Softball Gears Up for NESCAC Championship

Softball Gears Up for NESCAC Championship

NESCAC CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL

AMHERST, Mass. – Earning the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC West to advance to the conference postseason tournament for the first time since 2012, the Amherst College softball team will head to Williamstown, Mass. to face NESCAC East No. 1 seed Tufts University Friday, May 6 at 5 p.m. in day one action at the 2016 NESCAC Championship.

Joining the Purple & White in the double-elimination tournament is Williams College, Trinity College, and Tufts University. Each of the games this weekend will feature live statistics and webcast. No tickets will be sold for the championship event, as seating at the field is open to all.

AMHERST, No. 2 Seed West (23-10, 7-5 NESCAC West) 
After posting an overall record of 16-12 and a 5-7 mark in the NESCAC West a season ago, Amherst had a breakout year, securing its first playoff berth since 2012 after taking two of three games, 2-1 and 9-7, from Little Three rival Wesleyan in a must-win situation in their final series of the regular season. 

At the Plate: Amherst currently ranks fourth in the NESCAC in team batting average (.325), boasting eight of 13 batters with averages over the .300 mark. First-year Kyra Naftel has been a driving force for the Purple & White's offense all season, recording a batting average of .450 to lead the team and rank third in the NESCAC. With six triples, the Santa Clarita, Calif. is currently tied for first in the league, and is ranked third in hits with 45. In 27 games this season, Naftel has notched 16 multi-hit games.

Finishing the season strong on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball for the Purple & White, reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Taylor Summers has become a key component to Amherst's late season success. In the final five games of the regular season, Summers was stellar, flashing her talent in a 2-for-3 performance with a stolen base and run scored in Amherst's season finale win over the Cardinals. A native of Upper Saddle River, N.J., Summers currently ranks second on the team in batting average (.440) and has recorded seven stolen bases, including five in the final five games.

In the Circle: Headlining Amherst's top-ranking pitching corps is Lorena Ukanwa '19 and Jackie Buechler '17. With a pitching staff of five, the Purple & White lead the NESCAC in strikeouts with 199.

The squad's top hurler, Ukanwa owns 90 of Amherst's 199 strikeouts and has posted an average of 6.56 strikeouts per game in a Purple & White leading 96 innings on the mound. Ranking first in the conference in both strikeouts and strikeouts per game, Ukana also owns an impressive 2.33 ERA to rank second in the league.

Buechler has been equally dominant in the circle where she ranks first in the NESCAC in walks allowed, issuing just six free bases in 47.1 innings pitched. Starting 10 games this season, the junior has gone 7-2 while averaging 5.92 strikeouts per game, ranking second in the conference behind teammate Ukanwa.

WILLIAMS, No. 1 Seed West (29-8, 10-2 NESCAC WEST)
The Ephs make their third-consecutive appearance in the NESCAC Championship tournament after finishing 10-2 in the NESCAC West to host a .833 winning percentage. With only two losses in the conference, one to Amherst, 7-6 and one to Hamilton, 7-3, Williams is ranked second in the New England Region with an overall mark of 29-8.

At the Plate: First-year Mackenzie Murphy has been consistent force at the plate for the Ephs, leading the NESCAC with five homeruns in conference play in addition to logging a notable slugging percentage of 1.292. Slated to round out her collegiate career with her best season yet, Senior Eric Li has notched 56 total hits, including five triples (third in NESCAC), and registered 37 runs to rank first in the league.

In the Circle: Murphy has been just as reliable in the circle as she has been at the plate, recording the lowest ERA in the conference (2.07) while earning three NESCAC Pitcher of the Week honors in addition to one Player of the Week accolade. In 88 innings on the mound, Murphy has allowed just 26 runs against the Ephs.

TUFTS, No. 1 Seed East (25-8, 12-0 NESCAC EAST)
After making history last season, the three-time defending National Champion Jumbos returns to the NESCAC Championship tournament with a perfect 12-0 conference record for the fifth consecutive year. Boasting a season-best win streak of nine games, Tufts enters the postseason looking to clinch the NESCAC crown for the fifth-consecutive season.

At the Plate: The Jumbos offense leads the NESCAC in multiple categories, including batting average (.363), on-base-percentage (.423), slugging percentage (.555), RBI (236), runs scored (270), and homeruns (37). Cassie Ruscz and Raven Fournier are credited with fifty-one percent of the team's homeruns, where they rank first and second in the conference, respectively, with Ruscz notching 12 and Fournier, 7.

In the Circle: Sophomore Raina Galbiati and Erica County have taken the reigns from 2015 graduate Allyson Fournier, combining for 179 innings pitched to accumulate an overall record of 25-6 in the circle. Galbiati, a sophomore, leads the Tufts in ERA (2.41).

TRINITY, No. 2 Seed East (18-12, 6-6 NESCAC EAST)
The Bantams qualified for the NESCAC Championship tournament for their sixth time in school history, and for the first time since 2011, after tying with Bowdoin and Colby for second place in the NESCAC East division.

At the Plate: First-year Courtney Erickson has paved the way for Trinity's offense, leading the team in batting average (.384), RBI (31), doubles (9), and hits (38), while senior Erica Quinones has also impressed in the batters box, leading the team in on-base-percentage (.450), while notching 10 extra base hits, including two homeruns.

In the Circle: Sophomore Rachel Smith carries a 2.47 ERA with 99.1 innings pitched for the Bantams, while teammate Cassia Armstrong has also had a strong season in the circle, posting a 9-4 record and an ERA of 2.57.


2016 NESCAC Softball Championship
Hosted By Williams College
Day 1: Friday, May 6
Game 1: 2:30 p.m. - Williams (West No. 1) vs. Trinity (East No. 2)
Game 2: 5:00 p.m.  - Tufts (East No. 1) vs. Amherst (West No. 2)

Day 2: Saturday, May 7
Game 3: 10:00 a.m. - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 4: 12:30 p.m. - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 5: 3:00 p.m. - Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4

Day 3: Sunday, May 8
Game 6: 10:00 a.m. - Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5
If necessary, Game 7 shall be played 20 minutes after conclusion of Game 6 with the same two teams