Softball sweeps Simmons, 11-9 and 9-6, to get off to best start in program history

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Brandeis University softball team is off to its best start in program history after improving to 8-0 with a sweep of Simmons University today. The Judges won a dramatic 11-9 victory in nine innings in the opener today before taking the nightcap, 9-6.

In the opener, Brandeis won in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth. Despite falling behind, 9-7, after Simmons hit a lead-off home run in top of the frame, the Judges got the two runs back quickly. Sophomore SS Jolie Fujita (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) led off with a triple to plate the international tiebreaker runner at second. Fujita came home on a single between first and second base by junior pitcher Scottie Todd (Tampa, Fla./Strawberry Crest). Rookie 3B Marley Felder (Miami, Fla./American Heritage School) then blasted her first career home run to end the contest.

Simmons put the Judges' backs against the wall when left fielder Ivy Vann crushed a two-run homer to left center to give the Sharks a 9-7 lead in the top of the inning.

Simmons opened the game with a four-run first, fueled by a two-run double off the bat of pitcher Maddie Castigliego and picked up two more runs with an RBI groundout from 1B Dom Ortiz and the benefit of a wild pitch to score Santoro from third. Brandeis matched the Sharks with four runs in the second, highlighted by a three-run double from Fujita to knot the game at 4-4.

The Judges took their first lead of the contest on an RBI triple off the bat of senior catcher Keri Lehtonen (Oneco, Conn./Plainfield) in the fourth and tacked on another run with a run-producing single from junior 1B PJ Ross (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) in the bottom of the fifth to take a 6-4 margin. Simmons tied the game at 6-6, courtesy of a two-run single from CF Lauren Del Vacchio in the sixth. Brandeis threatened to win the game in the bottom of the seventh when it loaded the bases with one out on singles from Todd and Felder and a walk drawn by Ross, but Castigliego was able to escape the jam unscathed and send the contest into extra frames.

The Sharks took a 7-6 edge in the eighth when Castigliego scored after 3B Alex Morang reached on an error following a sacrifice bunt that was thrown away by the Judges' catcher. Brandeis answered in the bottom of the inning when Lehtonen knocked in the tying run with a sacrifice fly to make it 7-7.

In addition to Felder's dramatic home run, Fujita boasted the big bat in the opener, going 3-5 with four RBI and finishing a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. Todd earned the win in the circle with six innings of relief. She allowed seven hits and five runs (three earned), striking out two without a walk. Todd improved to 4-0 on the season. Simmons' Castigliego fell to 2-4, giving up 13 hits and 11 runs (six earned). She struck out five and walked two.

Brandeis staged a less dramatic come-from-behind win in the second game. The Judges took an early lead on first-inning RBI by Todd on a single and Ross on a fielder's choice. Simmons answered in the second when Allie Mulhern, singled, moved to second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch, then scored on a double-steal attempt. The Sharks then went ahead in the third on a pair of unearned runs that scored on an Ortiz single and a sacrifice fly by Santoro.

Brandeis quickly reclaimed the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third. With one away, Felder doubled to tie the game up. Ross put the Judges ahead for good with a deep sacrifice fly to center, and rookie pitcher Sydney Goldman (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) helped her own cause with an RBI single that made it 5-3 in favor of Brandeis.

Fujita and Todd belted back-to-back doubles in the fourth, followed by a Felder single up the middle that made it 7-2. The Sharks took advantage of a couple of walks and some seeing-eye hits in the fifth to claw within 7-4, but junior 2B Brianna Urena (Somerset, Mass./Somerset-Berkley Regional) drove in a run in the bottom of the frame, and the Judges added another run on a Simmons error in the sixth. The Sharks drew four walks off Goldman in the seventh to plate one last run and make it 9-6, but the rookie stranded the bases loaded to earn the win.

Offensively, Brandeis was led by their 3-4-5 hitters, as Fujita, Todd and Felder combined to go 8-for-11 with four RBI, five runs scored and three doubles. Van, Ortiz and SS Allie Mulhern each had two hits for Simmons, as five different players drove in runs and six scored them.

In the circle, Goldman improved to 4-0 on the season, allowing eight hits and six runs (three earned) over seven innings of work. She survived walking 10 Shark batters and struck out three. Simmons' Alex Soqui got the start and shouldered the loss, allowing seven earned runs and 11 hits in 3.2 innings of work.

Brandeis is scheduled to play two home games on Tuesday at 3 p.m. against Suffolk University before traveling next weekend to St. Louis to meet Washington University in the first University Athletic Association games of the season next Friday and Saturday.