With today's three victories -- one over Wheaton and two over Wellesley -- Springfield's overall record is 29-15. The 29 wins is fifth most in the school's history, and most since winning 30 in 2000.
As the NEWMAC champion, Springfield will be advancing to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since 2000, when the Pride was 30-17-1. NCAA pairings will be announced on Sunday, May 4. The NCAA Division III New England Regional will be played at Rhode Island College Thursday-Sunday, May 8-11.
To win the NEWMAC tournament after losing to Smith in the opening round, the Pride won five games in the past two days. In doing so, they eliminated, in order, #5-seeded Babson, #4-seeded Clark, #2-seeded Wheaton, and #1-seeded Wellesley.
In the championship game, Samantha Rhodes (Mendon, Mass.) returned to the circle again for the Pride, picking up her third win of the day and her fifth in the last two days. Rhodes, now 22-5 on the season, is Springfield's first 20-game winner since Brianne Pearson (22-7) in 2003.
Springfield struck first, with a bases-empty homerun from sophomore catcher Michelle Wlosek (Nutley, N.J.) in the top of the second to take a 1-0 lead. After two scoreless innings, Wellesley's Alex Warren (Delta, B.C.) tied the game with her own solo shot over the rightcenter field fence in the bottom of the fourth.
Springfield threatened to break the tie a half inning later by loading the bases with only one out. But Wellesley starter Barbarajean Grundlock (Blackwood, N.J.) fanned junior centerfielder Angela Atkins (East Haddam, Conn.) and freshman first baseman Jessica Hillman (Seymour, Conn.) to end the inning and maintain the tie.
Entering the seventh in a 1-1 tie, both pitchers retired the side in order, forcing the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Atkins was placed on second according to the tie-breaking rule. Atkins advanced to third on a sacrifice from Hillman, then trotted home on Wlosek's double to rightcenter to give the Pride a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Orloff was placed on second and advanced to third on Megan Wood's (Jacksonville, Fla.) sacrifice bunt. However, Rhodes forced a pop out and then a ground out to end the game and give Springfield the 2-1 Championship win.
For Wellesley, Grundlock pitched eight innings, allowing two runs, only one earned, off of seven hits. She struck out 13 batters and walked three. Offensively, Ilana Orloff (Weston, Mass.) was 2-4 while Warren added the only RBI for the Blue. For Springfield, Rhodes pitched all eight innings, scattering eight hits while striking out seven and walking none. Denise Fumicello (Brockton, Mass.) picked up two hits for the Pride while Wlosek's two hits drove in two runs.
In its second game of the day, the Pride was down 1-0 with only five outs remaining, but rallied to beat #1-seeded Wellesley College, 2-1, in the New England Men's and Women's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) title game, forcing the deciding game later in the afternoon.
The first title game featured two of the conference's top pitchers, Wellesley's Jenna Harvey (London, Ont.) and Springfield's Samantha Rhodes (Mendon, Mass.), and both performed well in the opening innings. Through four innings, Harvey the conference leader in strikeouts and ERA, had allowed three hits and no runs. Rhodes, the conference leader in wins (she was then 20-5), was equally effective, allowing four hits and no runs.
In the top of the fifth, Harvey put herself in a jam by walking three consecutive Springfield batters to load the bases, but she got out of the inning by tallying her third strikeout of the game. Her teammates responded in the bottom of the inning, when back-to-back doubles from Alison Davis (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) and Ilana Orloff (Weston, Mass.) gave Wellesley a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the sixth, Wlosek singled with two outs, then came around to score on a single from Danielle Spiro (South Windsor, Conn.), with help from a Wellesley miscue, to tie the score at 1-1.
In the seventh, Springfield used two walks and a Wellesley error to load the bases with one out. Harvey fanned the next batter, but walked Hillman, giving Springfield the go-ahead run. Kara Wong (Milford, Mass.) then picked off Shanda Kogut (Preston, Conn.) at third to end the rally. But Rhodes retired the side in the bottom of the inning to force the deciding game.
Rhodes allowed six hits and one run to earn the win. Spiro tallied two hits for the Pride, while Wlosek, Atkins, and Hillman added one each. Harvey gave up five hits and two runs, neither earned, while walking six and fanning seven. Orloff was three-for-three with an RBI. Megan Sullivan (Markham, Ont.) added two hits for the Blue.
In its first game of the day, the Pride edged Wheaton College, 2-1, in the consolation final of the NEWMAC Softball Championship.
Springfield got on the board first when sophomore shortstop Jaimie Moran (Manchester, Conn.) led off the bottom of the second with a double down the leftfield line. Moran advanced to third on a sacrifice from junior leftfielder Amanda Lyons (Eastchester, N.Y.), then raced home on Kogut's single to short leftfield. That gave the Pride a 1-0 lead.
Springfield's lead appeared secure through the middle innings. The Pride's Rhodes, despite allowing four hits in the first two innings, settled into rhythm and retired six of seven batters in the next two frames. But Wheaton broke through in the top of the fifth, when the Lyons capitalized on a Springfield miscue and back-to-back singles from Audrey Poulton (Charlestown, R.I.) and Erika Marini (Pawtucket, R.I.) to tie the game at 1-1.
Springfield responded in the bottom of the inning, as senior second baseman Denise Fumicello (Brockton, Mass.) led off with a single. Atkins ripped her second double down the third base line, driving in Fumicello for a 2-1 lead.
The Lyons threatened in the top of the sixth, when consecutive singles from Brady Benton (Concord, N.H.) and Lynn Cotto (Brookfield, Conn.) put two on with one out. Nicole DeRosa (Greenwich, Conn.) followed with a bouncer to second, and a bad hop threatened to tie the game. But the Pride's Fumicello recovered quickly and nailed Benton at home to maintain Springfield's one-run lead.
Rhodes allowed one base runner in the top of the seventh but held on for the win, allowing nine hits and one run in seven innings of work. Atkins had two doubles and one RBI for the Pride. Moran added two hits, while Fumicello and Kogut chipped in one hit each.
With the win, Rhodes became just the fourth player in program history to reach the 20-win plateau, and the first since 2003. Rhodes joined Kathy Georgina (20-4, 1996), Nan Duga (35-8, 2001), and Brianne Pearson (22-7, 2003) in the 20-win club.
For the Lyons, starter Jodi Moynaugh (Worcester, Mass.) was solid in four innings in the circle, allowing only three hits and one run. Andrea Bagley (Foxboro, Mass.) took the loss, giving up three hits and the winning run in relief.