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Softball Clinches Playoff Berth; Drops a Pair to Middlebury

Photo by Stan Godlewski
Photo by Stan Godlewski

Parts of Recap Courtesy of Middlebury Athletic Communications Office

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The Wesleyan University softball team dropped a pair of games to host Middlebury by scores of 4-1 and 8-3 on Saturday afternoon, but the Cardinals did clinch a playoff berth into the 2018 NESCAC Tournament, which will begin on Friday, May 4. 

The top-four teams from the East and West Divisions qualify for the conference tournament, and the Cardinals (14-15, 2-8 NESCAC West Division) secured the No. 4 seed in the West Division due to the fact that Hamilton (11-22, 2-10 NESCAC West Division) was swept in a three-game series by Amherst on Friday and Saturday. Even in the event that both the Cardinals and the Continentals finish with a 2-10 conference record, the Cardinals would be awarded the tiebreaker due to a 2-1 record in head-to-head matchups. 

The Cardinals and Panthers (18-10, 5-6 NESCAC West Division) will conclude their three-game series on Sunday at noon in Middlebury, Vt., and then Wesleyan will travel to Amherst College for a 5 p.m. conference matchup on Monday. 

In Game 1, Olivia Bravo was hit by a pitch to lead off the first for the Panthers. One batter later, Allison Quigley singled to left, while Melanie Mandell reached on a fielder's choice, as Bravo was put out at third. Liza Tarr was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Taylor Gardner, who singled to left to drive in Quigley.

Wesleyan tied the game in the fourth, as Marina Williams reached on an infield single to short, and later scored on a triple down the left-field line by Kendall Carr.

The Cardinals threatened in the fifth, loading the bases before Ali Della Volpe made a nice running catch in center to end the inning.

Middlebury rallied for three runs on three hits in the sixth to go ahead 4-1. Gardner singled, Emily Morris walked and Kati Daczkowski singled to right to load the bases. Della Volpe drove in Gardner with a tough-luck fielder's choice to center, making it a 2-1 game. One batter later, Emily Moore tripled down the right-field line, plating Della Volpe and Daczkowski.

Quigley threw five strong innings for the Panthers, allowing one run on five hits. Emily Morris (9-7) picked up the win, allowing just one hit over two innings.

Moore tallied 2-for-4 performance with a double, triple and two RBIs for the hosts, while Gardner and Daczkowski each went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Julie McDonald (5-7) took the loss, giving up four runs on eight hits over six innings. Olivia Gorman went 2-for-4, while Carr was 2-for-3 to pace the Cardinal batters.

Trailing 1-0 in Game 2, Middlebury tied the game in the third inning when Moore belted a homer to right field. Quigley followed with a double, and Mandell moved her to third on a base hit to left. Gardner drove in Quigley with a sacrifice fly to left, making it a 2-1 game.

The Panthers scored two more runs in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Moore, plating Bravo, who had tripled to left. Mandell was hit by a pitch and scored when Gardner doubled down the left-field line, giving her team a 4-1 lead.

The hosts took an 8-1 lead in the fifth with four runs on three hits. Bravo drew a bases-loaded walk, Moore drove in a run with an infield single, before Della Volpe scored on a wild pitch. Bravo later crossed the plate on an RBI ground out.

Following a 30-minute rain delay, the teams returned to action in the top of the sixth inning. Six outs later, the Cardinals scored a pair of unearned runs in the seventh for the 8-3 final.

Morris (10-7) picked up her second win of the day, allowing one earned run and four hits over seven innings. Moore went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs, while Quigley went 2-for-4 with a double.

Danielle Rinaldi (6-6) suffered the loss in 3 2/3 innings of work, allowing four runs and seven hits. Gorman paced the Cardinals hitters, going 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored.