Brandeis softball earns national ranking, places three on UAA All-Tourney team

Brandeis softball earns national ranking, places three on UAA All-Tourney team

WALTHAM, Mass. — The Brandeis University softball team had a very successful University Athletic Association (UAA) tournament from March 9 and 13. The Judges finished conference play with a record of 5-3, their most wins in UAA play since 2000, to finish in second place, their highest since 1999. On the strength of that performance, the Judges placed three members on the UAA All-Tournament team and earned the first national ranking in school history.

Brandeis came in 14th in last week's National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III poll, garnering 80 points and making them the highest-ranked New England squad in the poll in head coach Jessica Johnson's fourth season at the helm. Also earning slots in the top 25 from New England were No. 19 Coast Guard, and Rhode Island College, who tied for 24th. Fellow UAA member Washington University, which had been ranked fifth a week earlier, dropped to a tie for 16th after suffering two losses at the hands of the Judges in the association tournament, 9-6 and 4-0.

The Judges placed two infielders and a pitcher on the All-Tournament squad. Senior hurler Emily Vaillette of Milford, N.H., earned her first honor from the UAA. Vaillette posted a 3-2 record with a save, making her one of four UAA pitchers to earn three victories. Her 0.66 earned-run average and 32 innings pitched were second in the conference, while her .221 opponent's batting average and 19 strikeouts were third. Her best performance came against Washington University, the six-time defending UAA champions, when she tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory. Vaillette struck out four and walked just one, allowing multiple base runners just once in seven innings.

Junior 2B Melisa Cagar of Ridgewood, N.J., earned UAA All-Tournament honors for the third year in a row - including her rookie year when the All-Tournament and All-Conference teams were the same. The Judges' leadoff hitter, she batted .333 (8-for-24) in UAA play, tying for the league lead with six stolen bases and four walks and tying for second with eight runs scored. Cagar had a double and a home run in conference action. She had two tremendous back-to-back games against Washington and the University of Rochester on March 9 and 10. In a 9-6 win over the Bears, Cagar opened the scoring with a two-run home run the top of the third inning and executed a successful suicide squeeze in the three-run sixth that was the decisive frame. Against Rochester, she went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and four stolen bases in an 8-0 win in six innings.

Sophomore 3B Brittany Grimm of Perkiomenville, Pa., earned All-Tournament honors for the first time. Grimm led the Judges with a .400 batting average (10-for-25) in league play, ninth among players who appeared in all eight contest. She was second in the UAA with three home runs in the tournament, third with 21 total bases and an .840 slugging percentage and tied for third with eight RBI. Grimm hit safely in six of the eight UAA contests, including four multi-hit games. She drove in four runs in the team's 9-6 win over Washington on a fifth-inning grand-slam that tied the score at 6-all. Grimm also hit first-inning home runs that were all the scoring the Judges needed in wins over Rochester (8-0) and Washington (4-0).

In their first New England games as a ranked team last week, Brandeis split with Wellesley College on March 17, falling 9-7 in the opener and winning 6-3 in the nightcap. The Judges are back in action on March 24 at Suffolk University – a game that has been postponed a day due to poor weather in the forecast - and will return to Marcus Field against cross-town rival Lasell College on March 25.

Vaillette is a 2006 graduate of Milford High School. She is the daughter of David and Carolyn Vaillette, Milford, N.H.

Cagar is a 2007 graduate of Ridgewood High School. She is the daughter of Cengiz and Virginia Cagar, Ridgewood, N.J.

Grimm is a 2008 graduate of Perkiomen Valley High School. She is the daughter of Kevin and Marie Grimm, Perkiomenville, Pa.