Shaw, Warner lead softballers to 5-1 week and top of West

The Jeffs currently sit on top of the NESCAC standings thanks to a 5-1 week that saw Amherst split a doubleheader with Wesleyan University, sweep Hamilton College and beat Wellesley College and Clark University in non-conference contests. Amherst (11-7-1, 3-1 NESCAC) is the only team in the West with four conference games under its belt, while Middlebury and Williams Colleges split their doubleheader. The Jeffs need to take one or two games from both the Panthers and the Ephs in order to advance to the playoffs. Even though the Jeffs have not beaten either team in the past two seasons, in 2005 it appears that they have the personnel to surmount the obstacle these opponents pose. In order to do so, however, the Jeffs must eliminate the one or two bad innings that have plagued them in all of their losses.

“We’ve played games with six great innings and one bad one, and that bad one has cost us the game,” said senior co-captain outfielder Kathryn Honderd. “We can’t do that against teams like Middlebury and Williams. The key is going to be keeping up our intensity and focus for all seven innings.”

Amherst managed to escape costly innings for most of the week-the Jeffs halted a four-game skid handily on Thursday versus Wellesley, handing the Blue (11-6) a 1-0 loss. Samantha Miller ’08 and Hilary Little ’07 combined to pitch a three-hit shutout for Amherst.

The Jeff offense was not exactly potent, but five players scattered six hits off Wellesley’s Allie Fox. The Jeffs broke a 0-0 deadlock in the top of the sixth thanks to some run production by the infield. Third baseman Caroline Polales ’07 led off with a double, moved to third on first baseman Laura Trigeiro ’06’s sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI single by second baseman Ralina Shaw ’08E.

The win against Wellesley gave Amherst confidence going into its conference slate on Saturday against Wesleyan. The first five innings looked much like the Wellesley contest, as both team’s pitchers held shutouts going into the bottom of the sixth inning. Jeff ace Miya Warner ’06 gave up just two hits in the first six innings, while Cardinal Molly Gaebe was looking at a no-hitter.

In the bottom of the sixth, however, Polales almost single-handedly put the Jeffs on the board, stealing second and advancing to third and then taking home on errors. Trigeiro, who got on base via an error, scored on a wild pitch to put the Jeffs up 2-0 going into the final frame.

Unfortunately for Amherst, Wesleyan showed some gumption in the seventh, tying the game with two runs on four hits, an example of the bad-luck innings that prove so costly later in the season. Amherst went down one-two-three in the seventh to send the game into extra innings. Warner regained her form in the eighth, however, retiring the side on two groundouts and a strikeout, and the Jeff bats woke up just in time to secure the victory.

Shortstop Annalise Rodli ’07 began the bottom of the eighth with a double, and Polales’ second hit of the contest advanced Rodli to third. With runners on second and third and no outs, Trigeiro came through in a big way for Amherst in the form of a line drive double to left-center field that gave the Jeffs the 4-2 win.

In the second game of the day a few bad plays did cost Amherst the game. Amherst fell 2-1 as Wesleyan’s Karla Hargrave tossed a three-hitter. Outfielder Rachel Hoerger ’06 ended Hargrave’s bid for the no-no with a sixth-inning single. Catcher Elizabeth Neckes ’08 also had a single for Amherst, while Little drove in the Jeffs’ only run with an RBI triple in a seventh-inning rally that put Amherst within one run of Wesleyan. Unfortunately, the Cardinal second baseman snagged a hard line drive by Hoerger that would have tied up the game, ending Amherst’s rally and the contest.

The next day, the Jeffs came out with their bats afire. “After struggling with our bats on Saturday, we came out on Sunday and scored 14 runs in two games [against Hamilton],” said Honderd. “That was awesome!” Indeed, the Jeffs trounced the visiting Continentals 8-0 in the first game, a five-inning affair that ended early thanks to the mercy rule. The final two runs came courtesy of a massive, over-the-fence home run by Shaw that plated outfielder Kelly King ’08. Six Jeffs hit safely, but Shaw was the standout, going 3-3 with four RBIs. Warner gave up only two hits while striking out six and earning the win.

Game two continued in much the same manner, with the Jeffs jumping on top early. Amherst scored three runs on five hits in the first inning and didn’t look back, winning 6-1. Miller, who earned her first collegiate win, gave up just two hits and one unearned run in the first three innings of work, while Little earned the save with four scoreless innings. “They’ve been pitching really well,” said Hoerger, “and more importantly, the defense has been holding it together behind them. Turning two double plays against Hamilton is a phenomenal example of how our defense came together on Sunday.”

Honderd and Trigeiro had two hits apiece for the Jeffs; Honderd also added two RBIs while Trigeiro scored twice and drove in one run. Hoerger said that the Hamilton pitching was weaker than Wesleyan’s but added, “besides the fact that we had more hits in total, we strung our hits together so that we could actually produce something out of them.”

Yesterday, Amherst shut out Clark University, 6-0. Warner threw a two-hitter while Shaw hit her second home run in as many games. Warner’s record stands at 8-2 with a 0.61 ERA while Shaw leads the team in batting with a .345 average.

Amherst hosts Westfield State College this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and Brandeis University on Saturday. The Jeffs resume NESCAC play on April 23 at Middlebury.