The softball team will close out the 2016 regular season this upcoming weekend with a three game tilt on the road at Amherst. The Cardinals (20-12, 4-5 NESCAC West) currently sit in fourth place out of five teams in the standings, with Hamilton in fifth (3-9), Middlebury (4-4) in third, Williams in second (5-3), and Amherst holding the top spot (7-2).

Qualifying for the postseason will be difficult; the Cardinals need to jump past the Panthers and Ephs in order to claim one of the top two positions. Wes will also require help in the Middlebury versus Williams series, with the best-case scenario having the Ephs taking all three.

“This weekend is a defining weekend, but our mindset is to take one game at a time, inning by inning,” said Su Pardo ’16. “In a high-pressure situation like this weekend, it’s going to be so important to focus on playing our game, executing routine plays, and stringing hits together. While there’s a common goal in everyone’s head, we’re going to have to live in the present and push one another in order to perform to our potential.”

After a non-conference matchup was cancelled last week against the University of St. Joseph (CT), the Redbirds finished their non-NESCAC schedule with two games at Eastern Connecticut State University.

“Although we split the doubleheader with ECSU, the team played well,” Pardo said. “We maintained positive energy and had a ‘never say die’ attitude. In the second game, we rallied to score six runs in one inning, which shows a lot of fight and heart. Additionally, it’s not just one individual player who is leading the team to victory. We’re seeing a lot of players step up and make the most of each opportunity they’re given to add value.”

The first game of the series was a tough one for the Cardinals as they blew a late lead and suffered a 6-5 loss in Willimantic, CT. The Birds got on the board in the top of the first with two runs at Eastern Field.

Leading off the inning, Angelina Massoia ’16 singled to right center field and advanced to second when Izzy Linzer ’17 laid down a sacrifice bunt. Jaime Hom ’17 singled, and just like that, the Cardinals had runners on the corners with only one out. Cleanup hitter and captain Amanda Roosa ’16 walked to load the bases, and Rielly Wieners ’18 drove home the first run of the afternoon on a sacrifice fly to left field. With two outs, starting pitcher Julie McDonald ’18 came up clutch with an RBI single, scoring Hom. Unfortunately, Roosa was left on third base as Pardo made the third out of the inning.

The Warriors would even the score with their first attempt in the batter’s box. After back-to-back errors from Linzer and McDonald, plus a sacrifice bunt, ECSU had runners on second and third with one out. A two RBI double from cleanup hitter Kristyn Ryan left the score at 2-2 after one inning. The second, third, and fourth innings would lack excitement from both teams, as the score stayed 2-2 heading into the top of the fifth inning.

Captain Mollie Grunat ’16 laced a one out triple to right field in the fifth frame. After Massoia reached on a fielder’s choice, Linzer singled home her teammate. The following batter was Hom, who scored Massoia on a ground out to second base, giving her team a 4-2 advantage. Linzer was left out on second base after Roosa ended the inning with a ground out to the shortstop.

Once again, following two runs from the Cardinals, the Warriors would respond with two of their own. After a lineout to commence the bottom of the fifth, McDonald hit Alyssa Hancock with a pitch. Hancock stole second and advanced to third on a groundout from teammate Samantha Rentz.

Ryan then jacked one past the right field fence, bringing the score to four apiece. After allowing a single following the home run, McDonald stepped it up and got a swinging strikeout to stop the damage.

Both teams were unable to produce a run in the sixth and seventh innings. Extra inning rules state that each team will start with a runner on second base.

In the top of the eighth, Linzer led off with a single, but Pardo could not advance, and Hom followed with a fly out to center field. With one out, Roosa hit a ground ball to shortstop and Pardo was forced out at third base. Runners were now on first and second with two outs with Wieners due to bat. The junior delivered in crunch time with a single that brought home Linzer. McDonald could not give herself more run support, concluding the inning with a ground out to shortstop.

Going into her eighth inning of work, McDonald only needed to record three outs to pick up her ninth win of the year. A sacrifice bunt to start the inning brought a runner on third with one out for the Warriors. A suicide squeeze from Samantha Bardos brought home the tying run, and Bardos reached first on the at-bat. Pinch hitter Emily Komornik struck out to get the Cardinals within one out heading into the ninth inning.

A single from the next batter would put runners on the corners with two outs. The Cardinals were hesitant to turn to ace Pardo, which was intriguing since she wasn’t the starter for game two. McDonald allowed a walk-off RBI single to left field from Hancock, giving ECSU a hard fought 6-5 victory.

McDonald fell to 8-4 on the season, throwing 7.2 innings, allowing six runs on ten hits, and striking out five. Only three of the six runs given up were earned.

The Cardinals split the series after an 8-5 win in the second game. Viveka Cousins ’19 got the nod for the Redbirds, throwing six innings, and giving up four runs on ten hits. Pardo pitched the final inning and got the save, but was knocked around a bit. She allowed one run on two hits, though the senior struck out the side.

Massoia gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with her first home run of the season, but ECSU tied the game back up in the bottom half of the opening inning with an RBI single from Ryan. In the third inning, Hancock hammered a solo home run to left field, giving her side a 2-1 advantage. In a back-and-forth theme, Annalie Walsh-Costello ’16 tied the game once more in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, bringing Olivia Gorman ’19 across the plate.

ECSU reclaimed a one-run advantage with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, but with three outs remaining, Wesleyan exploded for six runs in the top of the seventh. The runs came on a two RBI double from Hom, a RBI single from Wieners, and an RBI single from McDonald. The final run was an unearned one, scored off of a ball hit by Walsh-Costello.

The Warriors fought hard, scoring two more in the bottom half of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough as the Cardinals took an 8-5 win.

Unfortunately, these games have no bearings on playoff qualification for the Redbirds, but this weekend against Amherst, Wes will have to do something special to keep playing softball.

“Amherst is a really good offensive team,” Pardo said. “Keeping the ball low and off the plate is going to be very key. It’s also going to be very important to make adjustments as the game progresses. Therefore, I plan to attack certain hitter’s weaknesses, but keep others on their toes by mixing speeds and locations.”

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