AMHERST, Mass. – Senior Samantha Siciliano of the No. 15-ranked Tufts University softball team went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI on Friday afternoon, as the Jumbos used a five-run sixth inning to take complete control during a 7-1 victory over Wesleyan University in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Tournament at Amherst College.
Senior captain and staring pitcher Julie McDonald (5-8) was strong on the mound for the Cardinals (14-16, 2-8 NESCAC West Division), who see their 2018 season come to an end. McDonald only gave up one earned run during the first five innings, and finished with nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Freshman Kristina Haghdan (11-3) earned the complete-game win for Tufts (29-7, 9-2 NESCAC East Division), relinquishing one run on five hits and one walk, while striking out five.
Tufts, the top seed from the East Division, will either play No. 22-ranked Williams or Trinity on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Amherst, Mass., in the semifinals of the single-elimination tournament.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- The Jumbos found their way onto the scoreboard in the second, doing all their work with two down in the inning. Senior Sara Willner-Giwerc lined a double to left-center, and then scored one at-bat later on an RBI single to left by Siciliano.
- McDonald established a rhythm on the mound in the third and fourth, getting out of the third with a 4-6-3 double-play ball, and then pitched around a leadoff double in the fourth by retiring the next three batters in a row – two of which came on strikeouts. The Commack, N.Y. native also showcased a great deal of mental toughness in the first, as the Jumbos put runners on the corners with no outs, but McDonald refused to allow Tufts to score a run in the inning.
- Tufts added on an insurance run in the fifth, with Siciliano, who hails from Chatsworth, Calif., leading off with a double, and then scoring an unearned run on a single by sophomore Maggie Lebinski, following a muffed throw by the first baseman.
- During the sixth, the Jumbos blew the game open, as they loaded the bases with two down. Freshman Edie Huling then tallied an RBI single to right, and sophomore Jamie Stevens and senior Raven Fournier were both hit by pitches, which scored another two runs. The lead grew to 7-0 on a two-run single to left by junior Kelsey Dion.
- The Cardinals, who were the fourth seed from the West Division, fought to the end, as they tallied three consecutive singles with one out in the seventh, coming off the bats of freshman Brenna Monroe, junior Kendall Carr and rookie Lauren Gaffney-Gomez, as the unit loaded the bases. Carr crossed home with two down in the inning on a wild pitch.
- The Cardinals lose a pair of outstanding senior captains in McDonald and catcher Rielly Wieners, as both finished their careers with over 100 hits. The future looks bright for the program, as the 2018 team had 10 rookies with many playing vital roles.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Haghdan only surrendered two hits through the first six innings for Tufts, while retiring the side in order during the second, fourth and sixth.
- Tufts received standout performances from senior Sarah Finnigan (2-for-4, two doubles, run) and Lebinski (2-for-3).
- The Jumbos led the hits category, 12-5, and the fielding was excellent on both sides, with only one error being charged to Wesleyan.
- Tufts improved to 17-5 all time against Wesleyan and 6-2 during meetings in the NESCAC playoffs. The Cardinals' last victory over the Jumbos occurred during the 2010 conference tournament, as the squad went on to hoist its first-ever NESCAC title.