For the first time in school history, the West Chester University Golden Rams softball team was competing in the PSAC tournament after winning their first ever division title. And they did not disappoint. After splitting their first two games of the tournament with Mercyhurst College Lakers and the Lock Haven University Bald Eagles on Friday, West Chester swept Lock Haven on Saturday, in come-from-behind fashion, to move on to the championship round next weekend.Mercyhurst and Lock Haven played in the opening game on Friday, with Lock Haven coming out on top 6-5 in eight innings.
In the second game of the afternoon, the Golden Rams (32-16) hammered their way to a 14-3 victory over the Lakers, led by junior outfielder Erin MacNamee’s two homeruns in the game. With the victory, West Chester eliminated Mercyhurst from the PSAC tournament.
The Golden Rams started quickly against the Lakers as they scored four runs in the first inning. Senior shortstop Sam Ingersoll hit an RBI single as senior outfielder Evelyn Anderson scored after she reached base on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning. Two batters later, junior catcher Kate Kmiecinski hit a two-run single up the middle as she plated MacNamee and Ingersoll. Freshman Megan Rupert hit an RBI single, scoring junior Brooke Muth.
In the second inning, West Chester continued their offensive onslaught as MacNamee hit a three-run homerun scoring Anderson and Ingersoll, and increasing the Golden Rams lead in the process to 7-0.
In the fourth inning, West Chester exploded with seven more runs to put Mercyhurst away. The first three batters for the Golden Rams reached base as Anderson singled, Ingersoll walked and senior first baseman Megan Harbaugh singled. MacNamee, who was batting cleanup, brought them all home as she hit a grand slam down the leftfield line for her second homerun of the game.
The inning wasn’t over as West Chester continued their assault. Muth singled up the middle and Kmiecinski singled to right field. Two batters later, sophomore catcher Nicole Cruts singled up the middle to bring home Muth. Senior outfielder Stef Kerbacher hit a two-run single as Cruts and sophomore Mandy Gerhart (pinch running for Kmiecinski) scored on the play.
MacNamee finished 3-for-4 with three runs and eight RBIs. Anderson finished 2-for-4 with three runs. Ingersoll was 0-for-1 but finished with three runs scored. Muth pitched a complete game scattering seven hits and giving up three runs, two of which were earned to pick up here 15th victory of the season.
In the third game of the afternoon, the Golden Rams fell to the Bald Eagles 4-0. Lock Haven, the defending PSAC and National Champions entered the tournament the third seed out of the Central Division.
The Bald Eagles scored all four of their runs in the first inning as Erin Clary singled to left center to open up the game. Two batters later, Becca Bailey singled up the middle. Brittany Muthard walked a batter before Brittany Pataky singled up the middle to score Clary and Bailey. Two batters later, Meredith Morris hit a two-run single, scoring Pataky and Kirsten Labant to finish off the scoring in the inning.
West Chester could not get anything started offensively as Lock Haven pitcher Bailey tossed a complete game, two-hitter. She carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Anderson singled for the Golden Rams first hit of the game.
On Saturday, West Chester needed to sweep the Bald Eagles in order to advance to the championship round of the PSAC playoffs this weekend. And in come-from-behind fashion, the Golden Rams pulled off a pair of dramatic 5-4 victories in the final at-bat of each game. With the two wins over the four-time defending conference champions, West Chester has eliminated Lock Haven from postseason play.
In the first game, Ingersoll blasted a two-run, walk-off homerun in the bottom of the seventh inning to force another game against the Bald Eagles. Muth (16-9) picked up the win, relieving freshman pitcher Devon Utterback in the third inning and tossing 4.1 innings of relief. She allowed a pair of runs on four hits, walked one and struck out one.
Utterback ran into control problems in the third, walking the bases loaded and then walking in a run all with two outs. Lock Haven erased a 2-0 deficit with a pair of runs during the inning. Harbaugh hit her seventh home run of the season in the bottom of the third to put the Golden Rams back on top 3-2. But, the Bald Eagles answered with a pair of runs in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead.
In game two, West Chester used final inning heroics once again to stun the defending national champions. Cruts provided the heroics in game two with a game-tying, leadoff homerun in the top of the seventh. Ingersoll’s one-out, single to center field was the game-winning RBI later in the inning as the Golden Rams finished off Lock Haven with an identical 5-4 win.
West Chester scored three runs in the top of the sixth and two in the seventh to erase a 4-0 Bald Eagles lead and come from behind in the final game. Kerbacher started the rally in the sixth with a one-out single through the right side. Anderson followed with a single to left and Ingersoll then singled home Kerbacher for the Golden Rams first run of the game. After Harbaugh struck out for the second out of the inning, Lock Haven’s second baseman booted a routine ground ball from MacNamee that allowed Anderson and pinch runner Gerhart to score making it a 4-3 ballgame.
Muth followed with a single up the middle that chased Bald Eagles starter Sarah Morse. Lock Haven called on reliable righty Becca Bailey, who got the Bald Eagles out of the inning. However, Bailey was touched up in the top of the seventh when Cruts took her deep to lead off the frame and knot the score at 4-4.
Senior second baseman Kelsey Rapp laid down a bunt out in front of the plate that Bailey could not get a handle on and reached first base. Kerbacher sacrificed her over to second and Anderson drew a walk. That is when Ingersoll stepped to the plate and hit a liner into center that plated Rapp with the go-ahead run.
Utterback pitched the seventh for her second win of the season. Utterback pitched four innings of one-hit, scoreless ball in relief of starter Muth. Utterback walked two, struck out two and hit a batter. Muth lasted three innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits. She walked one and struck out one.
West Chester travels to Bloomsburg on Friday, April 30. Its opponent (Bloomsburg or Cal) in game one of that three-team, double-elimination championship round will be determined on Monday.
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.