April 8, 2011

Wheaton Rallies in Game Two to Stun MIT and Earn Sweep

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Wheaton College softball team used an eight-run rally in the sixth inning to come back from a 7-0 hole against MIT during the second game of a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) doubleheader on Friday afternoon at Briggs Field. The Cardinal and Gray were unable to escape the sixth, as the Lyons (15-12, 6-6- NEWMAC) scored seven runs with two outs in the frame to secure the two-game sweep, after taking game one, 9-4. With the losses, the Tech falls to 4-13 and 3-5 in league play.

The Lyons took game one behind solid performances at the plate by their two, three and four hitters, Amanda Poplaski, Katy Salka and Kristen Hunt, who were a combined 8-for-13 with seven RBI and five runs scored. Poplaski singled to lead off the third, stole second and came home on Hunt's RBI single. Hunt would add a second run in the frame, coming home on a sacrifice fly. In the fifth, Salka's double to left-centerfield plated Poplaski and Jenna Rocha.

Tech would cut into the visitors' lead with a pair of runs in the second and fourth innings. Katie Harrington drove in a pair for the Cardinal and Gray with a sac fly in the second and a base hit in the fourth, but it would not be enough to overcome 13 Wheaton hits. Allison Baker earned her 10th win of the season in the opener, going the distance while allowing four runs on 11 hits and striking out four.

Things started off well for the Engineers in the nightcap, as they plated six runs of their own in the third inning. Leah Alpert and Nydia Ruleman led off with back-to-back singles and Alpert advanced to third on a fielder's choice. Alpert was able to get under the catcher's tag on Anna Christensen's ground ball to put MIT on the board. After a passed ball, Jessica Oleinik knocked in Christensen and Harrington with a double over the centerfielder's head. Keri Dixon's run-scoring single prompted a pitching change for the Lyons, as Rachel Merrick replaced Baker. Merrick would allow two more runners to come across in the frame but was able to hold Tech at bay for much of the game after that.

MIT had runners in scoring position in both the fourth and the fifth innings with a chance to invoke the eight-run rule but were only able to plate one in the fifth.

Trailing 7-0 entering the top of the sixth, Hunt began the rally with a triple into the right-centerfield gap, scoring on a throwing error on the play. A double, hit batsman and slow roller loaded the bases for the Lyons. However, Tech seemed to be in a position to escape the jam as Oleinik induced ground balls by the next two batters that resulted in a pair of force outs at the plate. The final out would prove to be elusive for the Engineers, as the next six Wheaton hitters reached base, including a two-run double by Rocha and a base-hit that scored two by Hunt, in her second at-bat of the frame. In all, 13 Wheaton batters came to the plate during the decisive sixth inning, resulting in eight runs on just six hits with three errors by the Cardinal and Gray.

MIT mounted a final comeback attempt in the seventh, as Jessica Iacobucci hit a one-out single and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. The go-ahead run then reached base on an error by the Wheaton shortstop but Ruleman was struck out on a breaking pitch to end the back-and-forth affair.

Merrick earned the game two win, pitching four and two-thirds innings of relief, allowing two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Despite pitching very well through the first five innings, Oleinik was saddled with the hard-luck loss, surrendering eight runs, only three of which were earned, on nine hits over five and two-thirds.

Five Tech hitters recorded at least three hits during the doubleheader, led by Iacobucci, who was 4-for-6. Emily Creedon had three RBI on three hits, including a pair of doubles. Hunt finished her afternoon 5-of-9 with five RBI and three runs scored while Poplaski went 4-for-8 and crossed the plate four times.

Both teams will hit the road tomorrow for NEWMAC doubleheaders. MIT heads to Springfield College while Wheaton travels to Clark. The first games for each will begin at 12:00 p.m.