CLAREMONT, Calif. – In its home opener on Saturday afternoon, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps softball team matched up with the last team it faced in the 2016 season, Linfield. The Athenas scored first in both games and out-hit the Wildcats in game two, but ultimately fell in both with scores of 3-1 and 4-1.
Despite a heavy downpour on Friday and a sprinkling between games on Saturday, the field played beautifully and both teams were happy to get the regional games completed.
The Athenas and Wildacats last met up in the championship of the Spokane Regional at the end of last season. CMS battled through the losers' bracket and then won the first matchup with Linfield 3-0 to force the if necessary game in the tournament championship. The Wildcats won the subsequent game 6-5 in extra innings and advanced to the Super Regional.
Facing Linfield this early in the 2017 season was a good test of the young Athenas' mettle.
Both teams threw their ace pitchers in game one with junior Anna Gurr (CMC) in the circle for CMS. The first inning saw each team go three up, three down and it was not until the bottom of the second that a team advanced into scoring position.
In the bottom of the second, junior Carly Roleder (CMC) smacked a double off the left field wall to lead off the inning. Senior Alexa Heydenberk (CMC) then advanced Roleder to third with a bloop single before junior Chloe Rodman (CMC) launched a ball into left field. It was deep enough for Roleder to score easily and gave CMS the 1-0 advantage and Rodman her fourth career RBI.
Linfield punched back in the top of the third with two runs. A pair of singles by Darian Stedman and Alissa Buss and then a squeeze bunt by Kenzie Schmoll tied up the game 1-1. One of Linfield's go-to hitters, Cheyenne Fletcher hit one back up the middle to plate Buss for the go ahead run. The Athenas quickly ended the Wildcats' momentum as Rodman gunned down Fletcher who was attempting to steal.
The fourth and fifth innings saw fine defensive play as neither team was able to advance a runner into scoring position.
Linfield tacked on another run in the top of the sixth to take the 3-1 lead, but the Athenas still had two offensive halves to make something happen.
In the bottom of the sixth, sophomore Ande Troutman (CMC) drew the 1-out walk after a number of sizzling foul balls. She was eventually stranded on second base as Linfield's Shelby Saylors worked up in the zone to elicit infield popups to end the inning. Saylors earned the win in her first start of 2017 as the Athenas fell 3-1.
Sophomore Rachel Perley (HMC) got the start of game two in left field and was immediately tested. Linfield's Fletcher sent a ball high and deep that Perley hustled for and caught just in front of the fence for the second out of the first inning.
Troutman sparked the Athenas offensively in the first inning with a sharp single up the middle. Perley drew a walk but then the Wildcats' shortstop made an athletic play to get Troutman trying to steal third to stifle CMS' momentum.
Another defensive web gem came in the top of the second as sophomore shortstop Casey Nunnelly (SC) caught a line drive headed up the middle.
Junior Briana Halle (CMC) got the rock in game two and also hit fifth in the lineup. She led off the second inning for CMS with a double to right center. Freshman Hayley Giffin (CMC) came in to run and was scored after singles by freshman Kylie Hetzel (HMC) and sophomore Abigail Metsch (SC). The Athenas had successfully loaded the bases and scored one without recording an out. The Wildcats' pitcher Brooke Chapman induced three straight outs, leaving three Athenas on base.
With Halle in the circle, Metsch slid over the play first base in game two. She recorded the first out of the third inning on a well-hit liner that she snagged and came down with cleanly. Neither team recorded an error during the entire day of play, a usually uncommon feat so early in the season.
Linfield put together a three run fourth inning as CMS struggled to get outs. Gurr, the game one starter, returned to the dirt in the fourth to settle the defense and get out of the inning.
The CMS bats stayed hot for the remainder of the game, but were unable to put another run across. Base running miscues plagued the Athenas and the number of precious outs dwindled.
Freshman Marissa Valdovinos (CMC) had an impressive offensive outing, amassing three hits on the day from the leadoff position and as the eighth hitter in the lineup.
Next up for the Athenas is the first conference double header as they host Occidental on Saturday, Feb. 25 starting at 12 p.m.
By Emily Nordhoff
Sports Information Director
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