WALTHAM, Mass -- The Brandeis softball team, top-seeded in the 2012 ECAC Division III New England Tournament, will have to come through the elimination bracket to win their second title in team history. The Judges defeated fifth-seed Rivier College, 7-5, in their opener today, but bowed to No. 3 seed Endicott, 6-1, later in the day. Brandeis will take on No. 7 seed Simmons College tomorrow at 11 a.m. in an elimination game. The winner of that contest will face Endicott in the championship round at 1 p.m. with a 3 p.m. game to follow if the Gulls should fall.
GAME 1: BRANDEIS 7, RIVIER 5
In the first game of the day, Brandeis jumped out to a 5-0 lead after four innings and extended it to 7-1 through six before holding off a late Rivier rally to escape with a 7-5 win.
The Judges opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when senior CF Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) hit an infield single to plate classmate 3B Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley), who had hit a one-out double. Brandeis had Rivier hurler Lauren Beatty (Sherman, Conn./New Milford) on the ropes early, but the sophomore left the bases loaded in the first and third innings and got Grimm to line into a double play in the second.
Brandeis finally broke through in the fourth, scoring four runs on just two hits and only one ball leaving in the infield. Beatty issued three walks in the inning, including a lead-off pass to junior RF Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury). Rookie 1B Amanda Genovese (North Haven, Conn./North Haven) followed with a bunt single, then beat the Raider shortstop to second base on a slow roller by Grimm. Beatty then issued bases-loaded walks to SS Marianne Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School) and Porcaro before rookie DP Anya Kamber (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) singled to right. Beatty retired the next three hitters, but also fired a wild pitch that allowed Specker to score Brandeis's fifth run of the game.
Rivier finally broke through in the sixth against Brandeis reliever Melissa Nolan (Windsor, Conn./Loomis Chaffee) on a solo home run by junior catcher Marissa Mercier (No. Smithfield, R.I./No. Smithfield), her 10th of the season. Brandeis got two back in the bottom of the inning when Porcaro walked, stole second and third and scored on an illegal pitch by Raider sophomore Hillary Tarr (No. Easton, Mass./Cardinal Spellman). Nolan drove in Kamber, who also walked and had a steal, to make the game 7-1.
Rivier made the game interesting in the top of the seventh, when Mercier's infield single scored Nicole Peacock (Warwick, R.I./Prout), who had walked and advanced to third on a single wild pitch. Two batters later, Raider senior Karen Waterman (Rutland, Vt./Rutland) took Nolan deep for a three-run shot, cutting the lead to 7-5, but Brandeis senior Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) returned to the game to get the final out.
Offensively, Brandeis got 10 of their 12 hits from the top five batters in the order, led by Kamber's 3-for-3 performance and Porcaro, who reached base in all four player appearances, going 2-for-2 with two walks and two RBI. Rivier was paced by Mercier, who went 4-for-4 with her two-run homer, and Waterman, who drove in a game-high three runs with her late blast.
Miller picked up the win to improve to 15-7 on the season, just the seventh 15-win season in school history. She tossed 4.1 innings, allowing four hits and striking out four. Beatty suffered just her third loss of the season, falling to 11-3, allowing 11 hits and seven earned runs over 5.1 innings. She walked five and struck out three.
GAME TWO: ENDICOTT 9, SIMMONS 1 (5 innings)
In the second game of the day, Endicott blasted four home runs and held Simmons to just two hits en route to a 9-1 victory.
EC got all the scoring they would need in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore 2B Jesse Bilafer (Concord, Mass./Concord Carlisle) reached on a bunt single with one out. After a walk and a fielder's choice left runners on the corners, junior LF Byrne Katz (Trumbull, Conn./Trumbull) blasted her fourth home run of the season to deep left-center field and give Endicott a 3-0 lead.
The Gulls would expand the lead in the fifth thanks to three more round trippers, all with two outs. Junior DP Colleen Martin (Cape Elizabeth, Maine/Cape Elizabeth) went deep to right center with no one on for her team-leading seventh of the season. Junior 1B Nicole Devlin (Dudley, Mass./Shepherd Hill Regional) and rookie SS Shelby Phillips (Taunton, Mass./Taunton) each hit two-run shots, their second and first of the season, respectively. Phillips's first career bomb made the score 8-0.
Simmons sophomore Christina Mulcahy (Cambridge, Mass.) spoiled EC's shutout bid in the fourth with her third home run of the season, just sneaking one over the center field fence. The Gulls reestablished the eight-run lead when Martin drove in Bilafer in the fifth, and rookie Cam Sprague (Clifton Park, N.Y./Shenendehowa) retired the side in order in the fifth to end the game early. Sprague improved to 7-6 on the season with a two-hitter, striking out four and walking three.
GAME THREE: SIMMONS 6, RIVIER 0 (Rivier eliminated)
In the first elimination game of the weekend Simmons rookie Lauren Backhaus (Windsor, Conn.) tossed her 11th shutout of the season to defeat Rivier, 6-0.
Backhaus scattered seven hits over seven innings, striking out four and walking one to improve to 15-8 on the season. She allowed just two runners past second base for the entire game, getting a heads-up 4-3-2 double play in the first and getting two key strikeouts after the Raider's Nicole Peacock singled and stole second and third with none away in the third.
The Sharks would break through with three unearned runs in the fourth inning against Rivier's Hillary Tarr when rookie catcher Victoria Luongo (Medford, Mass.) drove in the game's first run and junior LF Ari King (Westford, Mass.) followed with a two-run single to center field. Simmons doubled their lead in the third courtesy Christina Mulcahy's second home run of the day, this time a no-doubt-about it shot to center field. That was enough for Backhaus, who allowed just two base runners the rest of the way. Simmons improved to 26-17 in advancing to day two, while Rivier ended their campaign at 26-14.
EC opened the scoring with two runs in the first inning. Designated player Colleen Martin tripled to left field to knock in 2B Jesse Bilafer. Martin then scored on a wild pitch.
Brandeis got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame. Amanda Genovese doubled to lead off the inning and then stole third, her team-high 18th swipe of the season. Grimm followed with a lineout to center field that allowed Genovese to tag and score. The RBI was Grimm's 100th of her career, making her the 7th player in school history to reach the plateau. A hit by Porcaro and an error on a ball hit by Kamber put Brandeis in good position to tie the game, but O'Connor got a grounder to first to end the inning.
The Gulls would give O'Connor some more breathing room with a pair of homers, Byrne Katz's second of the day to lead off the fourth and a two-run job by Alexandra Moise (No. Reading, Mass./No. Reading) in the top of the fifth. Junior pinch runner Katelyn Soja (Chicopee, Mass./Chicopee Comp.) executed a double steal of home in the sixth to round out the scoring.
O'Connor held Brandeis to five hits and one earned run in seven innings. She improved to 10-6 by striking out five and walking just two. Brandeis's Caroline Miller fell to 15-8 on the campaign after allowing eight hits and five earned runs in five innings. She did strike out 10 EC hitters, moving her within three of the single-season record with 160 on the campaign.
Offensively, in addition the two home runs, Bilafer had a fine game with three hits, including a double, and two runs scored. She also provided terrific defense for the Gulls at second base. For the Judges, Genovese and Porcaro provided four of the team's five hits.
Brandeis fell to 25-17 with the loss, while Endicott moves to 25-17-1 and needs just one win tomorrow to take home the ECAC crown.