Tufts Gets Past Middlebury 2-0 in Softball Championship
Courtesy Amherst Sports Information
AMHERST, Mass. – First-year Allyson Fournier pitched her third perfect game of the year and sophomore Jo Clair belted a walk-off home run to lead Tufts University past Middlebury College in eight innings on the first day of the 2012 NESCAC Softball Championship Friday afternoon at Amherst College.
Fournier (W, 16-1) set a new NESCAC Championship single-game record with 19 strikeouts, shattering the previous mark of 12. After only one game, Fournier has already tied the tournament record for K's, which was set by Bowdoin's Kara Nilan in 2010.
Clair entered the game with a league-leading 12 home runs for the Jumbos (34-5), with number 13 setting up a Saturday showdown with tournament host Amherst at 12:30 p.m. The Panthers (20-15) begin the second day of competition by taking on Bowdoin at 10 a.m. The Lord Jeffs defeated the Polar Bears in Friday's first game, earning a 6-5, walk-off victory in eight innings.
Lost in the thrilling finish was an outstanding pitching performance by Middlebury's Elizabeth Morris (L, 7-3), who held the Jumbos scoreless through seven innings before giving up the two-run homer to Clair. Morris struck out four, walked one and gave up seven hits while receiving an exceptional performance from her defense.
Fournier struck out the side in the first, fifth and sixth innings, moving her season total to a conference-best 204. Opponents are now hitting .110 against the first-year sensation, who lowered her ERA to 0.49.
The closest Middlebury came to breaking up Fournier's perfect game was in the sixth inning on a dropped third strike, but Clair was there to make a strong throw to first. Fournier also induced two pop-ups in foul territory and two groundouts, as the only ball that left the infield was a flyout to Iuppa in center field in the third inning.
Tufts twice had runners on first and second with nobody out, but the Panthers' infield was sharp throughout the game. Middlebury escaped the fourth inning with a double play, and in the seventh it was Emma Katz who helped get out of the jam by recording a pair of unassisted putouts at third base.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, senior Lizzy Iuppa kept Tufts alive with an infield single for her first hit of the day. Clair followed with a no-doubt-about-it line drive that sailed over the fence in left center, marking her 48th and 49th RBIs of the season.
Clair finished with two hits for the Jumbos, while Lena Cantone and Emily Beinecke each went 2-for-3.
Tufts improved to 25-12 all-time in NESCAC Championship play, as the Jumbos are in search of a seventh conference title. As the reigning NESCAC champions, the Panthers dropped to 5-7 in tournament action.