Survive & Advance: Softball Staves Off Elimination Twice on Day 2 of NEWMAC Championships

Cassie Graca

WORCESTER -- Top-seeded WPI won a pair of elimination games Saturday to remain in the hunt for back-to-back NEWMAC Softball Championships as the Engineers defeated Wellesley, 14-1 (5 inn.), and Wheaton, 5-1, on Rooftop Field.

The Crimson and Gray (29-12), who are fifth in the NCAA Regional Rankings, will take on fourth-seeded Babson, the eighth-ranked team in the region, Saturday at noon for the right to play second-seeded Springfield in the championship round beginning at 2pm. Those games, along with a possible Sunday IF game, will be played up on the roof.

Game 6: WPI 14, Wellesley 1 (5 inn.) (Wellesley Eliminated)

Junior Ama Biney (Worcester, MA) and freshman Cassie Graca (Somerset, MA) launched back-to-back home runs to open the bottom of the first as top-seeded WPI went on to defeat sixth-seeded Wellesley 14-1 in five innings. Sophomore Renee LeClaire (Merrimack, NH) and senior Hope Shevchuk (Burlington, CT) all batted 3-for-3 while junior Kelsey Saucier (Worcester, MA) twirled a three-hitter in the first four innings for the Engineers.

After Biney and Graca gave the Engineers the 2-0 lead through five pitches in the bottom of the first, LeClaire scored on a miscue put into play by senior Lindsay Gurska (Revere, MA) and senior Kristin Gallagher (Coventry, RI) chased home junior RiAnna May (Westminster, CO) with an RBI ground out. The second inning began with a 2-RBI single by LeClaire before she scampered home on a wild pitch. Gallagher and Shevchuk added RBI knocks for the 9-0 lead after two. Senior Kendra Coleman (Scottsdale, AZ) plated the lone Blue run with a double to left center in the third.

WPI added three more in the third thanks to a 2-run single by Gurska and a run-producing double by Gallagher in back-to-back at-bats. LeClaire sent a sacrifice fly to center and Graca came home on a miscue put into action by May in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Caroline Medino (Pompton Lakes, NJ) induced a trio of ground outs to close out the game.

In addition to LeClaire (sac fly, double 3 RBI, 3 runs) and Shevchuk (double, RBI, 2 runs), Graca (3-for-4, HR, RBI, 2 runs) and May (3-for-4, 3 runs) all accounted for three hits. Gallagher went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI while Biney (HR, 2 runs) and Gurska (2 RBI, 2 runs) each logged a hit and a walk. Medino faced the minimum in the fifth.

Manning and Coleman doubled and freshman Kalei Oliver (Vista, CA) singled for Wellesley. Coleman also drew the only walk. Junior Julia Warner (Kenmore, WA) (7-4), sophomore Sydney Hopper (Newcastle, WA) and junior Madeline Bianchi (Lakeville, MN) all spent time in the circle.

Wellesley's season comes to a close with an 18-12 ledger.

Game 7: WPI 5, Wheaton 1 (Wheaton Eliminated)

Top-seeded WPI scored three unearned runs in the fifth to snap a 1-1 tie en route to the 5-1 triumph over third-seeded Wheaton in a NEWMAC Softball Championship elimination game. Freshman Mackenzie Phillips (Gill, MA) struck out a season-best 10 batters for the third time this year.

The Engineers (29-12), slotted fifth in the NCAA Regional Rankings, faces the loser of this evening's game, between second-seeded Springfield and fourth-seeded Babson, next Saturday at noon.

Junior Ama Biney (Worcester, MA) and freshman Cassie Graca (Somerset, MA) made it 3-1 when Graca's sacrifice bunt was misplayed. After a pitching change, sophomore Kylie Juarez (Elk Grove, CA) sent an RBI double to center to plate junior RiAnna May (Westminster, CO). Senior Kristin Gallagher (Coventry, RI) added an insurance run in the sixth thanks to an error on a ball Biney put into play.

Biney represented the Engineers initial run in the bottom of the first when she scored on a miscue put into action by Graca. Wheaton grabbed the run back in the top of the second courtesy of a two-out shot by sophomore Emily Schlapak (Dover, NH).

Phillips and Wheaton junior Allison Cox (Torrance, CA) then traded zeroes on the scoreboard until the fateful fifth.

Six different Engineers notched a hit in the contest, including a double by Juarez. Biney walked twice, stole two bases and scored twice. Graca, sophomore Renee LeClaire (Merrimack, NH) and senior Hope Shevchuk (Burlington, CT) each logged a sacrifice hit. Defensively, junior Katie Chagami (Waipahu, HI) and Shevchuk teamed for a double play. Phillips (12-5) finished with one run on four hits and a walk.

Senior Mary DeMoura (Boston, MA) accounted for half of Wheaton's hits while Schlapak homered and walked. Cox yielded four runs – all unearned – on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in five innings. Sophomore Shelbi Wilson (Peabody, MA) surrendered an unearned run on two hits and a free pass in the sixth.

Wheaton concludes its 2016-17 campaign with an 18-17 record.

Game 5: Wheaton 6, MIT 3 (MIT Eliminated)

Senior Rebecca Seifert (Franklin, MA) was a factor in Wheaton's six runs as the third-seeded Lyons defeated fifth-seeded MIT, 6-3, in a NEWMAC Softball Championship elimination game Saturday on WPI's Rooftop Field.

Wheaton improves to 18-16 on the season and is back in action at approximately 3pm versus the winner of the 1pm game between WPI and Wellesley. MIT (21-11), who is ninth in the latest NCAA Regional Rankings awaits a potential at-large berth.

The game was knotted at 3-3 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth when Seifert laced a inside the park home run down the left field line to double the Lyons score.

Senior Ali Trueworthy (Rochester, NH) put the Engineers on the board with a single up the middle in the top of the first. Wheaton broke through with an RBI knock by Seifert, who came home on a fielder's choice by senior Danielle Cimino (Cumberland, ME), in the third.

The Engineers tied it up with a pair in the top of the fourth thanks to an RBI double by freshman Sierra Rosenzweig (Anchorage, AK) and a run-producing single by junior Jasmin Joseph (Woodland Hills, CA).

After Wheaton took the lead, junior reliever Allison Cox (Torrance, CA) received support in the form of a number of excellent plays by her fellow infielders down the stretch. MIT sophomore Ravenne Nasser (Methuen, MA), meanwhile, yielded only a walk the rest of the game, which was erased by a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth. 

Seifert batted 2-for-3 with a home run, four RBI and two runs scored while senior Mary DeMoura (Boston, MA) and junior Alexis Havrilla (Caldwell, NJ) each scored twice. Cimino (12-7) handed the ball to Cox who did not allow a hit in the final three frames for the save. Neither pitcher issued a walk.

Trueworthy and freshman Devon Goetz (Rockville, MD) each went 2-for-4 for MIT. Senior Natalie Shifflet (Poway, CA) and Rosenzweig (stolen base) doubled and freshman Michelle Wist (Cypress, TX) was credited with a sacrifice bunt. Rosenzweig, Shifflet and junior Zoe Hinton (Aurora, CO) combined for the double play. Nasser (11-8) struck out four in the complete game.

Game 8: Springfield 2, Babson 0

Springfield junior Talia Loda (East Haven, CT) spun a four-hit 2-0 shutout of fourth-seeded Babson to keep the second-seeded Pride in the driver's seat as the only unbeaten team in the 2017 NEWMAC Softball Championship being played on WPI's Rooftop Field.

The Pride (32-7), the top team in New England per the NCAA Regional Rankings, advance to the championship round that is slated to begin next Saturday at 2pm. Babson (25-13) and top-seeded WPI (29-12), who are fifth and eighth in the regional rankings, will meet at noon to determine Springfield's opponent. Should the Beavers or Engineers win twice an if game is scheduled for Sunday at 1pm.

Juniors Carianna Gasdia (Wakefield, MA) and Kirsten Drobiak (Griswold, CT) did the offensive damage on consecutive RBI hits to the outfield. Gasida connected on a 1-2 double and Drobiak followed with a 2-1 single. Loda (19-2, 3 strikeouts, walk) enjoyed a clean first, third and fifth while Babson freshman Brooke Stock (Fort Lauderdale, FL), who also allowed only four hits, posted a 1-2-3 first and fourth.

Drobiak had half of the Pride hits in a 2-for-3 afternoon with an RBI. Gasida doubled and walked as Loda looked to help her own cause with a sacrifice bunt and junior Rachel Ball (Coventry, RI) stole a base. Babson freshman Kayla Schinik (Watchung, NJ) went 2-for-3 to lead the offense as Stock (14-6) yielded one earned run on four hits and two walks while striking out a game-best six batters.