Softball's magical ride comes to an end in the Centennial final

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Haverford College softball team's magical season came to an end in the Centennial Conference tournament championship game on Sunday afternoon as the Fords lost 9-0 in five innings to Washington College at Muhlenberg's Cedarcreek Field. Haverford staved off elimination earlier in the day with a 7-1 win over top seed Muhlenberg and a 3-1 victory over the Shorewomen in the first game of the championship round.

The Fords (26-13) entered the second day of tournament action knowing they would need to win three straight contests to secure the second Centennial title in program history. Haverford did not back down from the challenge as it put together an effective combination of brilliant pitching, sparkling fielding and timely hitting to force a winner-take-all Game 7.

Facing top seed Muhlenberg (31-9-1) in the opening game of the day, Fords' starting pitcher Claire Fitzgerald (6-2) kept the Mules' lineup quiet over the initial five innings of the contest. The junior limited Muhlenberg to just two singles through the first five frames with the help of solid defensive support. 

Haverford broke through in the bottom of the fifth as it snapped the scoreless tie with four hits and three runs. Jen DiCandilo's two-out RBI-single to right field scored Julie Garlick and Dayle Comerford kept the inning alive by working a walk. Stephanie Wolfson came through with another clutch hit for the Fords as her single through the left side brought Elizabeth Newman and DiCandilo home.

After the Mules cut into Haverford's advantage with one run in the top of the sixth, the Fords added four more runs in their half of the sixth to take control of the contest. Lauren Touey, Kristin Tatum and Fitzgerald registered consecutive singles to tack on another run as Fitzgerald's hit to left center scored Touey. Newman capped the big inning with a triple to right center that allowed Tatum and Fitzgerald to cross the plate easily. Aggressive base running by Newman caused Muhlenberg to hurry the relay throw that consequently went awry. Newman took full advantage of the miscue as she scored Haverford's seventh run of the contest. The junior's extra-base hit also chased Mules' starter Kelsey Jones (17-4).

Emily Winesett came on to pitch the seventh and the freshman closed out the victory with two strikeouts in the inning. Winesett struck out the final batter of the game with two Muhlenberg players on the basepaths to squelch the hosts' hopes for a rally.

The win provided the third-seeded Fords with a spot in the championship round against fourth-seeded Washington (26-17). Every champion in the history of the Centennial softball tournament had gone 2-0 on the opening day of playoff action but that statistic meant nothing in 2013. This year's tournament was filled with the unexpected and Haverford made sure to add an additional chapter to its memorable run. Forcing just the second Game 7 in the history of the tournament, the Fords came up big again in another elimination situation and took down the Shorewomen, 3-1, in the first game of the championship round.

Sara Tauriello (11-2) gave Haverford another masterful pitching performance as she scattered seven hits over five-plus innings to the top run-producing team in the conference. Tauriello also matched the program single-season records for strikeouts (95) and wins (11).

Touey and Tatum provided the bulk of the offense with two hits apiece. Tatum's double to left field drove Touey home in the the second. The duo then repeated the feat in the fourth as Touey once again got things going with a single through the left side. Tatum struck an RBI-single to center to give the Fords a 2-0 lead.

Washington trimmed the Haverford advantage to one with two hits and one run in the sixth but the Fords were not finished. Newman got on base with a two-out single in the top of the seventh and was able to provide an insurance run when Sarah Brody's single to right alluded Lindsey Glascock.

Winesett came on with one out in the sixth to earn the five-out save.

Haverford looked to continue its perfect day with another win over the Shorewomen in the title game but Washington starter Kristin Cooper (13-8) limited the Fords to just three hits in the contest. The Shorewomen broke through for eight runs in the second and one more in the third to move out to a 9-0 lead in the deciding game and Cooper made it stand up as she registered five strikeouts in the five-inning affair. Winesett (9-9) suffered the loss in the circle for Haverford.

Despite the season-ending defeat, the Fords made an impression on the rest of the Centennial. Picked eighth in the preseason poll of conference coaches, Haverford set single-season records for runs scored, runs batted in and home runs. The youthful squad, boasting just one senior, also tied the program record for wins in a season (26).

Senior Gabrielle Sapienza closed out her career on Sunday but the rest of the Fords return with high hopes of another deep playoff run.