March 18, 2010

Wheaton pushes win streak to 10, rallies late to down Fitchburg in opener

CAPE CORAL, FL- Sophomore Amanda Poplaski (North Reading, MA/North Reading) went 6-for-8 while scoring five runs in helping the Wheaton College softball team take two victories and extend its winning streak to 10 games on Thursday, its longest run since April 2003. The Lyons rallied past Fitchburg State College, 10-7 before downing the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 7-4 at Northwest Softball Complex during the final day of their spring break trip at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. The Blue and White will carry an 11-1 mark into the northern portion of its slate.

Poplaski was 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI against Fitchburg State, junior Rachel Merrick (Methuen, MA/Central Catholic) added a pair of hits, and classmate Nicole DeRosa (Greenwich, CT/Greenwich Academy) launched a tie-breaking three-run home run during an eight-run sixth inning. Freshman Megan Roy (North Dighton, MA/Dighton-Rehoboth Regional) walked twice, and junior Marissa Hobocan (Shelton, CT/Saint Joseph) dropped down three sacrifice bunts, becoming just the second Lyon with that many during the past 16 years while coming within one of the school record.

Sophomore Lesley Warn (Portland, ME/Deering) earned the win in relief, coming on with the Lyons trailing 6-0 in the third inning. She yielded just one unearned run on two hits during five frames, striking out six and walking one. Run-scoring hits by junior Katy Salka (Ayer, MA/Ayer) and sophomore Valerie Tratner (Forest Hills, NY/Saint Francis Prep) made it 6-2 by the top of the fourth inning, but the Falcons plated an unearned run in the home half to extend their lead to 7-2.

Wheaton came all the way from behind and into the lead with eight runs on four hits, four walks and two errors in the sixth. Freshman Renee Laflam (Concord, NH/Concord) plated the first run before another came home on a miscue, and Poplaski's two-run single made it 7-6. Later in the inning, following a close play at first that moved Poplaski to third, she dashed home on a heads-up base-running play that knotted the game before DeRosa blasted the next pitch to center field to give the Lyons a 10-7 edge.

Senior Bethany Stone (Wells, ME/Wells) took the loss for Fitchburg State, yielding four hits and three runs - all unearned - with two walks in 1.2 frames of relief.

During the second game, Wheaton led 3-0 after two innings and 7-1 heading into the seventh before holding off Richard Stockton. Warn moved to 10-1 on the spring trip, pitching her eighth complete game while yielding two earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Poplaski turned in a 3-for-4 effort with three runs, Salka was 2-for-2 with two RBI, and Merrick had a pair of hits. DeRosa walked twice, and Hobocan dropped down two more sacrifices.

The Lyons took advantage of six errors and six walks, as freshman Heather Corica (Iselin, NJ/JFK) was the losing pitcher, allowing all seven runs, but just three earned, while fanning three.

Salka's sac fly put Wheaton on top in the bottom of the first before she and Hobocan added RBI singles in the second. A DeRosa run-scoring grounder made it 4-0 in the fourth before Richard Stockton converted a wind-blown leadoff single into a run in the fifth, but the Lyons tallied three runs thanks to two errors on the same two-out play in the sixth. Down 7-1, the Ospreys scored three runs on three hits and two errors in the seventh before Warn retired three straight batters representing the tying run, striking out two.

The Lyons return north and head to the United States Coast Guard Academy on Sunday for a 12:00 p.m. doubleheader, their first New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) contests of the spring. The Bears won last year's NEWMAC regular season title before qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and are ranked 19th nationally this week.

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