The Cardinal softball team will make its inaugural NESCAC playoff appearance this year at Tufts University next Friday. The Cards entered the weekend needing to beat Middlebury in just one of three games to make the tournament.

The Cardinals got more than that—including a marriage proposal for their head coach—as they swept the Panthers in decisive fashion in Saturday’s doubleheader before dropping their final game on Sunday. Saturday’s success was highlighted by senior day for the Cards, as they celebrated the achievements of Molly Gaebe ’07, Allison Zoromski ’07, and Dayna Yorks ’07.

“It was important for us to appreciate them on Saturday as well as thank them for everything they’ve done both on and off the field,” said tri-captain Marcia Whitehead ’08. “They bring a lot of energy and quirkiness to our team that really helps keep us lively and having fun on a day-to-day basis.”

“We’re also going to miss Allie’s extensive knowledge of the game, Gaebe’s bat, and Dayna’s ability to pick us up on and off the field,” said Alicia Collen ’08.

The first game proved to be the most exciting, as well as the most important, as it gave Wesleyan a ticket to next week’s NESCAC playoffs. The Cardinal bats were swinging from the start of the game, as Wesleyan scored two runs in the first inning off of three hits.

Whitehead ’08 continued the offense in the third inning with a single, followed by a hard grounder by Gaebe who reached on a fielder’s choice. Molly O’Connell ’09 then drove in Gaebe with a strong double through the gap. Next up was Dayna Yorks ’07 who sent a bomb over the outfield fence in left-center, becoming the first Cardinal to hit a home run outside of the park, and only the third Cardinal to hit a home run of any kind. It was Yorks’ third homer of the season.

The Panthers responded in the next inning with a homer of their own, scoring three runs and bringing the score to 5-3. However, the Cardinal batters were not done, and this was the closest the Panthers would come.

In the bottom of the fourth, Whitehead hit her third single of the day, scoring both Niki Katz ’09 and Meaghan Dendy ’10. In the following inning, O’Connell, who already had two doubles on the day, became the second Cardinal to hit a home run over the wall, as she ripped the pitch to almost the exact same location as Yorks. As the fifth inning came to a close, Wesleyan led 9-3.

“Those home runs were jacked,” Collen said. “Our fence is 225 feet out–the longest one in the NESCAC.”

Karla Hargrave ’08 started the game for the Cards and, after giving up the three-run homer, shut down the Panthers for the rest of the game, allowing no more runs and only one more hit.

The 9-3 win secured a second-place finish in NESCAC West for the Cardinals and a trip to the playoffs.

In the second contest of the day, Wesleyan came out strong again and won a quick 4-1 game as Gaebe captured her eighth win of the season, striking out seven.

To make the day even more exciting, as the team was celebrating the victories with a large crowd of family and friends, head coach Jennifer Shea was proposed to–her boyfriend got down on one knee in front of the celebrators with flowers and ring in hand. She said yes and was soon surrounded by hugs from her players.

Wesleyan had trouble in the final game of the series on Sunday, as Middlebury took the win 10-1, leaving the Cards with a 21-12 overall record (9-3 NESCAC West) heading into the playoffs.

This year, NESCAC East leader Tufts University will host the three-day tournament from Friday to Sunday.

Wesleyan will face off against the Jumbos in the first round, while Williams goes against Trinity. If Wesleyan plays well in the NESCAC playoffs it could enter NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in team history.

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