Softball Headed To NESCAC Championship Weekend
May 2, 2013
Middlebury will look for its second NESCAC Championship this weekend when they travel to Tufts for the 2013 tournament. Game one gets underway in Medford, Mass. on Friday with the host Jumbos taking on Wesleyan at 2:30 p.m. The Polar Bears and the Panthers will clash in the nightcap beginning at 5 p.m. Action continues on Saturday, May 4, and concludes on Sunday, May 5.
Before the weekend series began, Tufts already locked up home field advantage and Bowdoin clinched a spot in the championship from the East Division. However, Middlebury, Wesleyan and Williams were all vying for the top two spots in the West Division. For the second consecutive season, Tufts rolled through the conference schedule with a perfect record and has now won 25 straight NESCAC East games. The Polar Bears wrapped up their conference slate last weekend, winning their last six NESCAC East games to secure a spot in the championship.
In the final weekend of the West Division, Middlebury and Wesleyan battled in the crucial series, while Williams hosted Hamilton. The Panthers traveled to Wesleyan and swept the Cardinals to lock up the number-one seed in the West Division. Despite losing all three games to the Middlebury, Wesleyan captured the final spot in the tournament when Hamilton knocked off Williams in the finale of their three-game series.
Coming off their first conference crown since 2009, Tufts (35-3, 12-0 NESCAC East) will be looking for their first back-to-back titles since winning three in a row from 2007 to 2009. As the only team to qualify for the tournament every year, the Jumbos are looking for their seventh all-time championship title, most of any NESCAC school. After three-game sweeps of Bates and Bowdoin, the Jumbos officially earned a spot in the tournament with a sweep of Trinity. Tufts wrapped up a perfect conference slate on Saturday by sweeping the series with Colby. The Jumbos will continue to look to sophomore pitcher Allyson Fournier (South Windsor, Conn.), who leads the NESCAC with a 0.24 ERA and 175 strikeouts, while posting a 15-1 record with four no-hitters and an opposing batting average of only .067. Offensively, Tufts is led by junior Jo Clair (Glastonbury, Conn.), who has a batting average of .419 and an on-base percentage of .496. Clair has put up some big power numbers, leading the conference with nine home runs and second with 42 RBI.
Bowdoin (28-12, 8-4 NESCAC East) is making their second straight appearance in the Softball Championship and third in four years. The Polar Bears last won a tournament game in 2010, when they fell just short of their first title, losing in a winner-take-all game to Wesleyan. Bowdoin began this year in a similar situation as last. In 2012, the Polar Bears lost their first three conference games, then recovered to win their final nine NESCAC East games. This year, after losing the first contest to Trinity and eventually taking 2-of-3, the Polar Bears were swept by Tufts once again to fall to 2-4 in the East Division. At that point, Bowdoin heated up with a 13-game win streak, including NESCAC East sweeps over Colby and Bates to seal a spot in the championship. Bowdoin sits second in the conference in team ERA thanks to junior Melissa DellaTorre (Scarborogh, Maine) and first-year Julia Geaumont (Saco, Maine). DellaTorre is 13-6 in 23 appearances, ranking second in the conference with a 1.30 ERA and fifth with 94 strikeouts. Geaumont (10-3) currently has a 1.92 ERA, good for fifth best in the NESCAC. Senior Gen Barlow (Norwich, Conn.) is tied for first on the team with seven homers, and leads the Polar Bears with 39 RBI, while recording a .307 batting average.
Middlebury (25-9, 10-2 NESCAC West) has stationed themselves as an annual power, having made the final each of the last two years. In 2011, the Panthers won their first title with three consecutive wins at Tufts, and hope to repeat that same performance this year, as the tournament returns to the site of the their only conference crown. Middlebury played one of the best games against Tufts this year, ultimately suffering a 6-5 loss down in Florida. Since coming back north, the Panthers have been on a tear, winning 18 of 22 games, including a 14-game win streak. Leading the charge for Middlebury has been senior Jessa Hoffman (Golden, Colo.), who has recorded team highs of 54 hits, six triples, five home runs and 40 RBI, all while hitting .474. Rookie catcher Carlyn Vachow (.387, 11-2B, 31 RBI), senior Kimber Sable (.387) and senior Jessica Poracky (.386, 14-2B, 38 RBI) are the other offensive leaders. Sophomore Elizabeth Morris (Kenilworth, Ill.) has been the top hurler in a three-pitcher rotation for the Panthers. Morris (11-1) boasts a 1.41 ERA with 61 strikeouts to 13 walks.
Wesleyan (24-10, 7-5 NESCAC West) is in the midst of one of their most successful seasons in program history, matching the school record with 24 wins. The Cardinals also tied the school record with a 12-game win streak, which included a sweep of Hamilton to open NESCAC play. Wesleyan is only two years removed from their lone NESCAC Softball Championship, having defeated Bowdoin in 2010. The Cardinals have qualified for the tournament three times and have made each appearance count, advancing to the title game all three times between 2008 to 2010. First year star Su Pardo (Malverne, N.Y.) is one of the main reasons for the Cardinals’ success. Pardo (12-2) suffered her first two losses of the year in the Middlebury series, but is still one of the top pitchers in the conference, posting a 1.72 ERA with 139 strikeouts. Sophomore Jill Gately (Rehoboth, Mass.) provides the power at the plate, leading the team in doubles (14), home runs (6) and RBI (44), while producing a stellar .404 batting average.
The top two teams in the East and West divisions qualify for the NESCAC Softball Championship. The host site rotates between the two divisions each year, with the number-one seed in the East Division playing host this season. After the conclusion of Friday’s games, the first elimination game will be played between the first day losers on Saturday morning, followed by the first day winners. Saturday’s late game will feature an elimination games between the game three winner and loser of game four. The championship on Sunday will include that last team standing on Saturday and the lone undefeated team in the tournament. If necessary, a second game will be played in the result of the undefeated team dropping Sunday’s opener.
Results for the NESCAC Softball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.
Day 1 - Friday, May 3
Game 1: Tufts #1 vs. Wesleyan #2 (2:30 p.m.)
Game 2: Middlebury #1 vs. Bowdoin #2 (5:00 p.m.)
Day 2 - Saturday, May 4
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 (10:00 a.m.)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 (12:30 p.m.)
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 (3:00 p.m.)
Day 3 - Sunday, May 5
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 (10:00 a.m.)