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Softball breaks out at UAA Championship, finishes fourth

Spartans end three-year UAA losing streak on way to 3-5 finish

The past three years were not the kindest to the Case Western Reserve University softball team, who went winless in their last three appearances in the UAA Championship. This season marked a fresh start: the Spartans won three games with rookie ace Rebecca Taylor on the mound. Taylor, the UAA Pitcher of the Week in the first two weeks of her collegiate career, led the Spartans to a 3-5 record and a tie with the Brandeis University Judges for fourth in the UAA.

Emory University won its third straight UAA title and sixth overall as the Eagles finished with a 6-2 record. The Eagles (23-3, 6-2), ranked No. 2 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, topped the standings by two games over No. 21 Washington University (10-5, 4-4) and the University of Rochester (5-6, 4-4), who each finished at 4-4. Case tied with Brandeis (3-5, 3-5) for fourth.

The Spartans (6-7, 3-5), who opened the season 3-2, kicked off the UAA Championship with a statement game on Tuesday, March 13 when they toppled the nationally ranked Washington Bears 4-2. The win snapped a 24-game conference losing streak dating back to March 15, 2008. The Spartans were led by Taylor on the mound, who allowed just one earned run on two hits. The Spartans picked up an early lead with runs in the first two innings from RBIs by seniors first baseman Lauren Wolz and third baseman Kaeleen Boden. Sophomores Makenzie Lein and Katherine Seo each added an RBI in the fifth in seventh inning to end the streak for the Spartans.

Case’s first game against Rochester led to their second win, 9-1, of the tournament. The Spartans broke open the game early as Wolz slapped in three of her career-high six RBIs on a triple in the first inning. Case added two more runs in the first inning and another in the sixth. Taylor pitched a nearly flawless game, allowing just one unearned run on two hits. The run happened in the bottom of the fifth, right after the Spartans put another three runners across home to win by varsity run rule. The win dropped Rochester to 0-4 in the tournament, but the Yellowjackets would wake up and run off their final four games in winning fashion to claim a share of fourth.

The Spartans toppled the nationally ranked Washington Bears for their third win of the tournament and just their fifth victory over the Bears in 26 meetings. In the tournament’s sixth game, the Spartans got out to an early lead, grabbing a run in the first inning thanks to Wolz and adding three more in the second. The lead would be short-lived, however; the Bears matched Case’s second inning tally with three runs of their own off a three-run home run by Kelsey Neal, who started as the Washington pitcher.

Lein, who had a two-RBI single in the second, drove in another run with a double in the sixth before scoring herself in the sixth. Not to be outdone, Neal drove in another two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Spartans’ lead to 6-5. The Spartans would clinch the victory, 7-5, with a single by Seo to drive in freshman centerfielder Lizzy Kolar.

The sweep of the Bears would be the last win for the Spartans on the weekend. They fell to Emory later that day before being swept by Brandeis and Rochester on the final day.

The fourth-place finish was a bittersweet one for the Spartans as the ceiling was raised after their first victory over the Bears. Despite beating the two teams that were tied for second three times, the Spartans were unable to win over the Judges, with whom they were tied for fourth, losing 5-7 and 3-11.

In addition to the two-run loss to Brandeis, the Spartans had a heartbreaking loss in the final conference game of the season when they faced off against Rochester for a share of second place. With the game tied 1-1 in the eighth inning, the Yellowjackets managed to squeeze a run in to grab a share. After sophomore Rachel Taylor doubled to open the inning, the Spartans dropped two errors before loading the bases on an error and a walk. Lein fouled out to the first baseman with the bases loaded, ending the Spartans’ season.

A successful outing at the UAA Championship has raised the Spartans’ hopes – after doubling its win total last year, the team is looking for a winning season. The Spartans travel to Denison University and Kenyon University this weekend for doubleheaders. They play the Big Red at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 24 and the Ladies of Kenyon on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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