Strong pitching performances propel Wheaton past WPI, into postseason
NORTON, MA- The Wheaton College softball team swept Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), 1-0 and 5-1 on Friday at Clark Field to clinch a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament berth, as senior Andrea Bagley (Foxboro, MA/Foxboro) and sophomore Lesley Warn (Portland, ME/Deering) combined to allow one run over 14 innings.
Now 19-15 overall, the Lyons are 7-7 in the league thanks to a six-game NEWMAC winning streak, while the Engineers are 15-18 and 4-10 while being eliminated from league postseason contention.
Junior Kristen Hunt's (Milford, CT/Jonathan Law) solo homer leading off the third inning of the opener stood up as the only run of the game, as Warn struck out nine without walking a batter during a five-hit shutout. Junior Rachel Merrick (Methuen, MA/Central Catholic) finished 2-for-3 with a double.
Sophomore Allie Hardy (West Townsend, MA/Leominster) fanned five without a walk for WPI, allowing the one run on seven hits. Five different Engineers had one hit.
The Engineers put runners on second and third with no one out in the opening inning, but Warn held the runners on a tapper back to the circle before fanning the final two hitters. WPI then had a runner at third with one out the following frame, but Warn got the last two outs via strikeouts.
Hunt's fourth dinger of the season made it 1-0 in the third before the Lyons had three hits in the fifth but came away empty. In the sixth, Engineer senior Meg Foley (Belchertown, MA/Belchertown) led off with a single, but with one down, Lyon sophomore center fielder Amanda Poplaski (North Reading, MA/North Reading) sprinted in to make a running catch before doubling the runner off first.
With two on and two out in the home half, Hunt drilled a sinking line drive to center, but WPI senior Kelly Johnson (Buxton, ME/Bonny Eagle) made a sliding catch, trapping the ball against her body as she rolled along the ground. The play kept it 1-0, but the Engineers went 1-2-3 in the seventh.
In game two, junior Katy Salka (Ayer, MA/Ayer) was 4-for-4, Poplaski and freshman Brittany Calarese (Norwood, MA/Norwood) had two hits apiece, and classmate Amanda Drury (Tolland, CT/Tolland) snapped a scoreless tie with a two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning. Poplaski also swatted her first collegiate home run. After walking the leadoff hitter in the first, Warn retired the final nine batters she faced, including two on strikes, and Bagley earned the win in her final appearance on Clark Field with four frames of two-hit ball. She struck out six.
For WPI, freshman Erin Beaulieu (Bethany, CT/Amity) went 2-for-3, picking up both of her team's hits, and sophomore Erin Flaherty (Stoughton, MA/Stoughton) allowed three earned runs on 11 hits during six innings, striking out six and walking two.
Drury's two-RBI two-bagger to the right field gap put Wheaton ahead for good in the fourth inning before a WPI miscue made it 3-0, and Bagley and Warn combined on a no-hitter until Beaulieu's clean single through the left side leading off the fifth. Merrick's RBI single in the fifth put the hosts on top by four and, after the Engineers scored their only run of the day on a two-out wild pitch in the sixth, Poplaski countered in the home half with a drive that cleared the fence in right center. After yielding another hit to Beaulieu leading off the seventh, Bagley retired the final three batters, with the last two being set down on strikes.
The Lyons compete their regular season slate tomorrow at Clark University for a NEWMAC doubleheader that begins at 12:00 p.m. A sweep would propel Wheaton into fifth place in the league.