NEWTON, Mass. – Junior pitcher Nicole Handzel (Palmer, Mass.) and sophomore Hayley Microulis (Pawtucket, R.I.) combined to allow just three runs for the Mount Ida College softball team in a doubleheader sweep over host Simmons College, 3-2, 1-0, this afternoon in Great Northeast Athletic Conference action in Newton, Mass.
The pair of wins thrust the Mustangs into the GNAC Tournament, capturing the number eight seed. Mount Ida has won five straight games to improve to 13-21 overall and 9-13 in league play, while the Sharks finish their season at 13-20 and 7-15.
The Mustangs will take on number five seed Emmanuel College on Tuesday, May 3 at 6:00 p.m. at Roberto Clemente Field in Boston, Mass. in the opening elimination round of the GNAC Tournament.
Microulis and junior middle infielder Lucianna Medici (Riverside, R.I.) each collected three hits on the day to lead Mount Ida at the plate. Microulis was brilliant from the pitching circle as well, tossing six innings of one-hit ball in game two, while yielding just one hit and three walks to go with five strikeouts to improve to 4-9 on the season. Handzel earned the eight-inning game one victory, giving up two unearned runs on four hits and four bases on balls, while fanning nine batters to up her record to 9-12.
Senior center fielder Heather White (Westfield, Mass.) and first year first baseman Alexandra Moleski (Bridgeport, Conn.) each had a pair of hits to lead the Simmons offense.
The Mustangs never trailed during the twinbill and took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth of game one. First year first baseman Kelsey Weston (Hampstead, N.H.) stroked a leadoff double down the left field line to open the frame and later scored on a single to left by first year right fielder Victoria Russo (Revere, Mass.) to give Mount Ida a 1-0 edge. Russo later scored when Medici reached on a two-out error.
The Sharks matched the runs in the sixth to knot the score at 2-2. Moleski ripped a double down the left field line, before senior pinch runner Amy Maher (Milton, Mass.) replaced her at second base and eventually scored when White reached on an error. Junior catcher Alison Gauvin (Whitefield, Maine) followed with a single to center and a sacrifice fly to right field, off the bat of junior second baseman Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.), plated White with the tying run.
The teams were tied at the end of seven innings to send the contest into extra innings. Handzel began the frame on second base for the Mustangs as part of the international tie-breaker and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Russo. Handzel scored the eventual game-winning run when junior center fielder Michele MacDonald (North Dighton, Mass.) reached on an error.
Simmons advanced a runner to third base in its half of the eighth, but Mount Ida defense cut the runner down at the plate on a ground ball to shortstop to thwart the scoring threat.
Sophomore starting pitcher Juliet Nelson (Cumberland, R.I.) (1-3) suffered the loss for the Sharks, giving up three runs (one earned) on 12 hits and a walk, while striking out a batter in eight complete innings.
Microulis and Handzel combined on a two-hit shutout in the nightcap for Mount Ida. The Mustangs scored the only run of the contest in the top of the first inning. Medici reached on a fielder's choice with one out, stole second base and scored on a two-out single to left field by junior catcher Emma Morton (Winchester, Mass.) to give the visitors the only run they would need for the game.
Rastello laced a single through the left side of the infield to end Mount Ida's no-hit bid at five and a third innings. The Sharks looked to rally in the seventh to tie the game when Moleski smacked a double to left field to lead off the inning. Nelson pinch ran for Moleski and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by White, but was stranded there as Handzel, who came on in relief to start the final frame, was able to secure the final two outs for her first save of the season.
First year pitcher Tori Gomes (Taunton, Mass.) (5-7) was the tough-luck loser for Simmons, yielding just one run on five hits and three free passes, while setting down seven batters on strikes.