ITHACA, N.Y. -- Williams junior Rebecca Duncan fired a called third strike past Ithaca lead-off batter Nikkey Skuraton with two outs and the tying run on second base Satuday as the Williams College softball team edged the Bombers, 4-3, to sweep the best-of-three NCAA Div. III Tournament Super Regional and advance to the eight-team national championship round for the fourth time in program history.
Williams (38-5) will travel to Tyler, Texas Tuesday in preparation for the start of the double-elimination tournament which runs Thursday through Tuesday. Ithaca concludes its season with a 28-9-1 record.
Duncan was named the Super Regional's Most Outstanding Pitcher and Williams senior Mackenzie Murphy was chosen as the Most Outstanding Player.
"We're happy to come away with the win," Ephs' head coach Kris Herman said. "Ithaca is super team obviously, scrappy. They manufactured some runs and got some hits. Both games I was really, really impresed. It was a great couple of games."
In Saturday's Game 2, the Ephs rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, scoring twice in the third and twice in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead, then held on for the one-run victory, their third straight. The Ephs are 5-0 in NCAA play to date and have won 27 of their last 28 games.
"It's been something we've been working toward since we went two years ago," Murphy said. "Last year when we lost in supers, that hit us hard. So we've just been working so hard, not just us, I think everyone on this team wants it so bad. I know everyone has checked in and is going for it. We don't have doubts right now. We're confident and we know what we can do and if we just go out like we've been doing, we feel invincible."
Ithaca scored twice in the top of the first Saturday after being blanked by Duncan Friday in Game 1, a 1-0 Williams win. But as is her want, Murphy got stronger as the game continued. After a lead-off single in the second, she retired 10 of the next 11 batters and 13 of the final 15 she faced. Ithaca starter Haley Congdon retired the first six batters she faced, but Eph junior Riley Salvo broke the ice with a lead-off single in the third. With two outs and Jenny Hickey on first base via a force out, Kristina Alvarado crew a walk.
Senior Jessica Kim changed the game when she belted a 3-2 pitch from Congdon into the left-center field gap. The ball shot all the way to the fence, which allowed Hickey to score and Alvarado to score all the way from first to tie the game, 2-2. In the Williams fourth, first-year Maura Kipnis belted a lead-off single. That brought up Murphy, who connected with a Congdon pitch and drove it to left-center. The ball carried all the way to the fence, clanging off the top for a double that put runners on second and third with no outs.
Junior Kirstin Mapes bounced a grounder to first that was good enough to score Kipnis with the go-ahead run. Senior Casey Pelz followed with a seeing-eye single back up the middle that snuck into center field for a 4-2 lead.
Murphy retired the first batter of the fifth before Annie Cooney, the near-heroine of game one, lined a solo homer to left to cut the lead to 4-3. Murphy retired the next two batters and Duncan came out for the top of the sixth. She allowed a lead-off single to Vanessa Brown, who was quickly sacrificed to second. But Duncan induced a pop up that she took herself, and then a soft liner to Murphy, now at first base, to get out of the inning.
In the Ithaca seventh, Shannon Gage drew a lead-off walk and was sacrificed to second. Duncan retired Cooney on a shallow fly ball to center for out number two and that brought up Nikkey Skuraton, who had both Bomber hits in Duncan's two-hit shutout Friday. The Ephs' righty went right after her, getting ahead quickly and throwing a 1-2 pitch that went for the called strike that ended the contest.
The Ephs had six hits in the win. Kim was 2 for 3 with two RBI and a double. Pelz was 1 for 2 with a single and a walk. Murphy picked up the win, allowing three runs on three hits while walking two and striking out two. She improved to 12-3 on the year and the win was the 58th in her career at Williams, extending her all-time wins record. Duncan earned her first save of the season, allowing one hit and one walk over the final two frames while fanning one batter.
NOTES: Alvarado appeared in her 44th NCAA Tournament game as an Eph. A two-sport athlete, Alvarado has played 22 NCAA games for the women's soccer team and 22 for the softball team. She has made NCAA Tournament appearances in all eight season (4 soccer, 4 softball) while at Williams, and won three national championships (soccer). This championship round appearance in Texas will make her 5th appearance in a NCAA championship event (Final 4 - soccer, 3; Championship Round of 8, softball, 2). Murphy's double in the fourth was her 202nd hit, giving her 2nd place all-time at the school behind only Joey Lye (211).