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Softball loses "toughest game of all season"

By Michael J. Garrison

The softball team suffered a tough first-round New England Women's 8 playoff loss to Brandeis University yesterday. After Teri Lowenstein '89 (MIT's first batter of the game) scored in the first inning, the Engineers led

1-0, gave up only two hits and one walk, and had no errors -- until bottom of the seventh inning, when the Judges crossed the plate twice to steal the victory.

MIT had a very good chance to hang on to the win in the top of the seventh, but they left the bases loaded without driving in a run. Right fielder Laura Brauer '89 opened with a walk, and was replaced by pinch runner Beth Nickerson '91. Lowenstein then got on due to an error by the Brandeis pitcher. The next batter, Showna Chang '92, hit a sharp grounder to short, but Nickerson, unfortunately still on the second base side of the play, was easily tagged out.

Shortstop Diane DiMassa '88, who had hit the first inning single which scored MIT's only run, worked the pitcher up to a full count before going down to her third strikeout of the game. Centerfielder Cecelia Warpinski '90 loaded the bases by walking, but it proved to be for naught when thirdbaseman Stephanie Ragucci '90 also struck out. Ragucci's "K" was one of seven for the Brandeis pitching staff.

Brandeis then made the Engineers pay. Leading off the bottom of the seventh in the clean-up slot, the Brandeis centerfielder hit the ball over the head of Warpinski. However, when the ball rolled to a stop against the extremely short centerfield fence, Warpinski was able to make the throw to second before the Judge outfielder could reach the bag. But the field umpire ruled DiMassa had not made the tag, bringing both MIT coaches onto the diamond. The play stood, and the runner would soon score the tying run.

This play was immediately followed by another controversy involving the same umpire. As the Brandeis firstbaseman stepped into a perfectly executed bunt, MIT secondbaseman Linda D'Angelo '90 moved to cover first while Ragucci and thirdbaseman Lowenstein came in to field the bunt. Since the runner on second had already moved to third by the time the bunt could be fielded, the throw went to first. D'Angelo, reaching for the ball, was pulled off of first just before the batter reached the bag.

But when the umpire at second base ruled her safe, MIT's coaches again stormed the field, arguing that D'Angelo had been on the bag when she caught the ball, so it did not matter that her foot later left the bag. Head Coach Jean Heiney finally forced the second base umpire to check with the home plate umpire, but he backed up the call. "I was annoyed that he was hesitant to check" with the other umpire, Heiney later said.

The next batter tried exactly the same thing, but Lowenstein's throw to D'Angelo picked her off, and the runner on third was forced to hold.

This left runners on second and third with one out. The Engineers decided not to walk the next batter, and it hurt them when she hit a hard two-strike single high over the head of D'Angelo. This advanced both runners (tying the score), and when the runner on first stole second on the next pitch, MIT catcher Michelle Duso '91 was forced to hold on to the ball in order to keep the runner on third from scoring.

Finally, Brandeis picked up the winning run when their number eight batter knocked the ball just over the head of Chang in left field. The hit, which would have been good enough for a double, drove in the winning run and ended the game.

MIT had opened the game with one run, and chances for a few more. Lowenstein started off with a walk, and the next three batters all picked up singles (DiMassa's good for the RBI). From this point on, however, things didn't go the Engineer's way. Three consecutive hits to the left side of the infield produced three consecutive force-outs, two on throws to the catcher and the third an unassisted play by the thirdbaseman.

Heiney called this game the "toughest loss of the season -- Lynn [Albers '92] had pitched so well; [she] was just marvelous."

The loss put the Engineers at 1-2 versus the Judges this season, and 8-6 overall. The semifinal and final games of the NEW8 softball playoffs will be held on Briggs Field tomorrow. The Engineers' last games are next Tuesday at Southeastern Massachusetts University and Thursday at home against Elms.