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Sunday, May 1, 2011

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Late rally gives softball cc title

CC CHAMPIONS!! On Friday, the Muhlenberg softball team was at practice when the skies opened up and rain began to fall. The coaches wanted to move the practice indoors, but the players insisted on staying outside until the shower passed. It eventually did, and the Mules came out of practice soaking wet.

As you practice, so do you play. On Sunday, the Mules played through another downpour, and this time they came out of it as the Centennial Conference champions.

A two-out single by junior Brittany Blohm brought in the winning run as Muhlenberg scored three runs in the top of the seventh to stun Dickinson, 4-3, in the CC championship game. The Mules, who swept through the CC tournament in three games, receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The field will be announced on Monday, May 9, with play scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 12.

The Mules, who tied McDaniel and Ursinus for the most championships (five) in CC history, entered the day knowing that either Ursinus or Dickinson would have to win three games to claim the title. But with the Red Devils featuring super pitcher Allison Jordan, the prospect wasn’t so far-fetched.

Dickinson (20-17) knocked out Ursinus in the first game, 5-2, setting up a rematch of yesterday’s
captains with trophy
Mule captains Kasza, Brewer and Blohm show off their new hardware.
nail-biting 1-0 Mule win, which came down to the last play. Jordan pitched well, but in her fourth game in two days was far from the dominating pitcher who in her last three starts against Muhlenberg struck out 16, pitched a perfect game and struck out 11.

The Mules made it difficult on her by consistently working deep counts and fouling off two-strike pitches. “We battled the whole game,” said Blohm. “We made her throw a lot of pitches and work hard to get outs.”

Muhlenberg’s starting pitcher, senior Ashley Brewer, admitted that she did not have her best stuff, either. In the bottom of the second, she threw two wild pitches, allowing Dickinson to score two runs without hitting the ball out of the infield.

Muhlenberg (25-15) got a run back in the fourth when freshman Kelly Kline led off with a single, the Mules’ first hit of the game. After a sacrifice and a flyout, senior Alyssa Epstein drove in pinch-runner Lauren Hochreiter with a single.

Still down 2-1, Muhlenberg threatened to tie the score in the sixth, loading the bases on a hit batter and two walks. Freshman Chelsea Benjamin sent a long drive to deep right-center, but it was tracked down for the final out.

After the Red Devils extended their lead back to two on a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, they chose to remove Jordan. A steady rain that had been falling since the middle of the game got stronger, and reliever Liz Barry clearly had trouble getting a grip on the wet ball.

Freshman Colleen O’Donnell led off the seventh with a single and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches. With one out, freshman Erica Wenzel walked and went to second on a yet another wild pitch.

Brewer, who missed a two-run homer by a few feet in the third, beat out a
Colleen O’Donnell
One of four freshmen in the Mules' everyday lineup, O’Donnell homered for the lone run in the first playoff win against top-seeded Dickinson and started the winning rally in the second.
grounder to deep short as O’Donnell crossed home. After Brewer stole second, freshman Kelly Kline hit a ground ball to third to bring in Wenzel with the tying run.

That brought up Blohm, who singled in the hole between third and short to plate Brewer with the go-ahead run.

“I was nervous, but I knew if I made contact down and on the ground we’d be fine,” said Blohm, whose 26 RBI this season are one more than her total from the previous two years. “We knew we had the option of a seventh game, but we didn’t want to let it get to that.”

There still remained one bit of business, and that was to keep Dickinson off the board in the bottom of the seventh. And even though Brewer could see firsthand the difficulties Barry was having, she said the weather was not an issue as she prepared to pitch the seventh.

“The rain doesn’t bother me,” she said. “On my travel team there was one season where it seemed like it rained every time I pitched. The rain kind of helps me not think about things.

“This is something that I’ve wanted for a long time, ever since we won the championship two years ago,” she added. “That desire overtook any apprehension I had about going out there.”

Brewer wasn’t out there long, needing only six pitches to retire the side on a strikeout, popout and groundout to senior Jess Kasza at short, giving Muhlenberg its second championship in three years. Rain was also a factor in the 2009 title: That year the second day of the tournament was rained out, giving the Mules the championship as the highest remaining seed.

“This one feels much better, knowing that we actually won instead of getting it by default,” said Brewer. “We came in knowing we could do it and battled every game. It was just a great team win.”
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