WPI Walk-Off Ends Wellesley’s Run at NEWMAC Softball Championship

Kalei Oliver put the Blue ahead with an RBI single in the sixth (Max Berkowitz).
Kalei Oliver put the Blue ahead with an RBI single in the sixth (Max Berkowitz).

WORCESTER, Mass. -- A walk-off single off the bat of WPI sophomore Kaitlyn Hess (Milford, NH) propelled No. 1 WPI to a 3-2 victory over No. 6 Wellesley College softball on Saturday at the 2019 New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Softball Championship at Rooftop Field.

Wellesley, playing in the team's third elimination game in two days, ends the season with a 13-17-2 overall record after going 2-2 in four NEWMAC Championship tournament games. WPI advanced to the Championship round, where the Engineers won back-to-back games over MIT to claim the 2019 NEWMAC title with a 32-9 overall record. 

Sophomore Katie Martin (Bedford, NH) earned the win (10-2) with one inning of scoreless relief, while junior Mackenzie Phillips (Gill, Mass) pitched six innings and struck out three for WPI. Wellesley first year Hayley Moniz (Westfield, Mass), who pitched 24.1 innings over four tournament games, gave-up only two earned runs and one walk in a standout performance despite the setback (5-7).

WPI took a 1-0 lead over the Blue in the bottom of the fourth inning when senior Kylie Juarez (Elk Grove, Calif.) singled to score classmate Caraline Wood (Averill Park, N.Y.) after Wood reached base with a leadoff single to start the inning. The Engineers held on to the lead until the top of the sixth inning when Wellesley jumped ahead thanks to a two-run inning.

With two outs, first year Marisa Hensch (Carlsbad, Calif.) and sophomore Gen Brittingham (Aliso Viejo, Calif) cracked consecutive doubles to knot the score at 1-1. The Blue then took a 2-1 lead when junior Kalei Oliver (Vista, Calif.) lifted an RBI single into right to plate Brittingham. Oliver finished the contest 2-for-2, while Hensch was 2-for-3 at the dish for the Blue.

Leading 2-1, the Blue escaped the home half of the inning despite a leadoff double from WPI sophomore Marissa Gonzales (Oakley, Calif.). Gonzalez ripped the ball into the right centerfield gap but was thrown out at third on the relay when she slide past the bag and was tagged by Hensch. Wood followed with a single, but a ground ball down the first base line from the next batter, senior Renee LeClaire (Merrimack, N.H.) caused confusion on the base paths that ended with the Blue recording the second and third outs of the inning. LeClaire was tagged out and Wood was ruled out after the initial call ruling her safe was overturned because she failed to re-touch second on her way back to first.

With WPI still trailing in the seventh, junior Cassie Graca (Somerset, MA) tripled to leadoff the bottom of the inning. Juarez reached on an infield single and swipped second, before first year Gabriella Cerbo (Middletown, NJ) tied the game with an RBI groundout. That set the stage for Hess, who ended the contest with an RBI single to right.