Lyons strike for five home runs, have hit 11 in the past four games
NORTON, Mass. – The Wheaton College softball team, ranked No. 20 in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top-25 poll, claimed the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) regular season title with a doubleheader sweep of Springfield College on Saturday afternoon at Clark Field. The Lyons were victorious in both games by 9-1 scores.
Prior to today's doubleheader, seniors Emily Berardi (Boston, Mass./Boston Latin) and Noelle Christmas (Plymouth, Mass./Plymouth South) were honored for their contributions to the softball program over the past four seasons.
Today's doubleheader sweep marks the 15th time that the Lyons have captured the NEWMAC regular season title, dating back to 1988, and the first under head coach Rachael Powers '03 who took over the program in 2009.
Wheaton also pushed its conference record to 17-0 with the sweep this afternoon, which now ranks first all-time in program history for league wins in a single-season. The previous record was set in 2001 when the Lyons went 15-1, clinched the NEWMAC Championship and finished third in the NCAA Division III College World Series.
The Lyons also extended its winning streak to a program record 20 games with the pair of wins over Springfield today. Wheaton's 20-game winning streak began in the Lyons' final game in Florida – an 11-3 victory over Farmingdale State. This current run broke the previous mark of 18 games, which was completed over a stretch from March 17 – April 11, 1997. That season, the Blue and White finished with an overall record of 45-7 and earned a third place finish at the NCAA Division III College World Series.
Wheaton 9, Springfield 1 (Five Inn. – Game 1)
Berardi scattered three hits, allowed one run (unearned) and struck out two batters in a complete-game effort to earn her 12th win of the season (12-1).
Pride first-year Talia Loda (East Haven, Conn./East Haven) took the loss as she allowed seven runs (one earned), eight hits, and two walks alongside four punchouts through 3 2/3 innings pitched.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, sophomore Emily Bouthillette (Lincoln, R.I./Lincoln) roped her seventh home run of the season, which evened the score, 1-1, through two.
Wheaton came up to bat in the bottom of the next inning and promptly broke the game wide open with a pair of long balls. The Blue and White loaded the bases after Berardi lined a single up the middle, junior Erin Deneen (South Yarmouth, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury) worked a walk and sophomore Rebecca Seifert (Franklin, Mass./Franklin) reached base via a fielding error to set the table for junior Madeline Hatch (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxboro).
Hatch followed with her first career grand slam to give the Lyons a 5-1 advantage, while sophomore Caroline Fairbanks (Milford, Mass./Milford) launched a two-run shot two batters later to push the gap to 7-1. Fairbanks, who cranked two home runs in yesterday's doubleheader sweep over Smith College, shares a tie for first in the NEWMAC with Bouthillette with eight home runs this season.
After a 1-2-3 top of the fifth inning, Berardi helped her own cause with a line drive home run to deep center field that pushed the lead to seven runs, 8-1. Hatch then registered her fifth RBI of the game on a walk-off single to right field that scored Deneen from second and sealed game one win, 9-1, via the mercy rule.
Wheaton 9, Springfield 1 (Five Inn. – Game 2)
Christmas allowed one run (earned), three hits, zero walks and struck out two batters to remain undefeated with her sixth win of the season (6-1).
Loda shouldered the loss in the back end of the doubleheader as she allowed five runs (two earned), three hits, and one walk through 1/3 of an inning in the circle.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Springfield got on the scoreboard first, much like game one, as junior Jenna Webb (Harrison, N.Y./Harrison) roped a single up the middle with two outs in the frame. Webb then came around to score later in the inning on single to right field by first-year Mackenzie Navarro (Taunton, Mass./Taunton) that gave the Pride an early 2-0 lead at the end 1/2 inning of play.
Wheaton answered with a five-spot in the bottom half of the same frame to take a 5-2 advantage.
Hatch reached on a fielder's choice, Bouthillette singled to third base and Fairbanks followed suit with a home run over the left field fence to put the Lyons on the board, 3-1. After a pitching change, sophomore Morgan Walsh (Norwell, Mass./Norwell) crossed the plate on a fielding error, while classmate Katelyn Andrade (Seekonk, Mass./Seekonk) scored the Lyons' fifth tally on an infield single to the shortstop by Mary DeMoura (Boston, Mass./Boston-Latin).
After 1-2-3 frames by both pitchers through the top of the fourth inning, the Wheaton offense struck again, this time for two more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Hart singled up the middle to drive in Seifert and Bouthillette roped a single through the left side of the infield that brought home junior Emma Hart (Lincoln, R.I./Lincoln) to extend the Blue and White's advantage to 7-1.
In the fifth, Welch and Deneen produced back-to-back RBI doubles to walk-off with another 9-1 victory over the Pride.
Fairbanks went 3-for-6 with two home runs, while Hatch was 3-for-5 with a solo shot at the plate this afternoon as both drove in five runs to continue Wheaton's offensive hot streak. The Lyons will enter next week's games hitting .410/.450/.637 (.avg/.obp/.slg).
Wheaton (26-3, 17-0 NEWMAC) travels to Rhode Island College for a non-conference doubleheader on Tuesday with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. Springfield (16-17, 11-7 NEWMAC) heads home to take on Westfield State in a non-conference twin bill the same day at 3:30 p.m.