May 14, 2010

Cagar heroics lift softball past Coast Guard, 7-6, in NCAA tournament

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Junior 2B Melisa Cagar (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) ripped a two-run single through the right side on an 0-2 count with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning and sophomore Caroline Miller retired the side in the top of the seventh as the second-seeded Brandeis softball team rallied to defeat No. 3 Coast Guard, 7-6, and advance in the winner’s bracket of the 2010 NCAA Division III Softball tournament Wellesley regional. The Judges take on top-seeded Eastern Connecticut tomorrow at 2 p.m. for the right to advance to Sunday’s championship game.

After Brandeis (29-7-1) sophomore reliever Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning, the Judges trailed 6-5 headed into the bottom of the frame. Junior 3B Danielle Lavallee (Sutton, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) worked a lead-off walk, and sophomore CF Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) singled to center, sending rookie pinch runner  Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) to second.

Junior RF Carly Schmand (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) bunted the runners to second and third, but Coast Guard (31-9) sophomore Hayley Feindel (River Ridge, La.) fanned senior SS Chelsea Korp (Worcester, Mass./Holy Name), bringing up Cagar. After a swinging strike to start the at-bat, Cagar rocked a ball deep to left field that landed foul, one of the hardest-hit balls off of Feindel all day. On the next pitch, Cagar went the other way, finding the gap between first and second, giving Brandeis its first lead of the day and plating the winning runs.

“I didn’t want to swing at just anything,” said Cagar. “She was throwing the ball hard, but I just wanted to make contact. I knew if I did, I could get it into the outfield, and I did.”

In the top of the seventh, Miller retired the first two batters on Porcaro’s Web Gem-worthy running catch to her right and a called third strike. After losing the next batter on a 3-2 count, Miller induced a soft grounder to first to close out the game and complete the comeback.

“This was a full team effort,” said head coach Jessica Johnson. “Everyone was ready to go when they were called on, especially [Miller]. We knew we had to capitalize on our chances and we did.”

The game’s first five innings were marked by an influx of illegal pitch calls by the umpiring crew. Four of Brandeis’s first five runs came home on illegal pitches, while Coast Guard was able to extend several at-bats thanks to the controversial calls. After scoring three unearned runs in the first four frames, the Bears took a 6-4 lead after the top of the fifth inning when senior 3B Courtney Wolf (Fredericksburg, Md.) doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a single by sophomore 2B Jamie Kim (Irvine, Calif.). Coast Guard’s top hitter on the season, junior catcher Amanda Frederick (Lebanon, Ohio), was the top hitter of the game, going 2-for-4 with three RBI, plating the Bears’ first run with an RBI single in the top of the first and two more on a two-out double to right field in the fourth that put  her squad ahead, 5-2.

Brandeis had a pair of multiple hitters, paced by sophomore Marianne Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School), who went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Schmand went 2-for-2 with an RBI, a stolen base and her key sacrifice bunt. In total, the Judges got seven hits and seven runs (five earned) against Feindel, who tossed a no-hitter in her NCAA opener and had only given up as many as seven runs in a game once this season. Feindel falls to 29-9 on the season after walking three and striking out three. Brandeis senior starter Emily Vaillette (Milford, N.H./Milford) went five innings, giving up six hits, six runs (three earned) with five strikeouts and three walks and got a no decision, while Miller moved to 9-2 with two hitless innings, walking two and striking out two.

The Judges, ranked 18th in the nation, next take on top-seeded and 11th ranked Eastern Connecticut State University tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the winner’s bracket. The teams met earlier this season in Waltham, with the Warriors taking a 3-2 decision in the opener before a second contest was called for darkness with the score tied at 3-3. Tomorrow’s contest will be broadcast on WBRS 100.1-FM (http://www.wbrs.org) and with LiveStats and video on Wellesley’s web site at http://www.wellesley.edu/athletics/athletics/ncaasoftball/.

(Photo courtesy Alex Hatem Wellesley '12)