NORTON, Mass. - The Wheaton College softball team split with visiting Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) during the Lyons' New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) regular season finale on Friday on Clark Field, winning 7-0 in the opener before dropping a 12-1 decision in five innings in the nightcap.
With the split, Wheaton can finish no worse than the fifth seed when next week's double-elimination NEWMAC Tournament begins. The Lyons are now 18-16 overall and 9-7 in the conference, while the Engineers snapped their nine-game losing streak to move to 15-16 and 3-11.
In the opener, the hosts plated all but one run on homers, including junior Amanda Poplaski's (North Reading, Mass./North Reading) sixth-inning grand slam that put the game out of reach. Senior Nicole DeRosa (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich Academy) launched a two-run blast in the fourth that made the score 3-0. Poplaski went 4-for-4 with the four RBI and two runs, DeRosa drove in the pair, while senior Katy Salka (Ayer, Mass./Ayer) had two hits. Freshman Allison Baker (Orange, Conn./Amity Regional) spun a four-hit shutout, fanning six while walking one to improve to 13-9.
Four different Engineers recorded hits, while junior Allie Hardy (West Townsend, Mass./Leominster) surrendered six earned runs on 11 hits with one strikeout and two walks in the loss.
The Lyons plated the only run they'd need in the first, as Poplaski singled through the right side with one down, stole second, advanced to third on Salka's base knock and scored on a groundout. Sophomore Megan Roy (North Dighton, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth Regional) led off the fourth with a single up the middle before being quickly plated on DeRosa's shot over the left field fence.
Wheaton had a golden opportunity to put more runs on the board in the fifth, loading the bases with one down, but a force out at the plate and a groundout to second ended the threat. A single, an error and a walk jammed the bags the following frame, and Poplaski took full advantage by sending her blast over the right field fence.
Game two was a different story altogether, as WPI's bats came alive with 15 hits compared to Wheaton's five. The Engineers scored a combined five runs in the first two frames to chase Baker before tacking on three runs in the fourth and an additional four in the fifth to eventually force the mercy rule.
Poplaski was Wheaton's lone multiple hitter, going 2-for-3, senior Marissa Hobocan (Shelton, Conn./Saint Joseph) posted the only RBI, while Baker gave up three earned runs on seven hits while fanning four in two innings. Senior Rachel Merrick (Methuen, Mass./Central Catholic) allowed seven runs and eight hits with two strikeouts and four walks in relief.
Freshman Nicole McDonough (Abington, Mass./Cardinal Spellman) went 3-for-3 with four runs for WPI, while sophomore Katherine Fitton (Lebanon, Conn./Lyman Memorial) had there hits, two runs and an RBI. Four Engineers recorded two hits, with sophomore Erin Beaulieu (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) plating five and freshman Lauren DiFelice (Acushnet, Mass./Bishop Stang) driving in two. Junior Erin Flaherty (Stoughton, Mass./Stoughton) earned the win, yielding five hits with two strikeouts and three walks.
With the conference bye tomorrow, Wheaton will learn its seeding and opponent for next week's conference tournament based on this weekend's results. The tourney gets underway on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.