WALTHAM, Mass. - The Brandeis softball team, ranked fifth in New England, improved their chances at a Pool 'B' NCAA tournament berth with a pair of wins over Emerson College, the No. 3 team in the Northeast Region and champions of the GNAC. The Judges belted five home runs in game one, including two in the seventh for a dramatic 10-9 come-from-behind win, then cruised to victory, 8-3, in the second contest.
Brandeis (25-15) did not lead in game one until their final at-bat. Trailing, 9-7, sophomore 1B Courtney Kelley (Leicester, Mass./Notre Dame Academy) belted a one-out solo home run, her second of the day and third of the campaign, to cut the deficit to one run. After the Lions got the next out, rookie LF Lara Hirschler (Bellmore, N.Y./JFK) reached on a costly error, as the next Judge batter, junior SS Chelsea Korp (Worcester, Mass./Holy Name) took Emerson rookie Sara Murray (Auburn, N.H./Manchester Memorial) deep to left field for the walk-off home run. The blast was Korp's first of the season and the sixth of her career.
Emerson (32-9) jumped out to an 8-3 lead after two-and-a-half innings, scoring twice in the first and second innings and four more times in the third. The big hits for the visitors came from sophomore LF Jilisa Rawding (Tewksbury, Mass./Tewksbury), who had an RBI single in the second and a two-run single in the third, and junior 2B Jill Vallacorsa (Latham, N.Y./Shaker), who connected for a two-run double in the third as well.
After the third inning, however, Brandeis junior reliever Allie Mussen (Franklin Square, N.Y./Carey) was able to dance around trouble for the most part. She allowed 10 base-runners in her 4.2 innings of work, but only allowed one to score, stranding Emerson runners in every inning she worked.
In addition to the big homers from Korp (2-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and Kelley (2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), the Judges also got a big game from sophomore 2B Melisa Cagar (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood), who had solo home runs in the first two innings and also stole two bases. Rawding finished 3-4 with three RBI, two steals and a run scored for Emerson.
In game two, it was the Judges who pounced first, scoring three runs in the first inning and eventually taking a 7-1 lead after four innings. Junior C Erin Ross (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) had a two-run double in the first, followed by another two-bagger by rookie CF Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley). Emerson scored on a Brandeis error in the top of the second, but were held in check by Judge junior Emily Vaillette (Milford, N.H./Milford) until the top of the seventh, when rookie pitcher Kelsey Tuthill (Middlefield, Conn./Suffield) hit a two-run bomb, her first of the season.
Vaillette went the distance for the 15th time this season to improve to 11-8. She held the Lions to just five hits, striking out four and walking none, allowing three runs (two earned). Ross had a perfect game at the plate, going 4-4 with three RBI, a double and a run scored. Cagar went 2-3 with three runs scored and three more stolen bases, setting a Brandeis single-season record with 30. Rookie Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) launched her first collegiate home run in the sixth inning.
No Emerson player had more than one hit in the second contest, with Tuthill picking up a pair of RBI on her home run. She also scored two runs. Junior Bridget Farago (Oneonta, N.Y./Oneonta) added double and a stolen base. Tuthill suffered the loss, just her fourth of the season against 18 wins. She allowed eight hits and seven runs, only two of which were earned, striking out two and walking none.
Emerson, champions of the GNAC, will await their NCAA Tournament berth on Monday morning at 11 a.m., while Brandeis will hope for a Pool 'B' at-large berth or a spot in the ECAC Division III New England tournament, where they are the defending champions.