Miller fans 11, drives in two runs as softball advances in ECAC tournament, 7-1, over DWC

Caroline Miller struck out 11 Daniel Webster batters, giving her 302 career whiffs (photo by Sportspix/Jan Volk)

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis University senior Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) struck out 11 and allowed just three hits over seven innings of work while also driving in the game-winning run with an early two-run double to lead the top-seeded Judges past No. 8 seed Daniel Webster College, 7-1, in the opening round of the 2012 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Softball Championship Tournament. With the win, Brandeis improves to 24-16 overall on the season and will host the rest of the tournament over the weekend. Daniel Webster's most successful season comes to a close with a 23-20 mark.

Miller was the star, facing just four batters over the minimum for the game and allowing baserunners in just two of the seven frames. Miller set down the first 12 Eagle hitters in order, eight by way of strikeout. She finally allowed three straight hits in the fifth, then retired nine of the final 10 hitters, allowing just one seventh-inning walk. She improved to 14-7 on the season.

Miller's 11 Ks were one short of her career-high and marked the third game of the season and fifth of her career with at least 10 punch-outs. She moved into second place on the Judges' career strikeout list with 302, making her just the second player to reach the 300-mark for her career. Her 146 Ks this season are within 17 of Kaitlin Streilein '08's single-season record. 

Miller also drove in what proved to be the game-winning run as part of a four-run first inning for the Judges. After Brandeis loaded the bases with one away against DWC senior Amanda Wilson (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack), rookie DP Anya Kamber (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) opened the scoring with an RBI grounder to second base. Miller then followed with a double down the left-field line, her eighth of the season, to plate two more runs. Senior LF Megan DeNubila (Princeton, N.J./Wachusett Regional) followed suit with a two-bagger - her third - to right-center field, making it a 4-0 lead before the end of the first inning.

Wilson (12-11) settled down for Daniel Webster after the first, allowing just one hit over the next three innings. The Eagles did their damage against Miller in the top of the fifth, stringing together three straight hits. Junior CF Chelsey Crawford (Westfield, Mass./Westfield) doubled to left-center for the visitors' first hit of the game. Junior 1B Samantha Hill (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne) singled to put runners on the corners, while rookie RF Heather Strong (Palmer, Mass./Palmer) bounced one through the right side to spoil the shutout bid. Miller then retired the next three batters to minimize the damage.

Brandeis got that run back in the bottom of the fifth on DeNubila's second RBI of the game, making it 5-1. The Judges added two more runs in the sixth on a single by senior 3B Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and sacrifice fly by senior CF Lauren Porcaro (Shrewsbury, Mass./Shrewsbury) to make for the 7-1 final.

In addition to Miller's big day, Grimm finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. With 14 hits in her last 19 at-bats, Grimm has raced up several of the Judges' career lists, climbing into second place with 183 career hits and a three-way tie for sixth with 56 hits this season. She is also now just one RBI shy of becoming the seventh player in school history with 100 for her career, while also moving into fifth place with 118 career runs scored.

DeNubila, who finished 2-for-3 with two RBI, was the game's only other multiple hitter, but the other seven Brandeis starters all had one hit.

Brandeis will now host the remainder of the ECAC Division III New England tournament on Marcus Field. The Judges will take on fifth-seeded Rivier College on Saturday, May 12, at 10 a.m. The Raiders upset fourth-seeded Plymouth State University, 5-3, in the opening round. Two other quarterfinals - #2 Salve Regina vs. #7 Simmons and #3 Endicott vs. #6 Worcester State - were postponed today and will be played tomorrow. The winners of those two contests will play at noon on Saturday. The first elimination game will take place at 2 p.m., with the winner's bracket game to follow at 4 p.m.