WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Senior Ali Graebner went 3 for 3 with two runs scored Saturday, pacing a 12-hit attack for Williams as the Ephs advanced to the final of the 2014 NESCAC Softball Tournament by eliminating Middlebury, 8-5, at Cole Field.
Williams improved to 24-10 on the season and will face Tufts (36-3) Sunday morning at 10 in the first final of the double-elimination tourney. The Ephs, who fell to the Jumbos earlier Saturday, 4-1, will need to beat Tufts twice on Sunday while the Jumbos just need to win the 10 a.m. contest.
Earlier Saturday, Middlebury stayed alive with a 2-0 win over Bowdoin. Once the Ephs fell to Tufts, 4-1, in following contest, that set up the elimination game. Williams jumped out on top, scoring three runs in the first. Alison Michalik led off with a single and Erica Li was hit by a pitch. Graebner beat out a bunt to load the bases for Priscilla Pino, who grounded a ball to second that was misplayed, allowing two runs to score. Lindsey Precht added an RBI-single back through the circle for the three-run lead.
Middlebury chipped away, scoring a run in the bottom of the second when Hye-Jin Kim socked a solo home run to center. Kim forced home another run in the bottom of the third when she drew a bases-loaded walk from Williams starter Brooke Bovier, but Bovier escaped further damage by striking out Sarah Freyre to end the frame.
The Ephs then added four runs in the top of the fourth for a 7-2 lead. Mo Frank led off with a single and moved to second when Theresa Legan beat out a bunt for a single. Michalik followed with a double to left that scored one run. Li laid down a nice squeez bunt to score another, and Michalik scored when a pick-off attempt hit her in the back and rolled into foul territory on the third base side. Pino capped the uprising with a two-out, RBI-single to right that scored Graebner with the seventh run.
Middlebury refused to quit, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 7-5. Emma Hamilton doubled and Bovier walked Kimber Sable and Christina Bicks to load the bases with no outs. Emily Kraytenberg lifted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Hamilton while the other two runners advanced on an overthrow. Kim's big day continued when she lashed a two-run single to center to close the deficit to two runs, but Bovier -- with runners on second and third and two outs -- induced Kelsey Martel to ground out to second base and end the threat.
Williams added a final insurance run in the sixth when Pino drilled a double to right-center that scored Kacey Cramer for an 8-5 lead. Bovier had a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to wrap up the victory for the Ephs. She improved to 10-3 by going seven innings and allowing runs, all earned, on five hits. She walked six and struck out three.
Michalik was 3 for 4 for Williams, scoring twice and driving on a run. Pino was 2 for 4 with three RBI.
Lizzie Morris took the loss for Middlebury, allowing 10 hits and seven runs, five earned, over five innings. She did not walk a batter and struck out five while falling to 8-5.
Kim was 2 for 3 with 4 RBI for the Panthers.