CLAREMONT, Calif. - Freshman pitcher Lauren Richards was five outs from a no-hitter before settling for a 2-1 win in the nightcap of a key SCIAC doubleheader with Pomona-Pitzer, helping No. 5 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps come away with a split after falling in the opening game 4-3 for its first conference loss of the year.
With the nightcap win, CMS now stands at 25-6 on the season and 19-1 in the SCIAC, maintaining a four-game lead over second-place Pomona-Pitzer, which moves to 15-5 in league play. The split also enables the Athenas to have the tiebreaker with the Sagehens, after winning the season series 3-1, making it essentially a five-game lead for first with only eight games remaining in the battle for the top seed and right to host the postseason tournament.
CMS has made a living this year winning games in its final at-bat, including nine times in its first 18 league wins, but had the tables turned in the opener, as Pomona-Pitzer won 4-3 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh from Karina Falkstrom. It wouldn't have come to that, except that freshman Ananya Koneti had a clutch pinch-hit two-run homer in the top of the seventh, her first collegiate round-tripper, to tie the score at 3-3 with the Athenas down to their final two outs.
After Pomona-Pitzer won in walk-off fashion, there was some pressure on Richards as she took to the circle, knowing that another loss would make the battle for first place in the SCIAC much tighter heading into the final two weeks. She responded by taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and a shutout into the seventh before settling for the three-hit victory.
Richards had some help from sophomore catcher Maddie Valdez, who ended the fourth inning by throwing out a Sagehen runner trying to steal, keeping the score 0-0. The Athenas then took that momentum into the fifth inning and broke the scoreless deadlock. Sophomore third baseman Jessica Fox, who was 3-for-3 in the nightcap, led off with an infield single and an error put two runners on and nobody out.
Sophomore left fielder Molly Spaniac bunted the two runners over, and Fox came home on a wild pitch to score the first run. Sophomore designated player Megan Perron then had an RBI single to stretch the lead to 2-0, although CMS would leave the bases loaded with a chance to extend the lead even more.
Richards retired the side in order in the fifth, and CMS led off the sixth with singles from senior right fielder Rachel Perley and Fox to put two on with nobody out, but the Sagehens were able to wiggle out of another jam to keep it a 2-0 game. Richards then struck out the first batter of the sixth, putting her five outs away from a no-hitter, before Kristen Hong finally broke it up with a single to left.
CMS went down in order in the seventh, the only time in the nightcap that happened as the Athenas totaled 12 hits but only two runs. Senior shortstop Chloe Amarilla then came up with a diving catch of a line drive to start the bottom of the seventh for the first out. That play would take on added importance as pinch hitter Katy Hurley followed with a solo homer over the left field fence to cut the CMS lead to 2-1.
A walk and a single put the tying run on second and the winning run on first with one out, but Richards fielded a comebacker and alertly got the lead runner at third to keep the tying run 120 feet away instead of 60. She then got Hong to hit a fly ball into foul territory in right field which Perley ran down for the final out.
CMS Softball splits today's doubleheader with a 2-1 Game-2 victory! Rachel Perley makes the catch in right field to clinch the win. Richards (15-2) earns her 15th win of the season.— CMS Athletics (@AthleticsCMS) April 13, 2019
Up next: at La Verne (DH) Sat., Apr. 13 at 12 pm. #GoAthenas #CMSsoftball pic.twitter.com/wHwbZGDOam
The three-hit win improved Richards to 15-2 on the season, one game after Liz Rodarte improved to 14-2 for the Sagehens to tie her for the SCIAC lead in wins. All nine batters had a hit for CMS in the nightcap, with Fox (3-for-3) and Koneti (2-for-4) having multi-hit efforts. Amarilla had a solo homer in the third inning of the opener to account for the first CMS run, while Koneti drove in the other two with her two-run homer in the seventh.
The Athenas will be back in action tomorrow when they travel to La Verne for a 12 noon doubleheader.