Softball Bows Out of NEWMAC Semifinals in Two Extra-Inning Heartbreakers

Marissa Gonzales - WPI Softball

Springfield, MA --- It took extra innings in both games on Saturday afternoon, but WPI suffered a pair of walk-off defeats to Springfield College to end the Engineer's season in the 2021 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) semifinals.

The Engineers and Pride went seven scoreless innings in the first game, but Springfield scored in the bottom of the eighth to take a 1-0 victory. In game two, WPI led 6-1 after the top of the seventh, but Springfield stayed in the game with five runs in the seventh and won 7-6 in nine innings.

WPI concludes their season with a 10-6 record. The Engineers were the #3 seed in the NEWMAC tournament and entered the day on a 10-game winning streak.

The #2 seeded Springfield (9-3) advances to play top-seeded Babson in next weekend's Best of 3 championship series.

Game 1: Springfield 1, WPI 0 (8 inn.)

Lauren Meinhold (Boxboro, MA) and Ashley Pugliese (Long Island, NY) went toe to toe in a classic pitching duel between two superb freshmen that saw zeroes put up from the opening pitch to the final play of the game.

The two starters only allowed a combined five hits. Meinhold struck out three without issuing a walk, while Pugliese fanned seven Engineer batters.

Springfield walked off with the victory with an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth. Cheryl Nicosia (Belleville, NJ) scored the decisive run on the second error of the inning, which also included the second hit of the day for Springfield left fielder Sara Mulligan (Cheshire, CT), the only Pride player to get a hit off of Meinhold.

Each team had an opportunity to scratch out a run before extra innings, but both times had a player cut down at home plate.

WPI looked set to take the lead in the top of the fourth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Marissa Gonzales (Oakley, CA), who had walked to start the frame, was gunned down at home on a foul-out to the right fielder.

Mulligan opened the bottom of the sixth with a double to left field for the Pride, but WPI kept the game scoreless by nabbing pinch runner Katie Leacoma (Walpole, MA) at the plate on a fielder's choice in the infield.

Lindsay Ambrosino (Chelmsford, MA) doubled to left center to start the top of the eighth, but was stranded there as the Engineers were unable to grab the lead in extra innings.

Pugliese improved to 3-0 on the year, while Meinhold dropped to 4-3 with the hard-luck loss.

Game 2: Springfield 7, WPI 6 (9 inn.)

Skylar O'Connell (North Attleboro, MA) hit a three-run homer down the left field line to give WPI a 3-0 lead in the second, and the Engineers would grab a 6-1 advantage before the Pride scored five runs on six hits in their last chance at bat.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Abbi Conley (Plymouth, MA), tripled to center field, and she came in to score the winning run on the next pitch, which Mulligan slapped towards the hole between first and second. The play went as an RBI fielder's choice, as Fernandez beat the throw home to seal the two-game sweep for the Pride.

In stark contrast to the opening game, the teams combined for 25 hits in this contest. Gonzales, Nicole Logrecco (Huntington Beach, CA) and Ambrosino each had three hits for the Engineers.

Springfield had five players with multi-hit games, including Conley and Mulligan, who was 2-5 with three runs batted in.

Mulligan helped get Springfield on the board with an RBI single in the fourth, but WPI reasserted their three run advantage when Logrecco singled home Gonzales in the next inning, and extended their lead with two runs in the seventh. Kaitlyn Hess (Milford, NH) doubled in Gonzales and then scored on a base hit by Ambrosino.

With just three outs left, Springfield finally got to WPI starter Katie Martin (Bedford, NH), who had given up just five hits and one earned run through the first six frames. The first six batters of the seventh reached safely for Springfield with a double to lead off the inning and four straight singles to drive in two runs before a bases-loaded hit by pitch drove in another.

Mulligan singled in a run with the bases loaded, and Springfield tied the game when Emily Woznick (Sandy Hook, CT) reached on an RBI fielder's choice to score Ava Fernandez (Cedar Grove, NJ).

Martin ended the day with four earned runs allowed while striking out four batters. Sophia Togneri (Hudson, MA) suffered the loss, as she gave up one run on one hit over one and a third innings.

Pugliese got the win for Springfield after pitching a scoreless ninth inning. Pugliese came on in relief of Gillian Kane (New Canaan, CT), who was charged with six runs on 11 hits and two walks over the first eight frames.