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Softball splits doubleheader with Wellesley to finish regular season; postseason birth hinges on NCAA selection committee

By zaronow

Section: Sports

May 2, 2008


Brandeis Judges softball capped off a magnificent season, splitting a double header against Wellesley. The Judges dropped the first game 2-0 and then rallied from a three run deficit to claim the 5-3 victory, a fitting capstone to what has been, if nothing else, a very charmed squad.

Game One was a pitcher’s duel as Natalie Volpe ’08 locked horns with Wellesley’s Jenna Harvey. Unfortunately, Brandeis could only muster two hits as Harvey mowed through the Judges, striking out 13 batters along the way. Wellesley got the run they needed in the first thanks to a home run by left fielder Megan Wood. The Blue added an insurance run in the sixth. Opportunities were few for the Judges — in the third inning Melissa Cagar ’11 reached second on a double but was left stranded as Harvey proceeded to strike out Erin Ross ’10 to end the threat. The Judges threatened again in the fifth inning as two walks brought the potential winning run – Cagar — to the plate, but Harvey coaxed a harmless pop up from the rookie to end the threat and Brandeis’s hopes.

“She’s a good pitcher, we know she has her weaknesses, and unfortunately, we didn’t string the hits that we had together” Coach Jessica Johnson explained. “She shut us down pretty well and we can expert her to bring her ‘A’ game. and she did.”

Volpe was no slouch from the mound, delivering eight strikeouts in a complete game. The loss ends Volpe’s final regular season at 10-2. Harvey’s win moves her to 16-3. Also picking up a hit for Brandeis was fellow rookie Danielle Lavallee ’11. It was Brandeis’s second loss at home this year.

Game Two looked to be even worse for the Judges as Wellesley’s catcher made Brandeis pitcher Kaitlin Streilein ’08 pay for two walks with a three run homer to give the Blue a 3-0 lead. That was all they would get, though, as Streilein settled down and surrendered no more runs, opening the door for a Judges’ comeback. It began with Brandeis loading the bases with no outs and getting sacrifice flies from Lavallee and Ross to cut the deficit to one. From there, Wellesley hurler Beej Grundlock held the Judges in check until the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and no one out, Volpe got the tying and game winning runs across thanks to a Bill Buckner-like error from the Wellesley shortstop. Chelsea Korp ’10 singled in the insurance run, and Streilein worked through a one out single to earn her 18th win of her final season.

Coach Johnson credited the comeback to the team adjusting their plate approach mid-game. “They adjusted and realized that the first pitch was pretty much a strike so let’s get on it, put a good swing, and see what happens, and it worked out for us.”

Errors did Wellesley in as a good performance from Grundlock, seven strikeouts in six innings, was squandered thanks to two errors leading to all five runs, none of them earned. Streilein picked up five strikeouts and was also 1-2 with a run scored on offense.

With the split, Brandeis finishes the regular season with a 34-9-1 record, surpassing the previous benchmark for wins, 33. set by the 1999 team. With the regular season wrapped up, all eyes shift to the NCAA tournament selection committee to see whether or not Brandeis continues their season. Despite their 34 wins, their poor strength of schedule could be too much to overcome. Still, this was a great year for Coach Johnson’s squad, and with this year’s rookies displaying considerable talent, it is likely that this season was no fluke. Of course, if they don’t make postseason play, there’s always next year – even if that is no comfort to departing players Streilein, Volpe, Dani Mayer ’08, and Amelia Schimmel ’08. All of these athletes displayed the strong leadership needed to guide a young team, and Coach Johnson could not understate what they meant to the Judges.

“All four of them, it’s gonna hurt. We have so much leadership and so much commitment from them that they really set the tone on all aspects of the game, so it’s going to be a huge loss for us. Hopefully we have a big class coming in and some big shoes to fill.”

With 34 wins in her first full year coaching the team, Coach Johnson deflects credit to her players. “In all honesty, I inherited a great group with a lot of potential,” Coach Johnson stated, “and that potential is being realized, so it’s been a nice experience, and hopefully it has been for them.”

A great season to remember indeed.

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