WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Williams College earned its first NESCAC Tournament title since 2006 Sunday via an 8-3 win over four-time defending NESCAC champion Tufts on Cole Field.
The Jumbos forced a winner-take-all seventh game by using an 11-run first inning to defeat Williams 13-6, in game six earlier Sunday.
Williams improved to 32-9 with the championship game victory while Tufts is now 28-10. The Ephs earned an automatic berth in the 2016 NCAA Div. III Tournament and will find out Monday if they will host a regional.
"It feels awesome to get a trophy," Herman said. "I'm really proud of this team and I have been all along. We're very much into our process, taking one at-bat at a time, and I think that served us well today."
Tufts and Williams faced one another three times in this weekend's tournament, with Williams winning 17-4 on Saturday, losing 13-6 Sunday and then winning 8-3. That's a 31-20 aggregate score over three contests in favor of the Ephs.
The Ephs set NESCAC Tournament records for runs scored by a team (41) and in a single game (17).
But it was Tufts which took an early 2-0 lead in the seventh game showdown. Junior Cassie Ruscz cracked a long two-run home run in the top of the first inning, her second home run of the day. Ruscz set tournament records for home runs (4) and RBI (12).
The Ephs answered back quickly when sophomore Lexi Curt hit a two-run homer off Tufts starter Erica County in the bottom of the first. Jessica Kim, who had singled, scored ahead of her Curt. The home run was Curt's sixth of the season, tying her for the team lead.
In the bottom of the second, another sophomore, second sacker Brenna Martinez, also went opposite field with a home run to give the Ephs a lead they would not relinquish. The Ephs added a second run in the inning when Melissa Cendejas singled, advanced to third on two groundouts and scored on Kim's liner to center with two down.
The Ephs kept the pressure on in the fourth as a walk, a hit batsman and another Cendejas single loaded the bases with one out. Tayler Donze scored pinch-runner Jill Jenkin with a sacrifice fly, and senior Erica Li, the Ephs lead-off hitter, launched the first pitch she saw from Jumbos' reliever Raina Galbiati well over the fence in right-center for a three-run homer and an 8-2 Williams lead.
Williams first-year Mackenzie Murphy bounced back from the Rucsz homer in the first to keep Tufts off the board for five consecutive innings. The Jumbos added a late run in the top of the seventh, but Murphy got Galbiati to ground to short to end the game and give Williams the title.
Murphy improved to 14-3 on the season by going the full seven innings and allowing 12 hits and three runs, all earned, while walking one and striking out two. County (18-5) took the loss for Tufts, going 2 1/3 innings and allowing six hits and five runs, all earned, while walking two and striking out none
Both teams had 12 hits in the game. Raven Fournier was 3 for 3 with an RBI for Tufts, while Ruscz was 2 for 4 with two RBI. Samantha Siciliano was 3 for 4.
For Williams, Cendejas was 2 for 3 with two runs scored. Kim, Curt and Murphy were all 2 for 4.
For Williams it is its fourth NESCAC championship overall. For Herman, it is her seventh, the first three with Tufts and now four with Williams.
In game six, Tufts scored 11 runs in the first inning, sending 15 batters to the plate. After Samantha Siciliano led off with a single and Christian Cain walked, Galbiati singled home the first run. Another walk loaded the bases and Summer Horowitz was hit by a pitch making it 2-0. Williams recorded the first out, but Christina Raso followed with a run-scoring single and it was 3-0.
Maggie Hoffman's RBI-single put Tufts up 4-0 before the Ephs made the second out of the inning. However, the Jumbos would score seven more times including an RBI-single by Siciliano, run-scoring walks to Cain and Galbiati, and then a grand slam by Ruscz.
Tufts would add to the lead with a single run in the third as Horowitz again was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to put Tufts ahead 12-0.
From there, Galbiati - Tufts' starting pitcher - just had to prevent a big inning. After holding the Ephs scoreless in the first and second though, Williams rallied for five in the third. Murphy hit a two-run single and Kacey Cramer smacked a three-run homer pulling the hosts within 12-5.
Galbiati kept Williams off the scoreboard in the fourth and fifth, though the Ephs left the bases loaded in the fourth. Williams pulled within 12-6 in the bottom of the sixth with Murphy again producing an RBI base hit.
The Jumbos scored their 13th run with a bases-loaded walk to Ruscz in the seventh. Galbiati retired Williams 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to force a final game.
Tufts had nine hits and walked nine times in the game. Ruscz finished 2 for 3 with five rbis and two runs. Siciliano was 2 for 4 with three runs and an rbi at the top of the order. Cain, Galbiati, and Carrie Copacino all scored twice. Galbiati went the distance allowing 13 hits and six runs in seven innings for her 10th win.
Williams ended up out-hitting Tufts with 13. Li was 3 for 4 with a run, while Murphy, Curt, and Cendejas all had two hits. Brooke Bovier took the pitching loss.
Herman made a point of saying after the title game the Bovier's ability to pitch the entire game and stem the tide of Tufts run after the first was a critical point in the Ephs' winning the championship, as was the Ephs' ability to score enough run to force Galbiati to pitch seven innings instead of five.
"Scoring those runs, we felt it gave us momentum heading into the second game," Li said. "We took all the positives — hitting the ball, scoring runs, making some great plays — into the second game."