Wheaton eliminated from NEWMAC Tournament, falls to Clark, 5-4

Wheaton eliminated from NEWMAC Tournament, falls to Clark, 5-4

NEW LONDON, Conn. - The fifth-seeded Wheaton College softball team had the tying run on third base in the bottom half of the seventh but was unable to force extra innings during a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament elimination game on Friday, as the Lyons dropped a 5-4 decision to sixth seed Clark University at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Falling to 19-18 overall, Wheaton finishes out its season next week with a pair of non-conference doubleheaders, beginning with Thursday's home twinbill against Framingham State University at 3:30 p.m.  Clark, which is now 16-16, advances to today's late game to play third-seeded Wellesley College.

Freshman Jenna Rocha (Dighton, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth Regional) went 3-for-4 with one run, an RBI and a double to pace the Lyons, while junior Amanda Poplaski (North Reading, Mass./North Reading) was 3-for-4.  Senior Katy Salka (Ayer, Mass./Ayer) had two hits while driving in a run and scoring once, and classmate Kristen Hunt (Milford, Conn./Jonathan Law) plated two with a homer.  Freshman Allison Baker (Orange, Conn./Amity Regional) yielded five earned runs on 11 hits while fanning 10 and walking four in the loss.

For Clark, junior Erin Murphy (Boxboro, Mass./Acton-Boxboro Regional) was 3-for-4 with two RBI, while sophomore Mel Melkonian (Worcester, Mass./Saint Peter-Marian) had three hits with a run and an RBI.  Five other Clark players notched one hit apiece.  Senior Sarah Carter (Worcester, Mass./Saint Peter-Marian) earned the win, yielding two earned runs with seven strikeouts and one walk.

After Clark took an early 1-0 edge in the top of the first, Hunt took full advantage of a Cougar defensive miscue in the home half of the inning, as she delivered a two-run homer over the right center field fence for a 2-1 Lyon lead.  Salka's two-out ground ball in the previous at-bat should have ended the frame, but she was instead awarded first base thanks to an infield error.

The Cougars rallied for three two-out runs in the second, stringing together back-to-back-to-back RBI singles to retake the lead for good.  Wheaton threatened in the third by placing runners on the corners with one out before coming up empty, as Rocha was caught stealing home before Poplaski was gunned down at second to end the frame.

The Lyons made the score 4-3 with a run on three hits in the fifth and was looking for more with the bases loaded and one out.  However, Carter induced a ground ball to short for the force at home before a comebacker to the pitcher thwarted the rally.  Clark pushed it back to a two-run margin with a run in the top of the sixth.

Wheaton went to work with two out in the seventh, when Rocha and Poplaski smacked back-to-back infield singles.  Salka plated Rocha with a single up the middle while advancing Poplaski to third.  However, Carter caught her final batter on strikes to end the game.