KEENE, N.H. -- The second-seeded Brandeis softball team advanced to the winner's bracket today at the 2011 Eastern College Athletic Conference New England Division III tournament as the Judges defeated the third seeded University of New England Nor'Easters, 5-1, on the campus of Keene State College. The Judges then met the host Owls for the right to advance to the championship round, but they fell, 11-1, to the two-time defending ECAC champs.
Against UNE, Brandeis got a stellar outing from sophomore pitcher Casey Ducinski (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury), who tossed a complete-game five-hitter to improve to 10-4 on the season. Ducinski walked one and struck out one, retiring 14 of the last 16 UNE hitters after giving up a run on three hits in the second inning. It was her 11th complete game of the campaign, and her ERA dropped to 3.22 for the season.
After the Nor'Easters took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single up the middle by 2B Erin Grover - who had three of UNE's five hits - Brandeis responded with three of their own in the bottom of the frame. The Judges loaded the bases on three straight singles. After New England pitcher Amber Zablowski (13-3) got the first out on a foul pop-up, rookie 2B Leah McWilliams (Billerica, Mass./Billerica Memorial) knotted the game with a single to third base. Junior catcher Marianne Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School) followed with a run-producing grounder to first base that proved to be the game-winning run. Senior CF Carly Schmand (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) followed with another infield single that made the score 3-1, though McWilliams got cut down at the plate trying to extend the lead further.
Ducinski took over from there, as she allowed just two more baserunners and only one runner past first base. Brandeis added two insurance runs in the sixth inning on an RBI single by senior 3B Danielle Lavallee (Sutton, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) and a double by Specker. Brandeis junior RF Maxie Hirschler (Bellmore, N.Y./J.F.K.) scored on Lavallee's hit, part of a two-hit, two run day that included a double.
In their second game of the day, a rematch of the 2008 and 2009 ECAC title games, which went to Brandeis in '08 and Keene State in '09, the Owls prevailed by an 11-1 score in five innings thanks to an eight-run second inning. KSC wasted no time in getting to Brandeis rookie starter Melissa Nolan (Windsor, Conn./Loomis Chaffee School), as the first three batters of the game for the hosts reached base on a walk and two infield singles. A wild pitch opened the scoring and a sacrifice fly by Owl catcher Nicole Dupuis made it 2-0. Nolan struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning without further damage.
In the second, however, she was not as fortunate, as 11 batters came to the plate and eight of the scored. The Owls had just three hits in the frame but took advantage of two Brandeis errors and three walks. The big blows in the inning were a two-run double by right fielder Nicole Fiorenza and a three-run home run by left fielder Kayla Joyce, the latter of which came against reliever Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) and made the score 10-0.
Brandeis had its first chance to get on the board against Keene State's Emily Albin in the fourth inning. With one out, junior SS Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and senior 1B Courtney Kelley (Leicester, Mass./Notre Dame Acad.) each singled. Albin responded with a strikeout and a fly out to maintain te shutout. The Judges spoiled the shutout bid in the fifth inning. Hirschler walked to lead off the inning, moved to second on a Lavallee grounder and scored two batters later on a single through the right side by Specker.
Nolan fell to 9-10 on the season after giving up seven runs (four earned) in just 1.1 innings of work. Miller surrendered four runs (three earned) in 2.2 frames.
Keene State designated player Courtney Savoie and center fielder Laura Chandler were the only players with two hits in the contest. Joyce, Fiorenza and Savoie each had multi-RBI performances. Albin got the win with five innings of four-hit ball. She struck out six and walked just won, improving to 11-7 on the season.
Brandeis reached the 20-win plateau for the sixth-straight season with their victory in the opener, and will face UNE again tomorrow at 9 a.m. for the right to face Keene State in the ECAC tournament championship round. The Nor'Easters defeated Simmons College, 4-1, in an elimination game today. The winner of tomorrow's 9 a.m. game will take on KSC at 11 a.m., with a second game scheduled for 1 p.m. if necessary.