Williams softball team scores doubleheader sweep over Bates on Senior Day
WILLIAMSTOWN — It was Senior Day at Cole Field, and the five members of Williams' Class of 2019 were honored between games of Sunday's softball doubleheader against Bates.
What made it even better for the five, and their teammates, is that seventh-ranked Williams swept its fourth straight doubleheader and extended its winning streak to 12 games.
"I was grateful we won. It was a close call there" for the first game, senior pitcher/first baseman Mackenzie Murphy said. "It feels so good, especially to have our families here seeing us, friends, faculty coming out. It was definitely really good."
Murphy stranded runners in scoring position in five of seven innings, but only let one run across in a 2-1 victory over Bates (8-15) in the opener. Rebecca Duncan walked the game off with an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning.
In the nightcap, Kirstin Mapes and Emma Corbett combined to throw a one-hitter. And when first-year Rachel Neugart hit her first collegiate home run, a three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth, Williams earned the sweep with a 9-1 win.
"I think we're doing great," Williams coach Kris Herman said. "Our energy and obviously our play is looking really good. We're making up for lost time, not being able to hit live all winter without our field house.
"I'm real happy with our battling in close games and putting up run rules."
The Ephs (23-4) haven't lost since dropping a 6-3 decision to Vanguard in the penultimate game of their trip to California.
Sunday's doubleheader counted in both teams' overall records, but since Bates is an Eastern Division team, the games do not count in either club's NESCAC divisional records.
Williams currently leads the NESCAC West with a 6-0 record. Hamilton is second at 5-4, while Amherst and Middlebury are both 3-3. Williams plays three games with Amherst this coming weekend. The Ephs head to Amherst on Friday, and host the Mammoths for a Saturday doubleheader. A sweep by the Ephs could lock up the NESCAC West.
"I think we're on schedule, but we're definitely not where we want to be," Williams shortstop Jessica Kim said. "It's great that we're only halfway through the [NESCAC] season and where we are right now, we are happy about it. We have so much more that we can grow as a team."
Murphy, one of the five seniors, got the start in Game 1, and was quite the tightrope walker.
After retiring six of the first seven batters she faced, Murphy pitched out of jams of various degrees over four of the final five innings. The right-hander gave up one run on eight hits. She did not walk anyone and struck out six.
The only Bates run came in the third when the Bobcats parlayed two hits, a sacrifice bunt and a costly throwing error by Murphy into a run.
With a runner on first and one out, Caroline Bass singled to left. Aleah Pagan tried to sacrifice the runners up, but Murphy threw the ball over the head of first baseman Mapes, allowing Kennedy Ishii to score. When the dust cleared, there were runners on second and third. But Murphy struck Janell Sato and Julia Panapinto out to end the inning. Sato's K followed a 10-pitch at-bat.
Bates got runners to third base in the fourth and fifth.
An RBI single by Rebecca Duncan scored Kristina Alvarado in the bottom of the third, tying the game at 1. After Murphy pitched out of the aforementioned jams, she had one more to deal with.
Ishii lined a single to third, and went to second on a bunt single by Bass. Pagan came up and roped a shot to third. Casey Pelz made the catch and threw across the diamond to double Bass up at first. The original call was safe, but after the umpires conferred, Bass was called out. Then Sato grounded to Kim at short.
It didn't take long for Williams to end the game. With one out Kim singled to center, and Duncan hit a 1-1 pitch to left-center for a double that scored Kim with the winning run.
"I was glad to bounce back from those singles that let them get on," Murphy said. "I was glad to shut them down even when they did get on."
Bates pitcher Kirsten Pelletier, who is the reigning NESCAC pitcher of the week, also gave up eight hits. She did walk one and strike out six.
In the doubleheader at RPI earlier in the week, Williams eked out a one-run victory in the opener, and then got an eight-run rule win in the second game. The Ephs must have figured since it worked well, just do it again.
Mapes was in the circle for Game 2, and faced only one tough situation. She walked Pagan and Mary Collette with one out in the first inning, but got Sato and Panepinto to end the inning.
Williams took the lead in the home first, scoring two runs on three hits. Riley Salvo's opposite-field, two-run single to right plated Duncan and Murphy — both of whom had singled.
Williams unleashed the long ball for its final seven runs. Kim hit a solo home run in the second inning, while Mapes hit a two-run shot in the fourth.
Then in the sixth, Neugart ripped a 2-1 pitch from Bates reliever Danielle Polirer over the wall in right-center. The three-run homer extended Williams' lead to eight, and ended the game.
"She's been working really hard. Rachel and Coach [Mackenzie] Keyes have been working really hard on her swing," the Eph head coach said. "It was obviously really exciting for all of us to have that happen."
Mapes lost her no-hitter and shutout on one swing of the bat. Sato hit a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left for a home run. It was the last batter who reached for Bates, as Mapes retired the next five, while Corbett pitched a 1-2-3 sixth.
"We just wanted to come out and explode," Kim said. "It took us a while to get warmed up in the first game. I'm really glad we picked up the pace really early in the [second] game."
At the end of the day, Duncan was 6 for 7 in the doubleheader with two runs scored and three runs batted in. Kim was 4 for 8, with three runs scored and the RBI on the solo home run.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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