Walk this way: Lions ride free passes to victory

by Beacon Staff • April 11, 2011

Evan Sporer, Beacon staff

Sometimes, it’s the things you don’t do in sports that pay off the most.

For Emerson’s softball team, this past Saturday against Brandeis University, choosing not to swing the bat may have served it best.

In a tight game, Emerson drew three walks in the fifth inning en route to four runs, breaking a 1-1 tie and eventually coming away with a 5-3 victory versus the Judges from Waltham.

“We talk a lot about being patient [at the plate] and letting the pressure stick on the defense and pitcher,” said head coach Phil McElroy in a phone interview with the Beacon.

Early on, Brandeis starting pitcher Melissa Nolan stifled Emerson’s hitters, peppering the outside of the strike zone and keeping them off-balance. McElroy decided it was time for a change.

“We moved up in the batter’s box, moved closer to the plate, covering the outside portion,” McElroy said. “I believe it forced her to try to throw the ball further out.”

McElroy’s strategy worked. Nolan started to miss the strike zone and surrendered three out of her four walks in the fifth, two of which scored runners with the bases loaded.

With junior Kelsey Tuthill on first base with two outs, McElroy decided to bring up pinch hitter Lauren Jacaruso for Jilisa Rawding in a crucial spot.

Jacaruso dug in and watched four out of five pitches sail wide of the strike zone, as Emerson put the pressure on Nolan.

“It’s nice to see a freshman with that kind of discipline,” said McElroy.

A single by leadoff hitter, Britanny Rochford, continued the rally. Jordan Newell then stepped in with the game tied at one, in a position to put the Lions ahead.

After fouling off six pitches, Newell calmly kept her bat on her shoulder as she watched ball four, giving the Lions their first lead of the day.

“We all got on the plate and tried to crowd it,” Tuthill said. “People were more willing to see the pitcher and feel her out. We knew we had to have better at- bats.”

Then, Nolan unraveled.

As the Judges’ pitcher continued to miss the strike zone, Emerson’s batters continued to show plate discipline, and forced the freshman to labor on the mound.

When Nolan finally began to throw strikes, Emerson broke the game open, taking matters into its own hands.

With the Lions already up 3-1, Shannon Torosian drove a screaming line drive into the right-centerfield gap, plating two of her teammates, and putting the game out of reach for the Judges.

“It’s one of those things when you’re momentarily happy,” Tuthill said of Torosian’s hit. “After that, you have to refocus.”

For Tuthill, it was a focused day on the mound, as the junior turned in a complete game effort.

After surrendering a run in the first, Tuthill settled down and pitched four consecutive scoreless innings, giving the Lions a chance to grab the lead.

“Obviously there’s always things to improve on,” Tuthill said. “I take away knowing to throw different pitches to better hitters. When I’m behind, I need to keep pitching my game.”

It was the first time Emerson had beaten Brandeis in its last six tries.

The win was short lived, however, as Emerson fell to Brandeis 8-0 in the second game of its doubleheader. Casey Ducinski threw a five-inning no-hitter for Brandeis, and the Judges scored six runs in the first inning, burying any chances of an Emerson sweep.

“The first game showed what we were really made of,” said McElroy. “I think that there’s some truth to the fact that you win the first game and there’s not as much urgency in the second game. We don’t think anyone is eight runs better than us in the Northeast.”