The softball team enjoyed a three-game sweep of Little Three NESCAC rival Amherst College last weekend, bringing it into first place in the NESCAC West division at 4-2, and improving its overall record to an even 11-11.

In the series-opener on Friday, Amherst took an early lead in the first inning. The Cardinal bats took a while to get going, but responded with seven runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings, building up a lead the Lord Jeffs were never able to overcome. Molly Gaebe ’07 started the game for the Cards, giving up four runs in 6 2/3 innings, while Karla Hargrave ’08 picked up her third save of the year in the 7-4 win.

The Cardinals then swept Saturday’s doubleheader with 3-1 and 11-10 victories. Amherst was the first to score in game one, but Wesleyan came back quickly again, scoring two runs in the third with RBIs from Gaebe and Becca Feiden ’08.

That was all the runs the Cards would need as Hargrave, who started the game, never gave up another run, silencing the Amherst hitters for the next five innings.

Meaghan Dendy ’10 pitched the third game for the Cards, in what became an offensive slugfest. This time, Wesleyan got on the scoreboard first with four runs in the first inning. Amherst, however, came back, scoring six in their next time at-bat to take the lead 6-4.

The lead switched hands three more times, making for one of this year’s most exciting contests.

“We hit really well as a team,” said Alicia Collen ’08. “We have been focusing on getting timely hits, and that combined with our solid defense made us undefeatable this weekend.”

While still reliant on team leaders from last year, such as Gaebe and Marcia Whitehead ’08, this year’s squad has seen a number of emerging contributors, boasting four players hitting over .300 and three pitchers with ERAs under 4.00.

Collen pointed to pitching depth as the key to the Amherst victories.

“We have the advantage of having four great pitchers,” she said. “By the time we won on Friday, we had seen two of their three pitchers, and they had basically only seen one of ours. That really helped us on Saturday.”

Dendy, just a freshman, leads the team in ERA (3.24). while also proving to be formidable at the plate, leading the offense this weekend, going 5-for-7 with a walk over both games of the doubleheader.

A year ago the Cardinals lost two games to the Lord Jeffs.

“Last year we lost a very close game to Amherst, and we definitely felt that coming into this weekend’s games,” said shortstop Molly O’Connell ’09. “We came off a good win against Coast Guard earlier in the week, and that definitely set the tone for the weekend.”

The Cardinals, who ended the 2006 season with 13-21 record and only one win in the NESCAC West, are enjoying their recent successes.

“This year, we are not only competing with, but also beating the teams which have historically been the leaders in our league,” O’Connell said. “First Williams, and now Amherst. You can tell we have a lot more confidence in our play.”

Whitehead shared that enthusiasm but also spoke of the importance of the next few contests.

“As for leading the conference and having four wins already, it is something I think we are all really proud of,” Whitehead said. “However, we have a few big weekends coming up, so until then, we’re trying to take things one step at a time.”

The Cardinals will host Elms College today at 4:30 p.m. before going up against another NESCAC West opponent in a three-game series at Hamilton over the weekend.

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