WALTHAM, Mass. - The second-seeded Keene State College softball team is in the driver's seat for the 2009 ECAC Division III New England Softball championship. After topping rival Plymouth State, 4-1, in their opener, the Owls defeated top-seeded Brandeis, 6-3, in the winner's bracket to advance to tomorrow's championship round at 1 p.m.
Brandeis, which dispatched fourth-seeded Western New England College, 11-3, in five innings to kick off the day, will face No. 6 Plymouth State tomorrow at 11 a.m. in an elimination contest. The Panthers defeated WNEC, 5-0, in the tournament's first elimination game this afternoon.
The day opened with Brandeis (27-16) blowing out Western New England College (30-16), 11-3. After giving up one run in the top of the first inning, the Judges sent 13 players to the plate, scoring nine runs. The big blow of the inning was a grand slam by sophomore 1B Courtney Kelley (Leicester, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.). Kelley also went deep in the fourth inning to provide the eight-run margin Brandeis needed to end the game early. She now has six home runs on the season, including five in her last five contests. Rookie pitcher Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) helped her own cause with a towering solo home run to center field in the third and an RBI squeeze bunt in the first. WNEC was paced by sophomore 1B Trish Breault (Millville, Mass./Blackstone-Millville Regional), who accounted for all three Golden Bear runs by going 2-3 with two RBI and a run scored out of the lead-off hole.
The day's second game featured Keene State (29-14) defeating arch-rival Plymouth State (24-17), 4-1. The story of the game was Owl rookie hurler Courtney Savoie (Stratham, N.H./Exeter), who tossed a complete-game three-hitter. Savoie took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, allowing just two base-runners through the first five frames on a walk and an error. The Panthers finally broke through with a pair of singles with two out in the sixth and broke up the shutout with a solo home run by sophomore catcher Kortney Nedeau (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) to lead off the seventh. Offensively, Keene State senior 3B Katie Allenson (Clifton Park, N.Y./Shenendohoa) led the way for the Owls, going 3-3 with a home run, a double three runs scored and an RBI. Allenson doubled and scored in the second, while her lead-off home run in the fourth proved to be the game-winning run. Junior catcher Stephanie Lavado (Wallingford, Conn./Mark T. Sheehan) added some insurance with a two-run single in the sixth inning.
In the third game of the day, Plymouth State staved off elimination with a 5-0 win over Western New England, giving head coach Bruce Addison his 100th career win in the process. Rookie Ali Keith (Northfield, N.H./Winnisquam) was outstanding in the circle for the Panthers, tossing a seven-hitter. She had no walks or strikeouts and allowed just one Golden Bear hitter past second base. Offensively, rookie LF Allie Luisi (No. Kingstown, R.I./No. Kingstown) provided most of the PSU offense, going 2-4 with a home run, a double, three RBI and two runs scored. She doubled and scored in the first in the only run the Panthers would need on a sacrifice fly, then added a three-run home run in the fourth, her second round-tripper of the campaign. Rookie 3B Sara Barnes (Berkley, Mass./Coyle and Cassidy) went 2-4 in the losing effort for WNEC.
The final contest of the day was a rematch of last season's ECAC title game, and Keene State was able to upend Brandeis, 6-3. The Judges scored single runs in each of the first two innings, with junior SS Chelsea Korp (Worcester, Mass./Holy Name) plating sophomore 2B Melisa Cagar (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) with a sacrifice fly in the first and rookie RF Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) scoring from first on sophomore 3B Danielle Lavallee's (Sutton, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) double in the second.
Keene State answered with three in the top of third, as hard-hit balls in the infield were unable to be converted into outs. The Owls got their first run when senior CF Jenna Patnode's (Surry, N.H./Monadnock Reg.) single was overrun in the outfield, while sophomore RF Ashley Annis (Gilford, N.H./Gilford) dropped a ball in front of the right fielder to tie the game. With runners on second and third and one out, the Owls took the lead on Allenson's ground out to third, but the Judges escaped further trouble when Brandeis caught Annis leaning after rounding the bag.
Brandeis knotted the game in the third on Kelley's fourth RBI of the day, a single up the middle with two out. An error moved runners to second and third, but Lavado picked a Brandeis runner off third to escape further damage.
Keene State rookie reliever Samantha Pratt (Bristol, Conn./Kingswood Oxford) and the Owl defense handled the Judges from there. Pratt faced the minimum over the last four innings thanks to a pair of double plays started by rookie SS Haley Chandler (Wakefield, Mass./Wakefield). Allenson was responsible for the winning runs in the fifth inning, coming up with a clutch two-run, two-out single to right on the first pitch she saw from Brandeis junior Emily Vaillette (Milford, N.H./Milford). The visitors added an unearned run in the seventh when Patnode singled, stole second and scored when the throw went over second base and through a drawn-in outfield. That capped a 4-4 performance with three runs scored for the senior.