Wesleyan’s softball team closed out its regular season action against the Middlebury Panthers on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. The three contests were to help decide which four conference teams would make it to the NESCAC tournament. Despite dropping all three games with scores 8-7, 10-2, and 1-0, the Cardinals finished second in the NESCAC West and will continue into the playoffs.
Going into this weekend, the Cardinals and Panthers were vying for the top spot in NESCAC West. However, a Cardinal series loss coupled with a Williams victory meant Wesleyan would be knocked out of a playoff spot. After the three losses to Middlebury, the Cardinals were expecting that worst case scenario.
“The biggest surprise has been making the tournament after we thought we were knocked out,” recalls co-captain Tori Redding ’13
In the first game of the three-game series, the Cardinals came back from a 4-0 deficit in the fifth inning with a scoring outburst. Middlebury walked in two, co-captain Allee Beatty ’13 and Gigi Olson ’15 scored on a throwing error, and Wes needed just four hits in order to put up seven runs. At the end of the fifth inning, Wesleyan had taken back the lead from Middlebury, and the game stood at 7-4.
Unfortunately, Wesleyan’s three-run lead was short-lived. In the sixth inning, the Panthers tagged Su Pardo ’16 for four more runs, taking back the lead for good with a three-run home run. The Cardinals were unable to get another hit in the contest.
On the mound, Pardo allowed 10 hits but only two earned runs. This marks Pardo’s first loss of the season, dropping her record to 12-1 on the year.
The teams faced off again on Saturday, this time in a doubleheader and with over 200 fans to celebrate the softball seniors’ last home games.
Though the contest remained close as each team settled into the game, the Panthers eventually prevailed with an offensive explosion that went unanswered by the Cardinals. After being tied 2-2 through the first four innings, Middlebury rattled off eight runs on six hits to run away with a 10-2 drubbing. Redding and Alex Sarkowsky ’14 both earned RBIs in the contest, but there was little else to celebrate for the Cards.
The final game of the series was scoreless through 10 innings. Pardo was extremely impressive with her return performance against the northern rival, holding Middlebury to six hits in an absurd 11 innings on the mound. It was not enough, though, as in the top of the 11th inning, an infield error and a walk put runners on first and second. A single down the third-base line followed, bringing home the game’s lone unearned run.
“While frustrating, those losses aren’t a setback to our team,” Redding said. “We were able to pinpoint the details that we need to work on this week in order to be at our best come NESCAC this weekend.”
Despite losing two games this weekend, Pardo still finishes the regular season with a sparkling 12-2 record, 1.72 ERA, and 139 strikeouts.
Jillian Gately ’15 leads the team with a .404 batting average, 14 doubles, 6 home runs, and a team-record 44 RBIs.
Wesleyan will travel to Tufts for a first-round NESCAC playoff game Friday, May 3 while Middlebury and Bowdoin play in the other opening-round contest. Losers and winners meet on Saturday with the first-game loser eliminated. A third game on Saturday, May 4 will be another elimination game. The championship will be decided on Sunday, May 5.
“We are working on the details, making sure that we are as sharp as we can be mentally and physically,” Redding said. “We are looking to up our intensity going into the tournament.”