KEENE, N.H. – In an ECAC New England Division III softball tournament game between Brandeis and the University of New England today, a game that saw the lead change hands four times, ultimately it was the weather and top-seeded host Keene State College who were the winners.
The Judges and Nor'easters played to a 7-7 tie in seven innings after Brandeis rallied to knot the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. At that point, heavy rains made conditions unplayable for the remainder of the afternoon, forcing the tie game and making Keene State the tournament's declared winners without playing a game today. The Owls had defeated Simmons, 4-3, and Brandeis, 11-1, on Saturday afternoon to advance to the championship round.
In today's game, each team had one hit in the first two innings before UNE got on the board in the third thanks to two Brandeis errors. Junior Maegen Johnson (Standish, Maine) reached on an error and scored two batters later on sophomore Casey Brigham's (New London, Conn.) single that was booted in right field.
The Judges took their first lead in the bottom of the fourth. With one away, junior SS Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) doubled down the right field line. Two batters later, rookie DP Melissa Nolan (Windsor, Conn./Loomis Chaffee) singled to a similar spot, putting runners on the corners. After Nolan swiped second to get into scoring position, junior LF Samantha Gajewski (Elkridge, Md./Long Reach) doubled down the opposite baseline, to give Brandeis a 2-1 lead.
The Nor'easters reclaimed the lead in the fifth with two runs on just one hit. An infield single and a walk put runners on first and second, and an error by the second baseman tied the game, while a wild pitch put UNE back ahead, 3-2. Brandeis wasted no time in going back ahead, with back-to-back RBI doubles by senior 1B Courtney Kelley (Leicester, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) and Nolan.
After New England tied the game in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by rookie Amanda Vaudreuil (Windham, N.H.) tied the game at 4-all, the Judges reclaimed momentum once more in the bottom of the frame. With one away, senior 3B Danielle Lavallee (Sutton, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) singled to second base. Rookie catcher Leah McWilliams (Billerica, Mass./Billerica Memorial) also hit the ball to second, but an error left the runners on base. Specker made the Nor'easters pay with an RBI double to right field, and Grimm followed with a run-producing single to make it a 6-4 edge for Brandeis. UNE junior pitcher Erin Lyons (Salem, N.H.) got a big strikeout with two runners in scoring position to escape further damage.
In the top of the seventh, Brandeis sophomore Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) got within one strike of ending the game before New England rallied. Junior Marie Mantelli (Thompson, Conn.) led off the frame with a pinch double. Ducinski struck out the next batter, but walked Johnson to put runners on first and second. Mantelli made a heads-up play on fly out to right field by Brigham, taking third base. That allowed Johnson to steal second and be in scoring position when junior Ashley Gott (Winterport, Maine) singled up the middle, tying the game at 6-all. Gott came around to score after a wild pitch and an error on the shortstop, giving the Nor'easters a one-run lead headed into the bottom of the seventh.
With their last chance, Brandeis nearly made a fifth and final lead change. Nolan singled back to the mound to start the inning, her third hit of the day. Junior Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) came in and moved to second on a wild pitch. After Gajewski bunted her to third and junior LF Maxie Hirschler (Bellmore, N.Y./J.F.K.) walked, Lavallee delivered a sacrifice fly to right that tied the game at 7-7. Hirschler moved all the way to third on the play, but the Judges could not bring her home for the win, and the game ended in a tie.
Seven of the nine Brandeis starters had hits, with Nolan's three-hit performance leading the way and Grimm, Lavallee and senior Carly Schmand (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) having two each. Specker and Gajewski each had two RBI, while seven different players crossed the plate and five Judges had doubles. Ducinski finished with seven hits and seven runs (three earned) allowed in seven innings. She struck out three and walked three. Lyons gave up 12 hits, seven runs (six earned) and fanned five with three walks for UNE.
Brandeis wraps up its sixth-straight 20-win season and fifth in a row over .500 with a record of 20-18-1, while UNE closes its campaign at 29-18-1 and Keene State claims its third-straight ECAC title with a record of 29-12-1.