Thanks to some timely hitting, a pair of defensive gems from senior Kayla Kelly (Pasadena, Md./Institute of Notre Dame) and two dominate starts from sophomore ace Cassie Weiss (Washington, Pa./McGuffey), the Bethany College softball team clinched a spot in Saturday’s Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship game with wins over Westminster (2-1) and Saint Vincent (5-1) on Friday.
In the Bison’s opening game of the tournament, the Green & White took on the top-overall seed, and host, Titans of Westminster College, earning a 2-1 victory in a pitchers’ duel.
The Green & White jumped on the board early, scoring the first of their two runs in the top of the first inning. Following two quick outs, senior Deanna Mihalco (Patterson, N.Y./Brewster) drew a walk to become the first baserunner of the game. The next batter was catcher Marissa Bosley (New Martinsville, W. Va./Magnolia), who doubled to center field, scoring Mihalco from first to give the Bison a 1-0 advantage.
Weiss held the top-seeded Titans quiet over the first three innings of the game, before Kailey Liverman homered in the bottom of the fourth to knot the game at 1-1.
Westminster looked to threaten in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Amber Forrest led off the inning with a single. Emiley Westfall came on as a courtesy runner, and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Hannah Ritter, making one out in the inning.
Two batters later, Kelly came up with the first of her two sparkling defensive efforts. Checka Nardone singled up the middle to bring Westfall around third looking to score the go-ahead run. However, a perfect throw from Kelly gunned Westfall out at the plate, keeping the score at 1-1.
In the next half inning, the Bison plated the go-ahead run, once again with two outs in the frame. Freshman Emily Folk (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) single to left field, and was immediately brought home for what proved to be the game-winning run on a two-out double from TJ Solomon (Beltsville, Md./Elizabeth Seaton).
In the home half of the sixth, the Bethany defense once again came up big. After a walk to Liverman, Westminster’s Alexis Sheffer bunted the ball past Weiss for an infield single. However, Liverman attempted to go to third, and was thrown out on a heads-up play by senior Ashlee Brill (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster). Weiss followed that by getting the next two Titans out in order, keeping the score at 2-1.
Westminster once again threatened in the bottom of the seventh, getting the leadoff hitter aboard. However, Weiss retired the next three batters in a row, preserving the victory for the Green & White.
In the win, Weiss threw her 19th complete game of the season, tossing seven innings while allowing seven hits. She allowed just one earned run in the game while striking out six.
Offensively, the Bison tallied five hits, including two from Bosley. Solomon added a hit and a RBI, while the remaining two hits were collected by Aubrey Baehr (Evans City, Pa./Seneca Valley) and Folk.
The Bison moved on in the winners’ bracket to take on third-seeded Saint Vincent, who upended Thomas More, 1-0, in the day’s opening game.
Weiss once again found herself in the middle of a pitchers’ duel, as she and the Bearcats’ Samantha Emert matched zeros through the first seven innings of the game.
The two aces combined to allow just seven hits, with Weiss holding the Bearcats without a baserunner through the first three innings of the contest.
Bethany once again scored the game’s first run, this time in the top of the eighth inning. Brill led off the inning with a single before being moved to second base on a bunt by Baehr. Following a walk issued to Mihalco, her fifth of the day, Bosley came through in the clutch with a two-out single, scoring Brill, to give the Bison a 1-0 lead.
Saint Vincent responded in the bottom of the eighth as Kelly Flaherty led off the frame with a single to center. Three batters later, the Bearcats had runners on first and second with two outs. Sophomore Shelby Noel then tied the game, reaching on a fielder’s choice.
The next batter of the inning was Emily Duerr, who singled up the middle with runners on first and second. Sarah Swettlen attempted to test the arm of Kelly, looking two score from second on the single. However, just like in game one, Kelly came through with a perfect throw, getting Swettlen at home and ending the inning with game tied at one.
The Bison would put the game out of reach in the top of the ninth inning, striking for four runs with the help of a pair of Saint Vincent errors. The big hit of the inning came from Mihalco, who roped a two-run single, scoring Kelly and Brill to give the Bison a 5-1 advantage.
The four-run cushion was more than enough for Weiss, who faced four batters in the ninth inning, but retired the Bearcats quietly to secure the 5-1 victory.
The sophomore once again was stellar in the circle, allowing just seven hits in nine innings, en route to her 20th complete game of the season. She conceded just one earned while striking out eight.
Overall in the two games, Weiss threw a total of 16 innings of work, surrendering only two runs and striking out 14. Her 14ks gave her 165 for the season, tying Heather Immesberger’s single-season Bethany record which she set in 2008.
Offensively in game two, Mihalco finished 1-for-2 with a pair of RBIs. The senior reached base four times, drawing three free passes. Combined in the two games, the ever-patient Mihalco walked seven times, officially giving her 79 career walks, a new Bison career mark.
Along with her defensive efforts, Kelly finished game two, 2-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored. Baehr, Bosley, Folk, Brill and Ashley Narigon (Washington, Pa./McGuffey) collected the remaining hits for the Green & White.
The victories ensured the Bison a spot in the PAC title game for the second-straight year. They will await the winner of Thomas More and Saint Vincent, who will play an elimination game at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.