Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
Sources: (http://www.wellesleyblue.com/sports/sball/2014-15/releases/20150506d22fuv), (http://www.gotuftsjumbos.com/sports/sball/2014-15/releases/all_nescac), (http://mitathletics.com/sports/w-softbl/2014-15/releases/20150505w6o6he)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The 2015 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) champion Elms College softball team gears up to face a pair of potent softball squads from the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and the top ranked team in the nation in the Medford Regional of the 2015 NCAA Softball Championships. The third-seeded Blazers will open tournament play against second-seeded Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Friday, followed by possible games against top-seed, and host, Tufts University or four-seed Wellesley College.
Elms enters tournament play having won 12 of their last 13 games, outscoring opponents 95-39 with four shutouts, including a 1-0 victory over Becker to clinch the 2015 NECC Championship and a berth in the NCAA National Tournament. The Blazers will be making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, and their first trip to Regionals since 2007.
"The difference this year is we've been able to finish games," said Elms Head Coach Cheryl Condon. "Our pitching staff and defense has always been solid, and this year our hitting just came around. We spread our hits around the field, put up a lot of extra-base hits, and our hitting really came alive, and that helped us with our run scoring. We are in very good company in the NCAA Regional. All three programs are very strong, very successful program who are well coached. For us, it's all about taking that next step. We aren't going to change many things, and we'll need to lean on our strengths. The key will be offense this weekend. The pitching will be different from what we've been seeing, so it will be about pitch selection, driving the ball on contact, and being confident at the plate."
Senior Bethany Grimes (Terryville, Conn.) earned back-to-back NECC First Team honors after a dominant season from the pitcher's circle for the Blazers, posting a 13-7 record with a 1.92 earned run average (ERA). Grimes tallied 124 innings pitched across 22 appearances with 15 complete games and a conference-high 161 strikeouts. At the plate, Grimes batted .329 with 26 hits, including five doubles and a home run, while driving in 20 runs and scoring 12 times. Senior Jessica Colson (Agawam, Mass.) registered 63 strikeouts and a 3.94 ERA with a 7-4 record in 76.1 innings of work.
Senior Gina DiGiovanni (Springfield, Mass.) and junior Kierstan Skinner (South Windsor, Conn.) claimed NECC Honorable Mention status for the 2015 season. Skinner was a leader at the top of the order, batting .384 while leading the Blazers in hits (43), at bats (112), runs (31), doubles (9), triples (2), home runs (3), and runs batted in (25). Behind the plate, Skinner gunned down 11 runners attempting to steal. DiGiovanni takes home her first All-Conference award after battling back from an early season injury to bat a team-high .391 with 25 hits, including three doubles and an inside-the-park home run, along with 16 runs batted and 12 runs scored. DiGiovanni swiped a team-high 10 stolen bases, ranking second in the NECC. DiGiovanni recorded a .975 fielding percentage at shortstop, making 39 putouts on 41 chances. Sophomore Kacey Gifford (Suffield, Conn.) racked up 36 hits, including seven doubles, two triples and two home runs, with 21 runs batted in, while freshman Elizabeth Olszewski (Canterbury, Conn.) clubbed 27 hits with seven doubles, a team-high three home runs, two triples and 21 runs batted in.
The MIT Engineers finished their 2015 campaign with a 27-8 record, and a 16-2 mark in NEWMAC play. The Engineers rattled off win streaks of nine games and eight games during the season. MIT set a program-record for wins this spring, tallying 27 victories. The Engineers captured 16 of 18 regular season conference contests and posted an impressive 10-1 mark away from Briggs Field. All-time, the Blazers are 0-5 against MIT in five career meeting dating back to 2005.
Senior Ellie Fodor (Trenton, Mich.), who was tabbed the conference's Pitcher of the Year, was named First Team All-Conference with freshman Amanda Lee (Saratoga, Calif.), while juniors Tori Jensen (Holliston, Mass.) and Alexandra Marshall (Glen Head, N.Y.) were voted Second Team All-Conference.
Fodor recorded the most wins in a single-season, tallying 16 victories in the circle, which is second all-time in program history. She also recorded the program's third perfect game during the final weekend of the regular season by retiring 15 straight batters in an 8-0 victory over Clark University. Fodor has logged 119 innings in the circle this season and tossed 132 strikeouts – currently fourth all-time in a single-season. Besides her dominant effort in the circle, Fodor currently owns the fifth-best batting average (.325). She has recorded 40 plate appearances and a pair of triples. Lee leads the squad with 42 hits – the most hits recorded in a single-season– while tallying 33 RBI and five triples. Her 33 RBI – tied with Jensen – are the most in a single-season. She also owns the squad's best batting average (.396), on base percentage (.471) and slugging percentage (.632). Marshall has enjoyed her best season in the circle, winning 11 games – the most victories she has recorded in a single-season – while registering 124 strikeouts – currently sixth all-time in a single-season. She currently owns a 1.74 ERA, which is fourth-best ERA in a single-season. Jensen established a new program record with 17 doubles in a season. She smacked two home runs, increasing and has also registered 41 hits – second on the team – 33 RBI (tied with Lee) and one triple.
Tufts is 41-0 entering the NCAA Regional and has won 43 games in a row overall dating back to last season. Both of those marks tie NCAA records originally set by the University of St. Thomas in 2004-05. A member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, Tufts has won back-to-back National Championships and sits as the top team in the country.
Tufts sophomore Cassie Ruscz was named Co-Player of the Year. Senior Allyson Fournier earned her fourth straight Pitcher of the Year honor. Senior Michelle Cooprider was selected Defensive Player of the Year. Freshman Raven Fournier received the Rookie of the Year award. Cherly Milligan is NESCAC's Coach of the Year for the fourth straight season and for the eighth time overall. Cooprider, Allyson Fournier, Raven Fournier and Ruscz are on the All-Conference first team while junior pitcher Erica County and junior Christina Raso earned second-team status
Ruscz leads the conference with 57 hits, 10 home runs, 50 runs batted in, 95 total bases, a .496 batting average and an .826 slugging percentage. She hit .543 with six home runs and 21 runs batted in in 12 NESCAC East Division games. Fournier had a 25-0 record and 0.05 earned run average in 142.1 innings. She's allowed just 28 hits and 16 walks while striking out 323 batters. The four-time All-Conference first team pick threw five no-hitters including three perfect games this season. She did not allow a run in 38 NESCAC East innings while going 7-0. Cooprider had eight outfield assists in center for the Jumbos this season. Cooprider leads the conference with 45 runs scored and is in the top five for hits (52), runs batted in (32), batting average (.409) and on-base percentage (.453). Raven Fournier emerged as a middle-of-the-order hitter in her first season hitting .447 and is also among the conference's best with 28 runs, 10 doubles, six home runs and 37 RBIs. Her .573 on-base percentage is the best mark in NESCAC. She had just two passed balls behind the plate while handling one of the best pitchers in the country. County has emerged as a very reliable #2 in the pitcher's circle this spring. With a 15-0 record in 19 appearances, she's tied for third in the league in wins. She has four shutouts and 1.70 era that ranks third in NESCAC. In addition to her skills at both middle infield positions, Raso is hitting .391 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 28 RBIs. She's made just four errors in 105 total chances for an excellent .962 fielding percentage.
Wellesley (22-14) will be making its fourth overall (2007, 2008, 2014) and second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Blue are one of four teams from the NEWMAC in the tournament field, as MIT, Wheaton and WPI all earned at-large selections.
Junior Carly Bresee (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) earned first team All-Conference honors, while senior Maria LaBouyer (Yuba City, Calif.) was named second team All-Conference. Bresee earns her second NEWMAC All-Conference selection, and first first team honor, after garnering a spot on the All-Conference second team as a first year in 2013. Bresee leads Wellesley with a .459 batting average, a .487 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .587 slugging percentage, having amassed 13 extra base hits in 109 at-bats this season. Wellesley's primary catcher during the regular season, Bresee appeared in 34 games, racking up 50 hits and scoring a team-high 27 runs, while adding 19 runs batted in. LaBouyer earns her first All-Conference selection in her final season following a fantastic career in Blue. The senior enjoyed the finest season of her career, lifting her batting average to a career-high .396 while recording a career-best 31 runs batted in over 35 games. LaBouyer added 11 doubles, another career-high, to go along with a pair of triples and a home run. Her OBP of .415 and her slugging percentage of .559 are second only to Bresee in the Wellesley lineup.
Medford Regional Schedule:
Friday, May 8th
Game 1: 1:00 PM - MIT vs. Elms
Game 2: 3:30 PM - Tufts vs. Wellesley
Saturday, May 9th
Game 3: 11:00 AM - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 4: 1:30 PM - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 5: 4:00 PM - Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3
Sunday, May 10th
Game 6: 12:00 PM - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
Game 7 (if necessary): 2:30 PM