Athenas Win SCIAC Tournament and Earn Fourth Bid to NCAA Championships
CMS softball completed a clean sweep of every opponent at the SCIAC Softball tournament over the weekend, defeating Pomona-Pitzer 9-2, Whittier College 5-2 and University of Redlands 2-0 in the championship game respectively.
The SCIAC Tournament crown, the first title of its kind for CMS Softball since the tournament was introduced in 2008, earned the Athenas the Automatic Qualification (AQ) to the NCAA Championships slated to begin May 10th. This marks the fourth-year-in-a-row that the squad will join the field of 60 competing for the 2012 National Championship.
The Athenas got started quickly on Day 1 of the tournament pounding out 14 hits and 9 runs against cross-campus foes Pomona-Pitzer. The damage could have been far worse as the offensive machinery, though scoring in four of six innings, stranded 10 runners in the game.
Amanda Banducci, .667 for the tournament, hit her stride early going 3 for 4 in the opening contest. Fellow seniors Emily Lopez and Rebecca King added more fireworks going 3 for 7, with 4 runs scored and 4 RBI between them. Lopez homered in her first at-bat to kick off a 3 run first inning, while King followed with another bomb in the sixth. Harmony Palmer and Michaela Ecklund set the table well going for a combined 4 for 6 and scoring once apiece.
Hayley Schultz, who would ultimately earn all three wins for the Athenas, gave up a couple of solo shots early before settling in to thoroughly dominate her rivals, scattering four hits and striking out four. Between innings 3 and 7, Schultz rendered the Pomona-Pitzer offense inert allowing just two runners to reach base.
Flawless defense supported Schultz' efforts headlined by the play of Rebecca Ciszewski in her collegiate debut in left field. Setting the right tone, the sophomore Ciszewski laid out to snare a shallow bloop in foul territory for the first out of the game and the web-gem of the contest.
In the second half of Day 1, CMS attacked quickly again putting up a 4-spot in the second inning. Rebecca King's solo home run started the stanza. Her blast was one of three hits during the inning including a 2 RBI double by junior Harmony Palmer, plating teammates Megan Morris and Ciszewski.
The following inning, Banducci stayed hot bat roping a ball to the gap to put King in position to score on an Emily Nordhoff single. With five on the board, workhorse Schultz got busy allowing just one run over the next five innings to seal the comfortable 5-2 victory.
Championship day showcased a clash of SCIAC Softball titans as the Athenas took on host and #1 seed University of Redlands. The charged playoff atmosphere did not disappoint as the high level game was nip and tuck from the opening pitch. CMS put one across in their first stanza after Palmer led off with a double. An insurance run in the fourth was all that Schultz needed in the shut-out title game triumph, striking out five en route to a 3-0 record for the tournament.
The Athenas left 11 on base in six innings, registering 6 hits, drawing 3 walks and taking advantage of 4 Bulldog errors in the game.
Over the course of the weekend, four Athenas weighed in with slugging percentages above .667 as the squad outhit, outscored, outpowered and outstole their opponents. Focused on quality at-bats, CMS struck out only five times while drawing 13 walks (to their opponents 11 and 3 respectively).
Schultz ended the tournament 3-0 with 1.00 ERA. Her defense committed only 2 errors to opponents' 8 putting an exclamation mark on the weekend's success.
CMS now waits for the NCAA Selection Show on May 7th to learn where they will go for the First Round of the NCAA Softball Championships. The senior class boasts a perfect 4-0 record in earning a berth to the national tournament, though they have their sites set on a new mark at nationals in 2012.