Panther softball takes two vs. Hamilton, Ephs next

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College softball team took two out of three games from visiting NESCAC West foe Hamilton this past weekend to set up a duel for first place this weekend, a three-game set at Williams.
The Panthers (17-10 overall, 7-2 NESCAC) also split a Tuesday doubleheader at Plymouth State.
But the key games came in the league and will come at Williams (18-6 overall, 8-1 in league play). Whichever team takes at least two of the three games will finish first in NESCAC West in the regular season and earn one of the top two seeds, along with the NESCAC East winner, and will host the league tournament.
The winner of the league tournament, to be held May 3-5, earns the NESCAC’s automatic NCAA Division III berth. That tournament also includes the second-place NESCAC East and West finishers; Middlebury and Williams have already clinched berths.
This past weekend vs. Hamilton (8-18, 2-7 league), the Panthers took the Friday opener, 2-0, as pitcher Elizabeth Morris (6-2) tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout, striking out five.
The Panthers got one run in the second, when Sarah Freyre walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Kelsey Martel’s two-out.
Middlebury added an insurance run in the fifth. Martel was hit by a pitch and moved around the bases on Alex Scibetta’s bunt, a groundout by Christina Bicks and a wild pitch. The Panthers’ only other hits were an Emily Kraytenberg double and a Kimber Sable single.
On Saturday, Middlebury won the opener of a doubleheader, 1-0, but fell in the nightcap by the same score.
In game one, Neve Stearns improved her record to 4-3 by tossing her first career complete-game shutout. Stearns allowed four hits while striking out six.
The game’s lone run came in the fifth inning. Martel reached on an error, bunted to second by Alex Scibetta, and scored on a Bicks single. Also for the Panthers, Freyre doubled and Kraytenberg poked two hits.
In the second game, Morris, already the school’s career strikeout record holder, notched the 300th of her career in the first inning. But she was the tough-luck, 1-0, loser when the Continentals scored an unearned run in the fourth inning. Morris allowed five hits and fanned 10 overall.
Freyre doubled to right with two outs in the first and sixth innings, but was stranded both times. Carlyn Vachow singled to lead off the seventh for Middlebury, her second hit of the game, and was bunted to second by Emily Smith, but was also stranded.
On Tuesday at Plymouth (17-11), Middlebury took game one, 6-5, before falling in the nightcap, 8-3.
Middlebury jumped on top in the opener with a four-run first inning. Kraytenberg singled home a run, Freyre followed with a two-run double, and Martel capped the rally with an RBI single.
PSU got on the board with a run in the second, but Middlebury answered in the third on a Vachow RBI single. The home team pulled even with two runs in each of the third and fourth innings. Middlebury plated the winning run in the sixth when Vachow, Scibetta and Bicks singled to load the bases and Jackie Stern drew a two-out walk to force in a run.
Kat Maehr (3-1) earned the win in relief for Middlebury, allowing just two unearned runs on four hits over four innings, striking out three.
PSU breezed in the nightcap. Middlebury scored in the second inning on a walk, an infield grounder and two wild pitches, but PSU scored four runs in the second on a grand slam off losing pitcher Erin Giles (1-2), who allowed six runs over three innings.
Martel singled home a run for Middlebury in the fourth inning, while Sable did the same in the sixth. 

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