WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Williams College first year pitcher Alejandra Magana has been forced out of the circle for more than three weeks by a couple of nagging injuries.
But when the Ephs needed her most, she was ready, and came through with flying colors, tossing a complete-game three-hitter in Game 5 of the NCAA Tournament Williamstown Regional Saturday afternoon as Williams eliminated Johnson & Wales by a 6-1 score.
With that win and a 9-0 win over Western Connecticut earlier Saturday in the first elimination game of the regional, the Eph set a new single-season record for victories with 34, topping the 32 wins earned by the 2015 and 2004 teams.
The Ephs (34-10) will face M.I.T. (30-11) in the first championship game of the regional Sunday at 12 P.M. Williams will need to defeat the Engineers twice Sunday in order to advance, while the Engineers need a single victory.
It was a long Saturday for Williams, which concluded its first game, which was suspended in the top of the first Friday with Johnson & Wales leading 3-0, stating at 9 a.m. The Wildcats produced a 9-0 victory, only the second time the Ephs have been shut out this season.
But Williams bounced back when it faced Western Connecticut in an elimination game later Saturday. Senior Erica Li went 4 for 4 at the top of the line-up, scoring three times, while sophomore Lexi Curt drove in three runs and first year Jessica Kim went 3 for 4.
With seven runs scored in the three games today, Li reached 50 for the season, a new single-season school record.
First year Murphy hurled six shutout innings at the Colonels, allowing four hits and not walking a batter while striking out five to improve to 15-3 on the season.
That set up a rematch with Johnson & Wales in the second and final elimination game of the day. Williams turned to Magana, who had not pitched in a game since April 20th. But she was up to the challenge, limiting the Wildcats to just three hits. The only blemish on her marker came in the bottom of the second when Diana Amendolara smacked a solo home run to left to give J&W a 1-0 lead.
But Magana's teammates answered right back, scoring twice in the top of the third to take a 2-1 lead. It broke up a string of nine straight shutout innings for Wildcat pitcher Jennifer Corona, who blanked the Ephs on two hits over five innings in the early-morning conclusion of the suspended game.
In the Williams third, Li ignited the rally with a single just past a diving Angelica Reyes and into right field. Kim followed with a grounder into the shortstop hole that went for an infield hit. Murphy followed with a single up the middle that scored Li. Curt then went back up the middle for an RBI-single that scored Kim for a 2-1 lead.
Williams picked up an important insurance run in the top of the fifth when Li doubled down the left-field line. With one out, Murphy won a tremendous battle with Corona, shooting a hard grounder into right field for an RBI-single.
It stayed 3-1 until the top fo the seventh as Magana kept the Wildcats off-balance with a mixture of pitches and received great defensive support from her teammates.
Williams put the game away in the seventh with three addditional runs. The Ephs finished with 10 hits, led by Murphy, who was 4 for 4 with 3 RBI in the win. Li was 2 for 3 with 3 runs scored from her lead-off spot, and Kim was 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
Kristen Solari was 2 for 3 for the Wildcats. Corona took the loss, giving up 10 hits and six runs over 6 2/3 innings while walking one and striking out two.