This weekend the Wesleyan softball team hosted the NESCAC playoffs. After winning three games on Saturday, including an exciting sixth-inning comeback against Tufts University, Wesleyan’s record-making season ended in the championship game on Sunday as Tufts took its second consecutive title 10-3.
“It was a really proud moment to host the tournament, because it’s been one of our goals for the past few seasons,” said co-captain Marcia Whitehead ’08. “It was also fun to have Williams come to our athletic center while we had our Little Three flag flying. Plus, to have home tournament games with a home crowd to carry us through all our games was amazing. They really helped to keep the energy up.”
Wesleyan had a rough start in the tournament, losing to NESCAC East second-place finisher Trinity College 7-0 in the opening game on Friday afternoon. The following morning they came back with a vengeance and won three straight to earn the right to compete in Sunday’s championship game for the first time in team history.
“Friday’s loss really made a lot of us angry and none of us wanted to end like that,” Whitehead said. “We didn’t prepare any differently for Saturday, but we did remember that we needed to have fun and just play our game.”
Wesleyan began play on Saturday against Williams where they won resoundingly, 13-3. After a short break, the Cardinals had a chance at revenge against Trinity and they rose to the moment, beating the Bantams 8-2. Karla Hargrave ’08 showed her strength by pitching a complete game in each match-up, allowing only thirteen hits and five runs total.
“A lot of our success Saturday was a result of Karla’s effort on the mound,” Whitehead said. “She left her heart on the mound, and definitely inspired the rest of us.”
The most exciting win of the day was certainly the final game against Tufts. After being held to a mere three hits in the first five innings, Wesleyan was behind 2-0 entering the sixth inning. With one out, catcher Taylor Zavadsky ’10 started the rally with a single to left field. Alicia Collen ’08 entered the game to pinch-run. Jo Brownson ’08, who had two home runs earlier in the day, followed with a single of her own, and, after an error by the third basemen, advanced to second.
Wesleyan now had two women in scoring position. Hargrave smacked a hard ball to the shortstop, who made a quick play to tag out Collen at third base. With two outs, and in desperate need of runs to keep their championship dreams alive, shortstop Molly O’Connell ’09 took a huge rip, blasting a home run to left field to give Wesleyan the lead 3-2.
That was all the runs the Cardinals would need, as pitcher Meaghan Dendy ’10 finished off the Jumbos with ease in the last two innings to give her the complete game victory.
“Dendy did a great job on the mound and kept the score tight long enough for us to wake up our bats and Molly’s homer was nasty,” said Whitehead said. “I think that Tufts was really looking beyond us and that win was definitely a wakeup call for them that we are also an excellent team.”
Although it did not win the championship as it had hoped to, the softball team has a lot to be proud of. After starting off the season shaky with six straight losses in California, the Cards finishing the season strong, finished 21-16. In division play, Wesleyan was the top team, going 10-2. The Cards won their first ever Little Three Title, taking two of three from both Williams and Amherst. They made history by being the first Wesleyan team to host the NESCAC championships.
The players maintained depth behind the plate and on the rubber as they finished with a team batting average of .327 while opponents only hit .278. Co-captains Whitehead and Feiden are now the first and second all-time hits leaders with 173 and 137 respectively. Whitehead also broke the single-season record for hits with 51, last set in 1996.
Wesleyan will graduate five outstanding seniors; Whitehead, Feiden, Brownson, Collen, and Hargrave.
“Being able to host the tournament and make it so far is an incredible feeling,” Hargrave said. “I’m pretty certain that no one has any regrets about what we accomplished.”
While they may have big shoes to fill, Whitehead is confident that the team will have the tools necessary to continue their successes next year.
“I think next year’s team has a lot to be excited about,” she said. “Our success this year can largely be credited to the younger players bringing energy and skill to the team.”