Richards, Defense Help No. 12 CMS Softball Earn Split with No. 3 Ithaca

Natalie Dale helped manufacture the first run of the nightcap with her speed on the bases
Natalie Dale helped manufacture the first run of the nightcap with her speed on the bases

CLAREMONT, Calif. - Freshman Lauren Richards threw a complete game to improve to 7-0 in the circle and added a two-run single at the plate, and the Athena outfielders took turns making big catches to take away extra-base hits in the final innings, as the No. 12 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps softball team took a 3-2 win in the nightcap of a doubleheader with No. 3 Ithaca on Friday afternoon at Athena Field.

Ithaca took the opening game 9-1 in six innings, but CMS was able to bounce back and come away with a big split. The Athenas now move to 10-3 on the season, while Ithaca, which reached the Division III Women's College World Series last year, moves to 6-3. 

The Athenas scored all their runs in the nightcap in the bottom of the second inning, with pinch-runner Natalie Dale helping to manufacture the first run with her speed. Freshman first baseman Ananya Koneti led off with a sharp infield single to third, and Dale was able to beat a close throw to second on a sacrifice bunt from junior center fielder Kawai Scanlan. Dale then stole third, and raced home when the throw went down the left field line to put the Athenas ahead 1-0. 

Senior shortstop Chloe Amarilla drew a two-out walk, and sophomore left fielder Molly Spaniac reached on a catcher's interference to load the bases. That brought up Richards, who hit a one-hopper that got past the lunge of Ithaca's third baseman and into left field to plate two runs and give CMS a 3-0 lead. 

Ithaca got two runs back in the top of the fifth inning to close to within 3-2, with Abby Shields driving in the second run on a two-out single. Richards came back to get the final seven outs in order, with the help of the players behind her. 

In the sixth, Richards started the inning off with a strikeout, but Ithaca's Annie Cooney followed with a bid for a double in the right-center field gap. Scanlan, though, sprinted a long way into the alley and came up with a spectacular sliding catch to keep Cooney off the basepaths. Pinch hitter Haley Gaffney then went the other way to drive a ball to deep left-center, but Spaniac was able to retreat and make an over-the-shoulder the catch for the final out of the inning. 

Leading off the top of the seventh, Nikkey Skuraton looked like she had a sure double into the gap in right-center, but this time senior right fielder Rachel Perley came up with the big catch, reaching out at full extension on the dead run to pull the ball in to leave CMS two outs from the win.

Richards got the next batter swinging, and the game ended when sophomore shortstop Jessica Fox gobbled up a tricky hop up the middle, and Koneti stretched up the right field line and kept her toes on the bag for the final out. 

CMS managed only four hits in the nightcap to score its three runs, with sophomore Maddie Valdez nearly homering in her sixth straight doubleheader, but coming up just short when her drive to left-center hit off the wall for a double. Richards scattered eight hits, struck out five and walked none in improving to 7-0 on the season. 

The opening game saw Ithaca take a 3-0 lead in the first inning and hold it throughout on its way to a 9-1 win. Koneti drove in the CMS run with a pinch-hit RBI single, while Richards was 2-for-3 at the plate with a double. 

CMS will be back in action tomorrow when it returns to SCIAC play with a road doubleheader at Occidental.