Cambridge, MA --- WPI softball used strong pitching and a nearly flawless defense to take control of the NEWMAC regular season title chase as the Engineers swept nationally-ranked MIT by scores of 2-0 and 2-1 on Friday afternoon.
WPI, now 31-5 overall and 15-1 in conference play and slotted fourth in the initial NCAA Division III New England regional rankings, must only win once at home versus Babson or see host MIT drop a game to Wellesley on Saturday to secure the top seed in next weekend's NEWMAC Tournament. It is the third consecutive season the Crimson and Gray have totaled at least 30 wins in a season, which includes a school-record for any sport with 34 a year ago. MIT, ranked 20th in the latest NFCA Top 30 and No. 1 in the NCAA regional rankings, falls to 24-8 on the season and 14-2 in NEWMAC action.
Pitcher Clare Doolin (Newton, MA) was magnificent in game one, facing just two batters over the minimum. The senior improved to 13-1 on the season after allowing just three hits, walking none and punching out four.
WPI scratched out a pair of unearned runs in the third and fourth innings. Jacquelyne DiTroia (Andover, MA) got things started in the third by reaching on a one-out error which was quickly followed by back-to-back singles by Nina Murphy-Cook (Roseville, CA) and Ama Biney (Worcester, MA). DiTroia then recorded the game's first run on Lindsay Gurska's (Revere, MA) RBI fielder's choice grounder to shortstop. An inning later the visiting Engineers doubled their advantage when Hope Shevchuk (Burlington, CT) stole third as part of a double steal with DiTroia and came plateward on a throwing error.
The Crimson and Gray turned to Doolin and their defense from that point. Jasmin Joseph (Woodland Hills, CA) singled and then advanced all the way to third on Monica Shifflet's (Poway, CA) sacrifice bunt. WPI escaped the jam when third baseman Kristin Gallagher (Coventry, RI) caught a pop up and threw to Shevchuk covering third to end threat. Shevchuk came up big in the seventh after Shifflet lead off with single, the shortstop dove to her left on the next play, smothered the ball and flipped it to DiTroia covering second for the first out. Doolin then induced a fly out and a grounder to secure the win.
Biney and Joseph were the only players to record two hits in game one. Alexandra Marshall (Glen Head, NY) was strong in the circle for MIT. The senior scattered eight hits and did not allow an earned run while striking out eight.
In the night cap WPI struck first when Shevchuk knocked home RiAnna May (Westminster, CO) with an RBI double in the top of the second. After Kylie Juarez (Elk Grove, CA) followed with a single, Natalie Shifflet (Poway, CA) nailed Shevchuk with a laser throw from left field.
MIT leveled the game in the bottom of third inning as Joseph singled to center, moved to third following a pair of walks, and was brought home on a run-producing single via Tori Jensen (Holliston, MA). WPI quickly countered in the top of the fourth, loading the bases on singles by Caraline Wood (Averill Park, NY) and Shevchuk, sandwiched around a fielder's choice, and went ahead when Wood crossed home plate on a Juarez ground out to second base.
Again WPI used its defense to secure the victory. In the sixth inning, MIT got the leadoff hitter on Kim Veldee (Kirkland, WA) singled but WPI was able to record to outs on a sacrifice bunt where the pinch runner was thrown out after taking a wide turn at second. The host gots the next two runners on but pitcher Caroline Medino (Pompton Lakes, NJ) made a nice stab on grounder back through the box to end the inning.
Kelsey Saucier (Worcester, MA) fanned three before giving way to Medino and Casey Arpin (Uxbridge, MA) who shutout the Cardinal and Gray over the final 4 2/3. Medino secured the win (5-2) as Arpin collected her fourth save of the campaign. MIT's Marshall added three more strikeouts in her second complete game of the day.
Murphy-Cook (three stolen bases) and Shevchuck (double) each had a two hits for WPI while MIT's Joseph and Amanda Lee (Saratoga, CA) also logged a pair of hits in the contest. Wood also stole a base for the guests.
WPI and Babson gets underway at noon while MIT-Wellesley has been pushed up to an 11am first pitch.