WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore pitcher Molly Rathbun (Hebron, Conn./RHAM) led the visiting Eastern Connecticut State University softball team past the host Brandeis University Judges, 3-2, on Marcus Field in a showdown between the top two teams in New England. ECSU, ranked No. 1 in the most recent NCAA Regional Poll and #19 in the nation by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), improves to 19-3-1 on the season. Brandeis, ranked second in the NCAA regional poll and #14 by the NFCA, falls to 22-6-1.
Rathbun provided all the offense for the Warriors, going 2-for-3 with three RBI. In the top of the first inning, with one out and a runner on second, she worked a full count against Brandeis senior starter Emily Vaillette (Milford, N.H./Milford). Rathbun fouled off four two-strike pitches before launching a home run to deep center field to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. She added an RBI single in the third, plating senior CF Ashley Sullivan, who doubled with one out.
In the circle, Rathbun was nearly perfect through the first five innings. She walked the Judges' leadoff hitter, junior 2B Melisa Cagar (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood), but proceeded to retire the next 16 batters in a row. Eleven of those outs came by way of strikeout, with no balls leaving the infield until the fourth. In that frame – which was delayed for 45 minutes in the top of the inning because of lightning - sophomore RF Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and rookie DP Stacey Berg (Owings Mills, Md./McDonogh) launched balls to left and right field, respectively, but were just under the ball.
The Judges finally broke through in the sixth. With one away, senior SS Chelsea Korp (Worcester, Mass./Holy Name) hit a grounder in the hole at short and just beat the throw to first. Cagar followed, and she hit a laser out to center on the first pitch she saw for her fourth home run of the season.
The earned runs were just the sixth and seventh allowed by Rathbun this season in 90.1 innings of work. She settled down, however, getting two ground outs to end the sixth and striking out two more in the seventh to finish with 13 Ks for the game. She improved to 13-1 on the season, while Vaillette fell to 12-4 despite a fine performance. Vaillette struck out six and walked two, allowing six hits and three earned runs in her seventh complete game of the season.
The teams were slated to play a doubleheader, but the second contest was tied at 3-3 in the fourth inning when it was called because of darkness before becoming an official game.
Brandeis is next in action next Tuesday afternoon against Babson in a non-conference doubleheader at 3:30 p.m., while Eastern Connecticut is at Southern Maine in a Little East Conference twinbill Saturday at 1 p.m.