BRIDGEWATER -- The MCLA softball team was one win from claiming its first MASCAC tournament championship in nearly 20 years.
Bridgewater State, however, had other ideas.
The Bears, who came into the tournament as the top seed, needed to beat the second-seeded Trailblazers twice to claim the tourney title Sunday. The Bears did just that, beating MCLA 2-0 in the first game and 2-1 in the second.
With the wins, Bridgewater (26-15) claims the automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. MCLA (21-22) sees its season end.
MCLA pitcher Rachel Quackenbush, the MASCAC Co-Rookie of the Year, continued her dominance throughout the tournament. She pitched all four games, giving up a total of seven runs. On the final day, she struck out 15 Bridgewater batters in the two games. The problem was Amber White gave up only one unearned run in both Bridgewater victories.
"We lost two heartbreakers today," coach Mike Ameen said by phone after arriving back in North Adams. "We were a half-inch away from winning the [second] game."
In the second game with MCLA trailing by a run, Clarksburg native Megan Boyer sliced a hot shot down the third-base line, but Jennifer Shaw snatched it and doubled-up Tanelle Ciempa to end the MCLA sixth.
White set the Trailblazers down 1-2-3 in the seventh to clinch the title.
"We went toe-to-toe with them for two games," Ameen said.
The Trailblazers got to White with an unearned run in the first inning of the second game. Leadoff hitter Kendra Hobbs hit a fly to right where Bridgewater right fielder Jessica Laudati misplayed the ball and Hobbs ended up on third. Hobbs scored on Michaela DiNicola's ground out. It was MCLA's only run.
Laudati made up for the error by hitting a solo home run in the fourth to tie the score. One inning later, Jen Shaw's RBI double put the Bears up 2-1.
The long ball is how Bridgewater scored three of its four runs Sunday. Brianna Strecker hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning of the first game for the only runs to force the deciding game.
Quackenbush struck out 32 batters in the four tournament games, extending her school strikeout record to 153 on the season. The previous record was 95, set by Sue Plankey in 1999. Quackenbush is more than half way to the all-time record of 249, set by Jenn Golden from 2000-2003.