WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University softball team dropped a pair of heartbreaking one-run contests today against the visiting Clark University Cougars by scores of 2-1 and 5-4, spoiling the Judges' home debut. The Judges fall to 4-9, matching their loss total for all of last season, while the Cougars move to 8-6.
The opener was a classic pitchers' duel between Brandeis rookie Melissa Nolan (Windsor, Conn./Loomis Chaffee) and Clark senior Sarah Carter (Worcester, Mass./St. Peter Marian). Both tossed a complete game, with Nolan fanning nine without a walk and Carter striking out three with one walk and one hit batter. Nolan allowed just three hits, but suffered the loss to fall to 3-3, while Carter gave up four hits and improved to 4-4.
Both squads had chances to take an early lead before the pitching took over. In the bottom of the first, Brandeis junior SS Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) singled to short, stole second and moved to third on a bunt, but she was tagged out on a hard grounder to third base that CU junior Erin Murphy (Boxborough, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) turned into a double play.
In the top of the second, Murphy led off with a single and got moved along on a bunt and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Nolan fanned the next two hitters to keep the game scoreless.
The Judges left two more runners in scoring position in the fourth before finally breaking through in the fifth. Nolan led off the frame with a single. One out later, rookie catcher Leah McWilliams (Billerica, Mass./Billerica Memorial) hit one back to the pitcher, but a high throw to second left both runners safe on the play. After McWilliams and pinch-runner Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) executed a double steal, Grimm drove home the Judges' run on a grounder to second base. Carter induced another ground out to strand McWilliams at third and escape further damage.
After Nolan retired the side in the sixth to set down 14 in a row, the Cougars finally got to her in the top of the seventh. Sophomore SS Meg Melkonian (Worcester, Mass./St. Peter Marian) led off with a bad-hop single to short, and rookie 1B Tatiana Chunis (Sutton, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) made her pay with a home run to right-center field that drifted over the fence. It was the first career round-tripper for Chunis.
Brandeis got the leadoff runner on in the bottom of the seventh when junior CF Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) walked. Nolan bunted her into scoring position, but a line shot off the bat of senior 1B Courtney Kelley (Leicester, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) was snagged by Clark 2B Maya Allen (Concord, Mass./Concord-Carlisle), who turned it into a game-ending double play.
In the nightcap, the Judges jumped out in front again with three runs in the third inning, and again it was Nolan playing a big role. Junior catcher Megan DeNubila (Princeton, Mass./Wachusett Regional) led off with a single and the throw on Porcaro's bunt was botched, putting runners on the corners. Grimm followed with an RBI single to open the scoring. Clark avoided damage on the next play, when a grounder to short came home to cut down Porcaro. After a walk to junior LF Marianne Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School) loaded the bases, Nolan doubled off the left-field fence to make it a 3-0 game. Clark sophomore Nicole Meuse (Hudson, Mass./Hudson) got a strikeout to leave two runners in scoring position to end the frame.
The Cougars answered right back in the top of the fourth against Judge sophomore Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury). Chunis led off the inning with a walk and Murphy followed with her team-leading fourth home run of the season over the right field fence. Ducinski retired the next three hitters to maintain the one-run edge.
Brandeis loaded the bases with two away in the fifth, with Meuse getting another strikeout to escape, and the Cougars claimed the lead with two unearned runs in the sixth. With one away, junior RF Stefanie Kettenacker (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y./Hastings) singled, and an error by the Judges put runners on first and second. Clark rookie DP Shawna Amatucci (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) tied the game with a single through the right side. After a passed ball put runners at second and third, pinch hitter Heather Figula hit a ball to the right side that was unable to be handled, allowing both runs to score and giving the visitors a 5-3 lead.
Brandeis got a run back in the bottom of the sixth on Porcaro's first home run of the season, the sixth of her career. Nolan singled with one away in the seventh, but Meuse struck out the next two Judge batters to complete the sweep.
For the Judges in game two, every hitter in the starting lineup had at least one hit, with Grimm and Nolan each going 2-for-4. Nolan finished with two RBI and a double, while Gajewski also added a two-bagger. Ducinski went six innings, fanning five and walking two. She gave up five hits and five runs, only two of which were earned, as she fell to 1-2 on the season.
For Clark, Amatucci was the only multiple hitter, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, while Murphy's two-run blast was the Cougar's only extra-base hit. Meuse improved to 4-2 on the season by striking out nine and walking just one in a full seven innings.
Brandeis is back in action tomorrow at noon at Emerson College, while Clark is at Amherst College Tuesday at 3 p.m.