March 14, 2012

Judges win twice on Day 2 of UAA tournament

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – The Brandeis University softball improved to 2-1 at the 2012 University Athletic Association (UAA) tournament today as the Judges defeated the University of Rochester, 2-1, and Case Western Reserve University, 7-5, on the second day of action.

The opener against Rochester (1-5, 0-3 UAA) was a pitcher's duel that saw all the scoring take place in the first inning in the 2-1 Brandeis win. The Yellowjackets got on the board in the top of the frame when CF Katie McLean singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. She scored on a single by 1B Nina Korn that gave UR the early edge.

Brandeis (2-1, 2-1 UAA) responded with a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the frame. Senior 1B Marianne Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School) kicked off the rally with a single, extending her hitting streak to 15 games dating back to last season. Sophomore DP Melissa Nolan (Windsor, Conn./Loomis Chaffee) reached on a critical error that extended the inning. Rookie 3B Anya Kamber (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) responded with a game-tying double, her first collegiate hit, to plate Specker, while senior CF Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) brought home Nolan with a single that proved to be the game-winning run.

After the first inning, the story was the pitchers. Brandeis senior Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) only allowed one runner past first base and only one hit until the seventh inning, though UR was able to coax three walks. Rochester's  Madeiline Skellie was even more effective, retiring  13 straight hitters after Porcaro's single, including five of her six strikeouts.

Both teams had a chance to add to their run total in their last at-bat.  In the bottom of the sixth, Brandeis senior SS Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) reached on an error to open the inning and moved to third on a bunt by Specker and an infield grounder by Nolan, but Skellie induced a grounder to third by Kamber to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh, Rochester loaded the bases with one out. After a Brandeis error, a single by pinch hitter Sandra Bitowft put runners on the corners. Left fielder Cara Celorio hit an infield grounder, but the Judges froze the runner at third to prevent a run, packing the sacks. Miller then induced a grounder to first, and Specker fired home for the force and the second out. Miller closed out the complete-game with foul out to third base to put the Judges in the win column for the first time this season. Miller improved to 1-1 on the campaign with five strikeouts and three walks in a four-hitter, outdueling Skellie's three-hit, six-K performance over six innings. Skellie fell to 0-1.

The Brandeis bats woke up in the second game of the afternoon, a 7-5 win over Case. The Judges had 11 hits, including five for extra bases. Brandeis again fell behind early, as the Spartans scored two runs in the bottom of the first on an RBI double by SS Makenzie Lein and a sacrifice fly by pitcher Rebecca Taylor.

The Judges responded with three two-out runs in the third to take the lead. Grimm opened the frame with her eighth career home run and first of 2012. Brandeis kept the pressure on Taylor with three more extra base hits, as rookie RF Amanda Genovese (North Haven, Conn./North Haven)  tripled, followed by RBI doubles from Specker and Nolan. Case knotted the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the frame, as Lein walked, moved to second on a Taylor single and scored two batters later on a passed ball.

The Judges broke the tie in the top of the fifth with four runs on four hits and taking advantage of three Spartan errors. Rookie catcher Cori Coleman (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale) walked to lead off the frame, and senior Mimi Theodore (Walpole, Mass./Walpole)  moved from first to third on sophomore 2B Leah McWilliams' (Billerica, Mass./Billerica Memorial) bunt that was booted.  Theodore scored on a passed ball, and McWilliams came home on a Grimm single. Three batters later, with Grimm on third and Specker on first, Nolan came up with a squeeze bunt single that plated what proved to be the game-winning run. Kamber singled to load the bases, and another error brought home another pinch runner, Mimi's twin sister Ali Theodore (Walpole, Mass./Walpole). Case reliever Christina Hunger escaped further trouble by inducing a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.

After the Spartans stranded two runners against junior reliever Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury)  in the sixth inning, they looked to make a comeback of their own in their last at-bat. After Ducinski got the first out on a fly ball to center, Case loaded the bases on a Lein single and back-to-back walks. The Judges got the second out on a force play at the plate, but Ducinski struggled to get the final out, with an error and another walk making it a two-run game with the tying run on second. Brandeis coach Jessica Johnson summoned Miller from the bullpen, who got a strikeout for her second career save. Nolan got the win with five innings of four-hit ball, working around three walks. She gave up three runs (two earned) to move to 1-0 on the season.

Offensively, Grimm's 3-for-4 performance with two RBI, two runs scored, two stolen bases and a home run led the way, while Genovese, Specker, Nolan and Kamber also had two hits each. Specker's double in the third inning extended her hitting streak to 16 games.

The Judges have their work cut out for them tomorrow on Day Three of the UAA tournament, as they take on a pair of nationally-ranked teams, No. 24 Washington University at 10 a.m., and No. 4 Emory at 12:30 p.m.