OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Kris Herman has been a head coach at the collegiate level for 30 years, but Friday her Williams College softball team did something no other team she's coached had done -- they won a game at the championship round of the NCAA Tournament.
Margo Beck and Brenna Martinez were each 2 for 4 with 2 RBI as Williams built a 6-0 lead on St. Catherine before holding on for a 6-5 win on Integris Field at the USA Hall of Fame Softball Complex. Almost unbelievably, NESCAC West Division rival Amherst awaits in another elimination game, scheduled for Saturday at 4:30 P.M. EST.
"One of the first things I said to the kids was hats off to them, I give them a lot of credit," Ephs' head coach Kris Herman said. "One of the things I'm really proud of from a coaching perspective is how I've been able to help empower all these kids to be leaders and really take the reins and be leaders on their own, which I think they've done a tremendous job of. It's fulfilling for me and it's awesome for them.
"Winning itself is also great, so we're super thrilled. And it's on the backs of all those other players, even though it was a long time ago. Those alums stay with us -- I know they're all watching today -- and I think our current team really appreciates that."
Williams improved to 37-12 overall, while the Wildcats saw their season end at 38-13.
On Friday, the Ephs found themselves without a hit for the first two innings -- extending their hitless string to nine innings at the championship -- but first-year Riley Salvo ended that by leading off the third on a line drive single to center on a 3-2 pitch. Kristina Alvarado sacrificed pinch-runner Ashley Wirth to second before Jessica Kim ripped a pitch to deep left that missed leaving the yard by about two feet, instead clanging off the top of the left-field fence for a double that scored Wirth for a 1-0 lead.
Kim scampered to third on a passed ball before Lexi Curt drew a walk. Mackenzie Murphy lofted a fly ball to right that easily scored the speedy Kim for a 2-0 lead. Alertly, Curt moved to second on the throw to the plate. Rebecca Duncan then drew a walk. Beck, down 1-2 in the count, worked her way back to 3-2 before launching a deep fly ball that one-hopped the center field fence and scored both runners for a 4-0 lead.
Ephs starter Murphy retired 10 straight batters from the bottom of the first through the bottom of the fourth. Her teammates got two very important insurance runs in the fifth. Murphy got things started with a one-out single to left and Duncan followed with another single. Beck then grounded a ball to the third baseman wide of the bag, but Murphy beat the throw to the shortstop covering to load the bases. After a fly out, Martinez delivered in the clutch with a line drive single to center, scoring Murphy and Duncan for a 6-0 lead.
Murphy walked the lead-off batter in the sixth and went to 2-0 on the next batter when Herman took her out and brought in senior Brooke Bovier. With two outs and two runs in, Wildcat Sammie Galvez dropped a single to left to make it 6-3. Ashley Sis then roped a two-run double to the left-center field gap that made it 6-5. Herman brought in Duncan, who was able to snare Brittney Frenette's liner back to the circle and end the frame.
The first-year retired St. Catherine 1-2-3 in the seventh, all on groundouts, for her third save of the season.
The Ephs finished with nine hits. In addition to Beck and Martinez, Kim was 2 for 4 with an RBI and run scored. Duncan was 1 for 2 with two walks. Murphy improved to 13-4 with a strong five innings. She allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out two and was charged with one run.