HADLEY, Mass. – The Amherst Mammoths will host the 2018 NESCAC Softball Championship, which is set for May 4-6. The teams will play in a new format in 2018, as the tournament moves to single-elimination and the top four teams in each division qualify. The tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship.
Amherst (26-5, 10-1 NESCAC), the top seed in the West Division, is hosting the NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2012. The NESCAC Runner-Up last season, the Mammoths swept Hamilton to earn the right to host the tournament and have qualified for the tournament for the third year in a row. Amherst owns the second-best batting average (.356) and ERA (1.98) in the league. First-year RonnieMarie Falasco (Broomall, Pa.) leads the team in hitting (.431) and has 27 RBIs and six home runs this season. The duo of junior Lorena Ukanwa (Morgan Hill, Calif.) and senior Gina Pagan (Orinda, Calif.) lead the Mammoths’ pitching staff. Ukanwa is 15-1 in the circle and owns a 1.88 ERA with a league-leading 127 strikeouts. Pagan has a 2.03 ERA and 11 wins, all complete games, this season.
Amherst will face Bates (20-13, 5-7 NESCAC) in the opening game of the tournament on Friday, May 4. The Bobcats are the fourth seed in the East and are in the NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2009. Bates clinched a spot in the tournament with a victory over Colby in its first game of the final East Division series of the regular season. The Bobcats finished off the sweep of the Mules on Saturday and set a new program mark for wins in a season (20). First-year Caroline Bass (Newton, Mass.) ranks third in the NESCAC in hitting with a .442 average. She has stolen 23 bases and scored 35 runs this season. Sophomore Kirsten Pelletier (Sidney, Maine) is the ace of the Bobcats’ pitching corps. She has worked 121.2 innings, the most in the conference, and owns a 1.84 ERA. She has struck out 112 batters in 20 games, 17 of which she has gone the distance. Amherst and Bates have never met in NESCAC Championship play.
Tufts (26-7, 9-2 NESCAC) earned the top seed in the East Division and will meet Wesleyan (14-15, 2-8 NESCAC), the No. 4 seed from the West Division, in the other game on Friday, May 4. The Jumbos, who are in the tournament for the 17th time in 18 years, have the best ERA in the conference (1.65) and Tufts pitchers have combined for 200 strikeouts while the Tufts defense has turned nine double plays, the second most in the conference. Senior Samantha Siciliano (Chatsworth, Calif.) is among the top hitters for Tufts with a .389 average, 18 RBIs, and 37 hits, including five triples. First-year Kristi Van Meter (Amston, Conn.) owns 12 wins in 13 starts and a 1.09 ERA to lead the Jumbos in the circle. The Jumbos have won 10 NESCAC titles, their last coming in 2015.
Wesleyan is making its first appearance in the NESCAC Championship since 2013. The Cardinals, who won their only title in 2010, are led by senior Rielly Wieners (West Springfield, Mass.). The catcher has played every game and is hitting .386 with 15 RBIs. Senior Julie McDonald (Commack, N.Y.) and first-year Danielle Rinaldi (Ewing, N.J.) have handled most of the work in the circle for the Cardinals. McDonald has registered 71 strikeouts in 81 innings and owns a 2.33 ERA, while Rinaldi has a team-high six wins and 70 strikeouts in 63.2 innings of work.
Tufts owns a 5-2 record against Wesleyan in NESCAC postseason play. The teams last met in Game 1 in 2013 with the Jumbos picking up the victory, 3-1.
Bowdoin (29-11, 9-3 NESCAC), the No. 2 seed in the East Division, returns to the NESCAC Championship for the sixth time in seven seasons. The Polar Bears, who are in search of their first NESCAC title, will square off against Middlebury (18-10, 5-6 NESCAC), the No. 3 seed in the West, in their opening game of the tournament on Saturday, May 5. Bowdoin enters the tournament with a .357 average and a .506 slugging percentage, both marks lead the NESCAC. The Polar Bears also lead the league in stolen bases (56) and rank second in home runs (25). Junior Caroline Rice (Santa Ana, Calif.) (.371) and senior Claire McCarthy (Mercer Island, Wash.) (.393) lead the team in hitting. Rice also has a team-high 35 RBIs, while McCarthy leads the Polar Bears in hits (48). Sophomore Kate Hoadley (Plaistow, N.H.) has seen the most time in the circle, working 89.1 innings, for a balanced pitching staff. She owns a 2.35 ERA with 54 strikeouts.
The Panthers are back in the NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2015, and won their only title in 2011. Middlebury is tied for the league-lead in triples (11) and the pitching staff has given up a league-low three home runs this season. Sophomore Melanie Mandell (Harrison, N.Y.) is hitting .398 with 21 RBIs and 21 runs scored to pace the Panthers. First-year Emily Morris (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) has worked the most innings on the Middlebury pitching staff (94.1) and has a team-best 78 strikeouts in 11 complete games. Senior Allison Quigley (Wilmette, Ill.) has made 11 appearances, earned seven wins, and posted a 1.95 ERA, while also hitting .341 at the plate.
The Panthers are 5-2 versus Bowdoin in NESCAC Championship play. The teams last squared off in Game 3 of the 2015 tournament with Middlebury winning, 2-0.
The final matchup features Williams (32-6, 9-3 NESCAC), the No. 2 seed in the West, against the No. 3 seed in the East, Trinity (17-13, 6-5 NESCAC). The two teams are scheduled to play in Game 4 on Saturday, May 5. The Ephs are the two-time defending champions and have won five NESCAC crowns overall. Williams returns to the NESCAC Championship for the fifth season in a row and has played in the championship game four straight years. The Ephs enter the tournament having won 11 straight games and set a school mark for most regular-season victories (32). Williams leads the league in home runs (55) and doubles (88) and has scored a conference-best 290 runs this season. Junior Mackenzie Murphy (Diablo, Calif.) (.467) and senior Lexi Curt (Moorpark, Calif.) (.449), the all-time hits leader at Williams, rank 1-2 in the league in hitting. Curt also leads the NESCAC in homers (12) and RBIs (40). Sophomore Rebecca Duncan (Simi Valley, Calif.) owns the best ERA among the Williams pitchers at 1.68. She has worked 100 innings and registered 112 strikeouts and 13 wins in 12 complete games. Murphy is 13-1 in the circle and owns a 1.98 ERA.
Trinity is in the tournament for the third straight year. The Bantams, who have won five of their last seven, are tied for the league-lead in triples (11). Junior Courtney Erickson (Everett, Mass.) leads the team in hitting with a .364 average, 26 RBIs and 23 runs scored. The Bantams have relied on the arm of senior Rachel Smith (Winchester, Mass.) this season. She owns a 2.98 ERA and worked 103.1 innings, while registering 70 strikeouts and picking up 10 victories.
Williams has a 5-2 advantage over Trinity in the NESCAC Championship series. The two teams met last year in Game 1 with the Ephs winning, 3-2, in extra innings.
Results for the NESCAC Softball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website. All games will be webcasted by the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) at nsnsports.net/conferences/NESCAC.