ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – After going 3-1 on the first two days of action at the 2010 University Athletic Association softball tournament, steady rain forced two straight days of washed out contests for coach Jessica Johnson's Brandeis University Judges. Forced to play a triple header on Saturday and one contest on Sunday before returning to Waltham, the Judges went 2-2 to finish at 5-3 in a tie for second place in the UAA, marking the most association wins since 2000 and their highest placement in the league since 1999. Overall, Brandeis is 7-3 this season.
After two days of rainouts, the Judges opened the second half of the UAA schedule against Washington University. Brandeis, which had defeated the seventh-ranked and six-time defending league champions, 9-6, in their previous meeting, was able to complete their first-ever season sweep of the Bears, 4-0, behind a four-hit, four-strikeout performance from senior pitcher Emily Vaillette (Milford, N.H./Milford). Vaillette was outstanding, allowing multiple runners on base just once. That came in the fifth inning, when the Bears loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a hit batter with one out. Vaillette bore down at that point, getting a strikeout of Washington's number-two batter and a grounder to second out of the three hole to get out of the inning unscathed.
Offensively, for the second time in the tournament, all the offense the Judges would need came just two batters into the game when sophomore 3B Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) launched a solo home run to center field. It was her third bomb of the season and second against Washington University. The Judges increased their lead thanks to some clutch two-out hitting, adding a single run in the third on senior catcher Erin Ross's (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) RBI double and two more in the fourth on bases-loaded single by sophomore SS Marianne Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School).
In their second game of the day, the Brandeis bats were silenced by Rochester sophomore Sara Hutchinson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest), who turned the tables on the Judges with a four-hitter of her own, 5-0. The Yellowjackets were able to avenge an earlier 8-0 loss at the hands of the Judges. The big blow came in the bottom of the first against Brandeis sophomore Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton). After a hit batter and a walk with one out, UR sophomore RF Kim Grimes (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest went deep to centerfield for a three-run home run. Hutchinson kept Brandeis at bay the rest of the way, not allowing a runner past second base until the seventh inning. Ross doubled and advanced on a ground out, but Hutchinson ended the game with her third strikeout of the contest.
In the final game of the day, the Judges picked up a game with Emory that was suspended after the top of the first inning. Vaillette allowed eight hits in just four innings of work, but was able to dance around trouble for the most part, allowing just two runs, only one of which was earned. Despite Vaillette's excellent pitching in her second game of the day, the Judges could not quite break through against the Eagles' Bridget Holloway (Sparta, Ill./Sparta), who struck out seven without a walk to earn a 3-1 victory.
EU sophomore RF Jessica Thompson (Springfield, Va./West Springfield) got the ball rolling for the Eagles with an RBI single in the first. From there, rookie 1B Ellyn Kocolski (Victor, N.Y./Our Lady of Mercy) got the job done offensively for Emory, finishing 3-for-3 with a double and two more RBI, knocking runs in the third and fifth innings.
After going down in order through the first three innings, Brandeis got two hits in the fourth, but couldn't produce a run. Trailing 2-0 at the time, the Judges finally broke through in the fifth. Ross led off with a single and rookie pinch-runner Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) was bunted to second. Sophomore Lara Hirschler (Bellemore, N.Y./John F. Kennedy) laced a pinch single to left field and stole second to put runners at second and third with one away. Junior RF Carly Schmand (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) plated one run on a ground ball back to the pitcher to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Holloway got a strikeout to escape more trouble. The Eagles added an insurance run in the bottom of the frame, and thought the Judges put two runners on in the bottom of the seventh, they couldn't convert, falling to 4-3 in the league.
The final game of the tournament for Brandeis came against winless Case Western Reserve, and the Judges were able to keep the Spartans out of the W column with a 5-1 victory. Vaillette improved to 4-2 on the season with another four-hitter over six innings of work before sophomore Keliann Kirby (Framingham, Mass./Marion) struck out two of the three batters she faced in the seventh to close out the win.
Offensively, the Judges pounded out 10 hits and drew seven walks against Case junior Beth Andrasik (Sagamore Hills, Ohio/Nordonia). Grimm, senior LF Chelsea Korp (Worcester, Mass./Holy Name) and sophomore CF Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) each had two hits for the Judges, while Ross went 1-for-2 with two walks and the team's only extra-base hit, a double. Korp drove in the team's first run in the bottom of the first, while Grimm and Ross plate one each in the second. Porcaro's ground-rule double in the sixth closed out the Judges' scoring.
Overall in the UAA tournament, the Judges' were led offensively by Grimm, who batted 10-for-25 with two doubles, three home runs and eight RBI. Rookie Stacy Berg (Owings Mills, Md./McDonough) added seven RBI and a .350 batting average (7-20), while junior 2B Melisa Cagar (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) hit .333 (8-24) with six stolen bases. In the circle, Vaillette finished 3-2 with one save, two shutouts and an 0.66 ERA. She allowed just six runs (three earned) in 32 innings. She struck out 19 and walked just three.
The Judges open their 2010 home slate on Wednesday with a doubleheader against Wellesley College starting at 3 p.m.