CHESTERTOWN, Md. – The Haverford College softball team completed a historic run to the 2016 Centennial Conference Championship with three wins on Sunday. With Saturday's win and three more on Sunday, the Fords are the first team in Centennial Conference history to drop their first game and run off four straight wins to capture the conference crown. The final two wins to capture the conference's automatic bid came against host Washington College as the Fords methodically eliminated each of the other three teams from the tournament.
The Fords' championship was the team's second in the past three seasons and third in program history. The Haverford pitching staff was dominant all weekend and allowed just six earned runs in 36 innings of play (1.17 ERA). Headlining that strong pitching was the Centennial Conference Tournament MVP Sara Tauriello. However, each pitcher was called on to make a start and each provided a dominant start when the Fords needed pitching depth more than ever.
Haverford 3, Gettysburg 1 (Elimination Game 2)
Kendall Chambers got the first call for the Fords in the circle and responded with a complete game five-hitter in which she allowed just five hits to record her seventh win of the season. The only run she surrendered came in the first inning when a two-out RBI single scored the only Gettysburg run of the game. Her heroics also broke a five-game losing streak against the Bullets who had just swept the Fords in the previous weekend and handed Haverford both of its defeats in last year's Centennial Conference Tournament.
The Fords provided their heroics late in the championship games against Washington College and Sunday's first game proved to be no different. It did not take long for Haverford to answer the early run from the Bullets as an unearned run in the bottom of the second tied the game at one.
Haverford took its first lead of Sunday's game with runs in the fourth and fifth inning. Winesett, who got the start in the outfield, singled with one down in the fourth. A two-out double from Julia Blake kept the inning alive, while Kaitlyn Guild drove an RBI single into left field to give her team the lead. Kristin Tatum started off the Fords' fifth with a leadoff single and eventually came around to score on a two-out RBI single from Alex Craig for the game's insurance run.
Haverford 2, Washington College 1 – 9 Innings (Championship Game 1, must win)
Haverford handed the ball to the eventual tournament MVP in its second must win scenario on Sunday. Coming right back from the thrilling win against Gettysburg, the Fords got the boost they needed in the form of eight innings of six-hit softball from Tauriello. Although not credited with the win, Tauriello allowed just six hits and struck six as she worked into extra innings before giving way to Kendall Chambers in the top of the ninth as Haverford played this contest as the home team on the scoreboard.
Strong pitching from both sides kept both teams hitless until a double from Rachel Wolfson with two outs in the bottom of the third. However, it was a leadoff triple in the fourth that came around for the Shorewomen's only run in the first of two games between these teams on Sunday – the third overall in the tournament.
Needing a rally to keep the season alive, Blake gave the offense a leadoff base runner as she worked a walk to start the second. The Fords then manufactured the game-tying run as Blake stole second and was bunted to third by Guild. Tatum was walked during the next plate appearance, but the Fords scored their tying run on a misplayed ball on the infield.
Washington College threatened to take the lead in the top of the seventh as they loaded the bases with two outs before Tauriello took the final out herself. Both teams had two hits in the eighth inning, but could not push a run across. Haverford secured the walk-off win following back-to-back one-out singles from Winesett and Wolfson. A pop up on the infield put two away, but again it was Guild that came up with a clutch hit into right centerfield for the eventual go-ahead run in walk off fashion.
Haverford 5, Washington College 3 (Championship Game two, winner take all)
Playing as the away team in the tournament's seventh game, the Fords again found themselves down early with the Shorewomen scoring a run in the bottom of the first. However, after allowing that run, Winesett settled in and did not allow another run as she conceded just one unearned run after that in her 4.1 innings of work. Tauriello came on to get the save as she closed the game with the final 2.2 innings, allowing just one hit and a seventh inning run in the process.
Late drama was norm for Haverford on Sunday and the championship game proved to be no exception. Showing it takes a team to win, it was the bottom of the Haverford lineup that set the table for a five-run fifth inning that allowed Haverford take a lead it would not relinquish.
Miwa Wenzel started that frame with a bunt single before Craig reached on an infield error. Emily Gorman then did her job by laying down a sacrifice bunt to put the runners in scoring position. Winesett brought home the game-tying run with a sacrifice fly, while Wolfson gave her team the lead with a single just out of the reach of the shortstop. Blake followed that with a single, while a walk to Guild loaded the bases. Tatum then provided the insurance with a bases clearing double.
Those insurance runs would be needed as the Shorewomen loaded the bases with one out in the fifth before Tauriello got a pair of ground outs to escape the jam with just one run in. After getting set down in order in the sixth, Washington College saw the seventh inning extended on an error with that run coming around to score on an RBI double before a strikeout from Tauriello sealed the championship win.
With the Centennial Conference Championship in hand, Haverford has clinched the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Fords will find out their site and other teams in the region during the selection show tomorrow at 1 p.m.