Softball unseated in UAA championships

| Senior Sports Editor

From 2004 to 2009, the Washington University softball team was synonymous with University Athletic Association conference champion. The Bears had won the championship six years in a row.

One too many losses has ended that streak, as Wash. U. tied with Brandeis University for second with a 5-3 conference record. The 2010 title belongs to the Emory University Eagles, who are perched at the top of the UAA conference with a 6-2 record.

“We’re one of the few sports that have to be at the peak of our game towards the beginning of our season in order to compete for the UAA championship,” head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutté said. “We were going through some growing pains.”

The Bears headed into the UAA championship carrying the momentum of a four-game sweep in the NTC Games. The Red and Green blasted Case Western University with a 12-2 victory in their UAA opener.

Wash. U. looked set to repeat their winning ways with a 4-2 lead heading into the fifth inning against Brandeis University. That’s when things started going awry, as the Judges capitalized on two errors and hit a grand slam to get back in the game.

“Up to that point, our feet weren’t held up to the fire for the mistakes we were making,” Pineda-Boutté said. “The mistakes we hadn’t corrected were being exposed.”

The Bears tied the game back up at 6-6, but the Judges kept their momentum going and scored three runs in the top of the fifth inning. The Red and Green were unable to bounce back, and suffered their first loss of the season. “We struggle when we tense,” senior Ally Berenter said.

The next day was no better for the Bears, as they suffered a 5-0 loss to Emory. Each of the Wash. U. pitchers—junior Claire Voris, sophomore Olivia Cook and freshman Kathy Peter—were stifled by the Eagles’ hitters. Voris earned the loss.

The Lady Bears rebounded with an 8-2 thumping of the University of Rochester, as the team capitalized on errors and Peter earned her first collegiate victory in the pitcher’s circle. Peter gave up only one earned run in seven innings as the nearly three-hour marathon game was delayed because of lightning. But that rally in the standings was cut short, as the Judges dealt the Bears a 4-0 loss the next day.

Losses were a thing of the past for the rest of the tournament as the Bears defeated Emory 8-1 and Case Western Reserve 3-1.

“We didn’t crumble,” senior co-captain Caitlyn Hoffman said. “We ended up salvaging the tournament and playing well at the end.”

Cook gave up only one run against the Eagles, and Peter picked up her second career win as both pitched full games.

“It was funny,” Cook said. “I didn’t feel like I was pitching my best…Our defense was playing so amazing that game that I felt like as long as I got the ground balls, we were going to be fine. We played better than we had all year.”

Heading into the final day of UAA play, the Bears needed a win over Rochester and also needed either Case or Rochester to deal Emory a loss to get a first-place tie in the standings. The Bears got the 7-3 victory they needed, but neither Case Western nor Rochester could derail Emory’s UAA title plans.

Sophomore Corissa Santos returned after missing Saturday because of an injury, and hit a home run to center field in her first at-bat.

“She’s really our spark plug,” Cook said. “I feel like she can’t ever go up and not get a hit.”

The No. 16 Bears host No. 8 Augustana College and Fontbonne University at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, Friday on the softball field on the South 40. The Bears also play No. 15 Central College and Augustana College at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday.