WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Margo Beck is saving her best for last.
The Williams College senior right fielder/catcher lined a tie-breaking single to left in the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday, helping the Williams College softball team to a 3-1 win over rival Amherst in the championship game of the NCAA Div. III Tournament Williamstown Regional. The Ephs won an NCAA Regional for the second consecutive year, and tied the school record for single-season victories with their 38th.
Williams (38-6) advances to the Super Regionals against either M.I.T or Tufts, who will play Monday at 11 a.m. and, if necessary, one more game following that contest. Amherst saw its season conclude with a 29-8 record. It was the second year in a row the Mammoths ended their season with a loss to Williams in the postseason.
The Ephs have won 17 games in a row.
Williams trailed Amherst 1-0 Sunday thanks to a solo home run in the fourth inning by Mammoth freshman RonnieMarie Falasco and senior hurler Gina Pagan, who held the Ephs scoreless through four. As she is want to do, Eph senior Lexi Curt got things started in the Williams fifth when she lined a one-out double to left-center field. Mackenzie Murphy then rifled a single through the left side to put runners on the corners. Kirstin Mapes followed by looping a single into left just past the shortstop to score pinch-runner Jill Jenkin and tie the game, 1-1.
After Rebecca Duncan was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Beck strode to the plate. The senior from Plano, Texas, has a knack for coming up large in the postseason and has put together her healthiest and best year at Williams in 2018, setting career highs in hits, doubles, triples, home runs, runs, RBI, total bases, extra-base hits and walks. She took a pitch in the dirt from Pagan, then drilled a 1-0 fastball on the inside part of the plate in left to score Murphy. The ball was bobbled in left, and pinch-runner Kristina Alvarado came across to score as well for a 3-1 lead.
That left it up to Duncan, who had taken over for Murphy in the circle at the start of the fifth after the former had allowed just a run over four frames. She retired the Mammoths 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. Amherst, though, attempted put together a rally of its own in the seventh. With one out, pinch-hitter Annie Murphy was hit by a pitch. Allyson Plaman then ripped a grounder into right. Duncan struck out Julia Turner for the second out, but Ally Kido lined a single to right to load the bases.
That left it up to the speedy Andrea Sanders. She grounded a ball back up the middle that made it past Duncan, but Eph second baseman Brenna Martinez snagged the ball in front of second base and reached back to tap the bag before the runner from first could, ending the game.
Duncan improved to 17-3 on the season, breaking the school record for wins in a single season set by herself last year, Murphy in 2016, Emma Harrington in 2015, Clara Hard in 2005 and Katherine Baldwin in 2001. She allowed three hits over three innings, did not walk a batter and struck out four. Murphy pitched the first four frames, allowing three hits and one run. She did not walk a batter and fanned one. Pagan (12-6) took the loss for Amherst, allowing eight hits and three runs over six innings. She walked one and struck out one.
Plaman had three of the Mammoths six hits. Curt was 2 for 4 for the Ephs. Curt was named the Regional's Most Outstanding Player. The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Beck, Murphy and Duncan from Williams; Katie Kopatic, Sanders and Falasco of Amherst, Aimee Kirstner and Mallory Donelan of Western New England and Madelyn Fowler from Husson.