WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Strong pitching backed by timely hitting and some great defense is a combination that's hard to beat on the diamond.
It's the formula the Williams College softball team used to sweep a much improved Hamilton squad Saturday at Cole Field, taking the first game 4-3 in eight innings and winning the nightcap, 4-2. The Ephs took all three games of the hard-fought series with the Continentals, with Saturday's sweep pushing their record to 15-4 overall and 3-0 in the NESCAC West. Hamilton slipped to 14-5 overall and 0-3 in the West.
"It was a great weekend," Ephs' head coach Kris Herman said. "Our aim is to win. I thought all of our pitchers did a great job, we had some timely hitting from the usual and not-so-usual suspects, and we played great defense. Hamilton is a much improved team and they made us earn everything. And we received contributions from everyone, it was a real team effort."
In the nightcap, the Ephs answered with three runs in the bottom of the third after Hamilton had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning when Emily Fraser looped an RBI-single into right field off the tip of Eph second baseman Jenny Hickey's glove. Eph senior Jessica Kim started the inning by reaching on an error. She was forced out by a Mara Kipnis grounder. Mackenzie Murphy drove a line-drive double to center field to put Ephs at second and third with one out. Kirstin Mapes tied the game with a grounder to second that scored Kipnis. That brought up junior Riley Salvo, who connected for an opposite-field blast to right that cleared the fence for a two-run home run and a 3-1 lead.
Hamilton nearly tied the game in the fifth. Victoria Dunn led off with a triple to right. A walk put runners on the corners for Fraser, who executed a safety squeeze that scored Dunn to make it 3-2. After a pop up to second, Helen Lin hit a soft line drive between first and second that squibbed its way past Murphy at first and found its way to Hickey. With first base uncovered, it appeared Lin would extend the inning, but Hickey raced to the bag and dove for it with her glove extended as Lin slid into the bag from the baseline. Hickey won the race by a fraction of a second for the third out.
In the Hamilton sixth, Liz Brautigam led off with a single to right. Jodi Weiss laid down a beautiful bunt up the first base line that led to Mapes from the circle, Murphy from first and Salvo from her catching spot converging upon the ball at the same time. Salvo picked up the ball and fired a pea to first that Hickey, covering the bag, caught just ahead of the runner. On the play, Brautigam rounded second and headed for third, which was uncovered as Pelz had also charged in for the bunt. But Hickey fired a throw to the bag as an alert Jill Jenkin came racing in from left field to cover it. Jenkin caught the throw and dropped a tag on the runner for a double play.
The Ephs picked up a big insurance run in their half of the sixth. With two outs and no one on, Kristina Alvarado lined a single to center and took second when the field bobbled the ball. Kim followed with a single that just eluded the Continental second baseman. Alvarado slid home just ahead of the throw for a 4-2 lead.
Hamilton threatened again in the seventh when Dunn singled and Ashleah Yzaguirre was hit by a Mapes offering. But the Eph right-hander remained composed and induced an infield pop up and a fly ball to centerfield to end the game. Mapes improved to 2-0 with a complete-game effort, allowing five hits and five walks over seven frames, but just two runs, one earned, while striking out one. She improved to 2-0 on the season.
Williams had seven hits in the win. Salvo was 2 for 3 with two RBI and a run scored. Murphy and Pelz were 1 for 2. Mapes was 1 for 3 with an RBI. Dunn was 2 for 3 with two runs scored for Hamilton. Morgan Hartranft took the loss for Hamilton, tossing six innings and allowing seven hits while walking three and striking out four. None of the four runs charged to her were earned.
It was Mapes' bat that made a big difference in the opener. The Ephs trailed 3-2 entering the bottom of the sixth when she connected with a Claire O'Brien pitch and drove it over the fence for a solo home run that tied things 3-all. Eph hurler Murphy retired 11 of the final 12 batters she faced in the game and nine in a row to keep the Continentals frozen at three runs. Her diligence paid off in the bottom of the eighth when, with two outs and nobody on, Mapes rocketed a shot through a wicked wind which was present for both games - going left to right mainly- high and deep and gone for a game-winning, walk-off home run to left field.
Murphy was the winner, tossing all eight innings and giving up eight hits and three runs while walking one and striking out four. The Ephs had only four hits in the win. Mapes was 3 for 4 with two RBI and three runs scored. Jenny Hickey had the other Eph hit, a double. Dunn and Fraser were each 2 for 4 for the Continentals, with Dunn scoring twice and Fraser notching two RBI. O'Brien took the loss, throwing 7 2/3 innings and allowing four hits and four runs, three earned, while walking three and striking out two.