Cards Power Past Bates, 12-4, and Williams, 7-6, to Reach NESCAC Finals for Second Straight Year
Qualifying for its third straight NESCAC tournament and second straight as the NESCAC West Champion, Wesleyan accomplished something it had yet to do during its initial two trips - win a first-round contest. During their first appearance in 2007, the Cardinals went two-and-out. In 2008, after losing its opener to Trinity, Wesleyan knocked off Williams, Trinity and Tufts in succession all in one day to eliminate the Ephs and Bantams while setting up a winner-take-all contest with Tufts, won by the Jumbos.
Behind a 12-hit attack, led by Sam Epstein '12 (photo by Ron Berstein P'11), the Cardinals overpowered Bates, 12-4, in five innings Fri., May 1. Wesleyan faced tournament host Tufts, a 9-3 winner over Williams, in a winner's bracket game Sat., May 2. Tufts emerged from that contest with a 6-1 decision. That put the Cardinals in an elimination game vs. Williams and Wesleyan prevailed, 7-6. Wesleyan meets Tufts again Sun., May 3. If Tufts wins, the Jumbos repeat as NESCAC champs. A win by Wesleyan would force a third meeting between the teams for the title and automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Failing behind 3-0 in the 1st inning vs. Bates, Wesleyan tied the game in the bottom of the 2nd when Epstein launched a bases-loaded double to clear the bases and knot the score at 3-3. Epstein again came up with the bases loaded in the 3rd, working a walk to bring in the go-ahead run. A two-run error by Bates followed and the Cardinals held a 6-3 advantage.
Bates got a run back in the 4th, but Wesleyan sent 11 players to the plate in the 5th, collecting seven of its 12 hits and scoring six times to end the game early via the mercy rule. Taylor Zavadsky '10 had a key two-run single and Epstein put the finishing touches on the win by driving in the squad's 12th run. Epstein was recently named one of 15 players for the U.S. women's open squad for the upcoming World Maccabi Games in Israel July 13-23.
Talia Bernstein '11 also had a 3-for-3 effort in the game and both Zavadsky and Molly O'Connell '09 had two hits apiece. Meaghan Dendy '10 logged the win on the mound, allowing six hits and two earned runs.
Tufts moved ahead 3-0 in the 3rd inning of its game with Wesleyan. The Cardinals got an RBI single from Chrissy Bello '12 in the 4th to cut the gap to 3-1, but the Jumbos tacked on another three runs in the 5th for the final margin. Bello finished the game with two hits.
The Cardinals drew first blood vs. Williams behind Epstein's first career home run, a three-run shot in the 2nd. Epstein also walked with the bases loaded in the 3rd for an RBI, giving her nine thus far in the tournament. That was part of a four-run outburst which included a two-run single by Bernstein as Wesleyan moved ahead 7-2. The hit was Bernstein's second of the game and 52nd of the year, breaking the Wesleyan single-season record of 51 set by Marcia Whitehead '08 last year.
Williams battled back to make it 7-6 heading into the 7th inning. The Ephs got a lead-off double and Anu Rimal '11 came in to spell starting pitcher Dendy who was up to 16.1 IP over three games. Rimal got the final three outs on a sacrifice bunt, a huge strikeout with a runner at third, and an infield out on the top hitter in the NESCAC, Joey Lye, who had two bunt singles in the contest to that point. This time, Bernstein pounced on the bunt and fired to Dendy covering at first to end the threat and the game. It was the fourth save of Rimal's career.