in relief of Santone to stop any more damage from being done.

            Tufts went in order in its half of the fifth and then left a runner on base in the sixth. Middlebury was retired in order in the sixth and also left a runner on in the seventh.

            Constantin came in to pitch for the Panthers to start the fifth inning and was able to keep the Jumbos at bay, as she concluded the game by retiring the Jumbos in order in the seventh.

            McAnaney earned the win for the Panthers pitching the first four innings on Saturday afternoon, giving up no runs, five hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Constantin earned a save with three shut-out frames.

            Middlebury came from down 4-0 to earn its first NESCAC Championship with a 7-4 win at Tufts on Sunday afternoon at Spicer Field. Middlebury wins its school-record 29th game against just six losses.

            Tufts scored all four of its runs in the first inning, three of them were unearned. Junior CF Lizzy Iuppa led off with a walk and then junior SS Mira Lieman-Sifry was awarded first base on fielder's interference during a sacrifice bunt. Junior 1B Lena Cantone would then reach on a fielder's choice where no out was recorded.

            With the bases loaded and nobody out, first year C Jo Clair was hit by a pitch to force Iuppa home from third base. Two batters later, first year Kayla Holland drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly. First year LF Sara Hedtler finished the scoring for Tufts with a two-out two-run single.

            Middlebury put its lead-off batter aboard in the home half of the first when Hoffman was hit by a pitch. She then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Crawford and then came home on a single by Margel. Two batters later the Panthers would pull within two on an infield error scoring Margel.

After the Jumbos went down in order in the top of the second, Middlebury vaulted into the lead in the bottom half. Junior Alyson Downing (Rumney, N.H.) was hit by a pitch with one out and was followed by back-to-back singles from Wood and Hoffman. The Hoffman hit drove in Downing. After the second out was recorded, Margel would give the Panthers a 5-4 advantage with a two-out single.

            The Jumbos threatened in the third, loading the bases on a pair of singles from Cantone and Clair, and then Holland reached on an error. Morris had entered the game in the middle of the inning, and was able to strand all three runners. Morris then struck out the side in the fourth inning.

In the bottom of the fourth the Panthers added two insurance runs on a two-run homer by Hoffman. The inning started with a single by sophomore Sarah Boylan (Danvers, Mass.).

            Morris retired Tufts in order again in the fifth, and allowed a single base runner with two outs in the sixth inning, which was stranded.

            First year pitcher Lauren Giglio was strong in relief for the Jumbos, allowing just the two runs on the homer and she retired the Panthers in order in the fifth and stranded a runner in the sixth.

            Tufts could not muster anything in the seventh though as Morris recorded her third 1-2-3 frame to pick up the victory for herself as well as the championship for her squad.

            Constantin started for Middlebury and received a no-decision after allowing four runs (one earned) on three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Morris picked up the win in relief to improve to 11-1 on the season, allowing just one hit over 4 2/3 innings of work.

            Middlebury was led at the top of the order by Hoffman, who finished 2-3 in the championship game with three runs batted in and three runs scored. Margel also drove in three runs for the Panthers to go along with a pair of hits.

                        Middlebury went a perfect 3-0 to win the championship and is now 29-6 overall. Tufts finished 2-2 and saw its season end at 23-18.

            Earlier in the week, the Panthers split a pair of games with Union, losing 3-2 before picking up a 6-4 win.
• Softball team record: 29-6
• Up next: 5/12-15 @ NCAA Regional (Ithaca)