WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- Riding an eight-run bottom of the fourth inning that featured back-to-back-to-back home runs, the Tufts University softball team powered its way to a third straight NESCAC Tournament title Sunday morning via a 10-2 victory over Williams at Cole Field.
The Jumbos improved to 37-3 with the victory while Williams fell to 24-11. The Jumbos win evened the season series between the two teams at two games each.
Tufts took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when lead-off hitter Michelle Cooprider launched a 3-1 pitch over the fence in center field for a home run.
It remained 1-0 Tufts until the top of the fourth. Williams senior Ali Graebner drew a leadoff walk from Jumbo ace Allyson Fournier. Priscilla Pino followed with a liner to right for a single that sent Graebner to third. Lindsey Precht then ripped a Fournier offering into left for an RBI-single that tied the game. Mo Frank then lined an opposite-field single to left that loaded the bases.
Fournier fell behind Melissa Cendejas 3-1 before rallying to strike her out swinging. She then went to 3-2 on pinch-hitter Ashley Wirth before striking her out swinging. Eph lead-off batter Alison Michalik flew out to left to end the threat.
Carrie Copacino led off the bottom of the frame for Tufts by beating out a bunt between the circle and third base. Bri Keenan looped a liner toward center that was misplayed. Christina Raso sacrificed the runners to second and third with a bunt. Cooprider then lashed a grounder toward the shortstop hole that Michalik dove for and knocked down but had no play. Sarah Hedtler then ripped a grounder up the middle that Michalik dove for and stopped, but again did not have a play as Tufts took a 3-1 lead.
Tufts senior Jo Clair turned the game around when she blasted a three-run homer to left-center, her 18th of the season, to make it 6-1. Carrie Ruscz then got just enough of a Harrington offering to clear the fence straight down the left-field line. Gracie Marshall then smacked a scorching liner to center that cleared the leap of Graebner and the fence for the Jumbos third straight homer and an 8-1 lead.
Emalie Rott replaced Harrington in the circle and walked Chrissie Massrey. Kayla Holland had a pinch-hit double and Bri Keenan made it 9-1 with an RBI-grounder to second.
Tufts ended the game in its half of the frame when Cooprider led off with a single and took second on a groundout. Cooprider stole third as Clair was intentionally walked. Rucsz was also given a free pass to load the bases, but Marshall made it academic by hitting a ball deep enough to center for a game-ending sacrifice fly. The game was ended due to the eight-run mercy rule.
Fournier improved to 19-0 with the win, giving up six hits and two runs, both earned, while walking one and striking out three. It was the first time in 2014 she allowed more hits than innings pitched.
Clair was 3 for 3 with 3 RBI and a run scored. Cooprider was 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. Marshall was 2 for 2 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored and Ruscz was 2 for 3 with an RBI and run scored.
For Williams, Frank was 2 for 2 and Pino 2 for 3. Harrington took the loss, falling to 12-6 on the season.
Tufts receives the NESCAC automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Williams will await word of an at-large berth. The softball selection show is at 10 a.m. Monday on NCAA.com.