Panther softball takes three of four contests

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College softball team concluded its regular season with three wins in four outings this past weekend.

The Panthers will take a 19-9 overall record and 8-4 NESCAC mark into the league tournament, which begins this weekend at top-seed Tufts (30-9, 11-1 NESCAC East).

The Panthers earned the NESCAC West No. 2 seed and will travel to Tufts to meet NESCAC East No. 3 seed Colby (19-14) in a Saturday quarterfinal at 9:30 a.m.

If they prevail, they will almost certainly face Tufts at 2:30 p.m. in one of the two semifinals of the single-elimination tournament. The final is set for 10 a.m. on Sunday.

On this past Saturday the Panthers split a doubleheader with host Clarkson (15-17). The Panthers won the opener 8-0, and lost the nightcap, 3-1.

In game one, Middlebury took a 2-0 first-inning lead on singles by Abby Santis and Megan Fox. Noelle Ruschil hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, when also Jen McGann hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.

Middlebury added a four-run seventh inning on RBI hits by Tori Papaleo and Jordyn Johnson, followed by a two-run Ruschil homer.

Pitcher Jewel Ashbrook tossed a complete-game three-hitter and struck out a career-high nine with no walks.

In the second game, the Golden Knights took a 1-0 lead in the first, and the Panthers got their only run in the third on a Ruschil sacrifice fly to bring in Papaleo. Clarkson added two unearned runs in the fifth.

Olivia Zoeller kept the Panthers in check, allowing one run on seven hits with 10 strikeouts. Samantha Hausman yielded one earned run in 4.2 innings in taking the loss.

On Sunday the Panthers swept visiting Union, 4-3 and 8-2. Union’s record dropped to 19-13.

Middlebury won the opener when Sophie Bolinger hit a single to cap a two-out, bases-empty rally. Her hit followed singles by Santis and McGann.

The Panthers had taken a 3-0 lead. They scored one in the first on a Johnson single, stolen base and Ruschil single, and two in the second on an Adriana Santiago-Lucena single, a Sophia Marlino triple, and a passed ball.

Union scored single runs in the third, fifth and sixth to set the stage for the winning rally. Hausman (5-4) earned the win in relief for the Panthers, not allowing a hit while striking out two over the final 1.2 innings.

Union scored two in the first in the nightcap, but Middlebury answered quickly and coasted to the win.

Middlebury tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Ruschil walked, Santis tripled and Fox singled.

Singles by Nina Schroeder, Papaleo and Marlino, a Ruschil double, and a Santis sac fly made it 5-2 after two innings.

In the fourth, Ruschil launched a three-run homer for the game’s final runs. Ruschil leads NESCAC with 14 homers, and the blast pushed the team’s single-season program record to 28.

Ashbrook (11-3) tossed her 10th complete game of the season, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out five.

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