Softball drops pitcher's duels at Simmons, 2-0 and 2-1

BRIGHTON, Mass. (courtesy Simmons sports information)-- Despite allowing just nine hits across 12 innings and two games, the Brandeis University softball team's bats were rusty after more than a month layoff as the Judges dropped a pair of decisions at Simmons College, 2-0 and 2-1, this evening at Daly Field in Brighton. Brandeis, playing for the first time since February 20th, falls to 3-5 on the season. The Sharks improve to 5-9.

Neither team collected more than five hits in either of the two games and only two of the total five runs between the teams were earned. 

Junior catcher Keri Lehtonen (Oneco, Conn./Plainfield) paced Brandeis going 3-7, while first-year shortstop Jolie Fujita (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) was 2-6.

Sophomore second base Lauren Del Vacchio (Murrieta, Calif.) was 2-6 with her first collegiate home run and a double to go with two runs scored to lead the Simmons offense, while first year right fielder Sydney DeVogt (Exeter, N.H.) and junior catcher Taylor LeBrun (Milford, Mass.) each collected a pair of hits, including a double for LeBrun.

The Judges looked to score in the top of the first of game one when senior first base Amanda Shore (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) was hit by a pitch and Fujita put runners on the corners with a single through the right side with one out. The would-be rally was squelched, however, when a pitch was boxed around by LeBrun, before she picked it up and gunned Shore down at third after straying too far off the base.

The Sharks got on the board in the bottom of the third when Del Vacchio launched a two-out double to the left-center gap and later scored on an error. Del Vacchio padded the home team's lead, two innings later, when she crushed a two-out, 0-1 pitch over the left field fence for her first career homer.

Brandeis threatened to score in the top of the fifth when it loaded the bases with one out, but Garach came on in relief and induced a shallow fly ball to right for the second out, before getting out of the inning with a ground ball to third as sophomore Dom Ortiz (Lawrence, Mass.) stepped on the bag for the force out to end the frame for the home team.

Sophomore Alex Soqui (Acushnet, Mass.) hurled four and two-thirds innings of four-hit, no-run ball, while allowing two walks and striking out one to improve her record to 2-4 for Simmons in game one. Sophomore relief pitcher Bridget Garach (West Hartford, Conn.) closed out the game by allowing just one hit and fanning a batter in two and two-thirds inning of relief to record her first save of the season. Brandeis sophomore Scottie Todd (Tampa, Fla./Strawberry Crest) suffered the loss despite allowing just one earned run in six innings. She gave up five hits and struck out three without walking a batter.

The Sharks opened the scoring in the nightcap with a single run in the bottom of the third. DeVogt roped a single through the left side and later raced around the bases with the team's first run ahead of a triple to right center field off the bat of first-year left fielder Ivy Vann (Bend, Ore.) to give her five three-baggers on the season and Simmons a 1-0 edge.

Senior starting pitcher Juliet Nelson (Cumberland, R.I.) was cruising, setting down 11 straight batters after giving up a single in the first inning for the Sharks, but Shore reached on an error to open the top of the fifth for the Judges. Shore later scored when eight-hole hitter Melissa Rothenberg (Lawrenceville, N.J./Lawrence) roped a 1-2 pitch up the middle to plate Shore and knot the contest at 1-1.

Sophomore starting pitcher Callie MacDonald (Hanover, Mass./Hanover) retired the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth for Brandeis, before Ortiz laced a double down the left field line for Simmons. Sophomore pinch runner Bethanie Dudley (Troy, N.Y.) came around to score the eventual game-winning run when LeBrun hit a ground ball to short, but the throw was just up the line and the Judges' first base came off the bag to receive the throw, but LeBrun collided with her to force the ball from her glove, enabling Dudley to score the go-ahead run.

Shore led off the seventh with a sharp single to center for Brandeis, but Nelson left her stranded with three straight out for the Sharks.

Nelson picked up her third win of the season for Simmons, allowing one unearned run on five hits and struck out a batter in seven complete innings, while MacDonald (1-3) yielded two runs (one earned) on four hits and fanned a batter for Brandeis.

The Judges host Gordon College on Monday, April 2 at 2:00 p.m. for doubleheader action in their home opener. The Sharks return to the diamond on Friday, March 30 when they host Union College for a 3:00 p.m. twinbill.