AMHERST, MA — The Comeback Kids struck again.
For the 14th time in 2018, the Williams College softball team authored a come-from-behind victory, and their dramatic seventh-inning rally - the sixth time they've posted a win in their final at-bat — netted the Ephs a third consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament championship and an automatic berth into the 2018 Div. III NCAA Tournament.
As always, it took nearly the entire roster to pull it off but the big blow came from senior tri-captain Lexi Curt, who launched a moonshot of a home run to left field with no outs in the top of the seventh to turn a 3-2 Eph deficit into a 5-3 lead. Rebecca Duncan shut the door in the Bowdoin half of the seventh to give the Ephs the sixth overall NESCAC title in program history. The 5-3 win over the Polar Bears was the Ephs' 14th straight victory and upped their record to 35-6 overall.
The NCAA Div. III Softball selection will be shown Monday at 1 p.m.
"Sixty feet. Next batter up. That's what we've been about all year," said Ephs' head coach Kris Herman when asked about her team's come-from-behind win. "We showed that's who we are again today."
The Ephs trailed Bowdoin 3-1 entering the top of the seventh. Casey Pelz ignited the rally by lining the first pitch she saw into the gap in right-center field for a lead-off double. Riley Salvo was next up and lined a 1-1 pitch into left to put runners on the corners. Jessica Kim got ahead 3-1 before grounding a ball back up the middle for an RBI-single that made it 3-2. Up stepped Curt, the all-time leader in homers and RBI at Williams. She took ball one, looked at strike one and then swung and missed to fall behind 1-2. On the next pitch, she drove a ball straight over the left-field fence for a 5-3 lead and the 36th home run in her Williams career, setting a single-season RBI (45) record in the process.
"There were no outs," Curt said. "I knew we had a slew of great hitters coming up behind me, and once that sunk in the pressure just fell off."
Duncan induced the first batter of the bottom of the seventh to ground out to second sacker Brenna Martinez. Bowdoin's Maddie Rouhana - who had lined a two-run, opposite-field home run to right in the bottom of the fourth to give the Polar Bears a 3-0 lead - worked a walk after a 14-pitch at-bat. A shallow pop up caught by Kim was the second out and then Duncan induced Ali Miller to pop up to Martinez near the first base bag for the final out that secured the championship.
Duncan earned the win, going all seven frames and allowing just three hits while walking two and striking out six. She moved to 15-3 on the season. Bowdoin used three pitchers, trying to show the Eph batters a different look at different times late in the game. Samantha Roy went the first 4 1/3 innings and allowed five hits and one run without walking or striking out a batter. She came out two batters after allowing a long home run to left by Martinez leading off the Williams' fifth, a shot that banged off the scoreboard sitting 15 feet beyond the left-field fence.
Ruby Siltanen went the next inning and one-third, replaced by Kate Hoadley, who got the final out of the sixth inning, but ultimately took the loss after allowing four runs in the seventh.
Williams outhit Bowdoin 12-3. Kirstin Mapes was 3 for 4. Martinez was 2 for 3 with an RBI and run scored. Pelz was 2 for 3. Kim was 2 for 4. Rouhana was 2 for 2 with two RBI and a run scored for Bowdoin.
NOTES: Mackenzie Murphy made a great play to end the bottom of the fifth, sliding to snare a sinking foul ball off the bat of Lauren O'Shea near the Ephs dugout. Salvo had a nice play in left, racing back to the warning track to snare a long drive off the bat of Claire McCarthy in the fourth. Curt's 45 RBI this season surpass the single-season record of former Eph Tanya Nunez, who set that mark 25 years ago during the 1993 season.