Three-Win Day Sends Foresters Back to NCAA Tournament

Three-Win Day Sends Foresters Back to NCAA Tournament

The Lake Forest College softball team defeated Carroll University 13-4 in six innings before knocking off Monmouth College 5-0 and 6-2 to win the Midwest Conference Tournament on Saturday. The Foresters hosted the two-day, double-elimination tournament  after claiming the league's regular season title with an 18-2 conference record.

Lake Forest entered Saturday's play with a 1-1 record in the tournament after a 1-0 victory over Illinois College and an 8-0, 5-inning loss to Monmouth on Friday. Illinois College was eliminated by Carroll on Friday and Monmouth finished day one without a loss.

The Foresters jumped out to the early lead against Carroll, scoring five times in the top of the first inning. The rally started when senior catcher Alex Hemmer was hit by a pitch with one out and she advanced to third on a double to the gap in left by senior third baseman Kaleigh Ambrose. Senior first baseman Sally Snarski drew a walk and sophomore shortstop Kat Beall followed with a base hit to right center to score Hemmer. Freshman centerfielder Maria Zepeda, a left-handed hitter, then belted a home run to left field to break the game open. It was her fifth round-tripper of the season.

The Pioneers plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the third but the home team got one back in the fourth on a solo homer by Hemmer.

Lake Forest pulled away with another five-run rally in the fifth. Sophomore leftfielder Sydney Gardner and started the scoring with back-to-back two-out doubles and Hemmer came home when Ambrose reached on a throwing error by the Carroll third baseman. Snarski followed with another two-bagger and Beall made the score 11-2 with a towering home run to left center.

Needing to score at least two runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game, the Pioneers did just that, cutting the Forester lead to 11-4.

Lake Forest closed out the scoring with two more runs in the top of the sixth. Gardner reached second on an infield hit and a throwing error with two outs and scored on a base hit by Hemmer, who raced all the way around to third base when the throw home got away. Ambrose then belted her second double of the contest down the left field line to score Hemmer.

Forester junior pitcher Jenny McTague, who came on in relief in the fifth, retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth to secure the victory. She struck out a batter in each of her two hitless innings after senior Jessi Werner started the game and struck out five in four innings of work. Werner earned the victory and improved to 16-4 on the season.

Zepeda was 4-for-4 while Hemmer and Ambrose each had three of Lake Forest's 16 hits in the game.

McTague got the start in the first game against Monmouth and blanked the Fighting Scots on just three singles. She struck out four batters and did not allow a walk in the contest.

Gardner, who was 3-for-4 and scored three times, gave the home team the lead on a home run with one out in the bottom of the third inning.

The score remained 1-0 until the fifth when Hemmer belted her second home run of the day and sixth this season. Gardner was on base for Hemmer's 23rd career homer.

Hemmer added an RBI-single in the sixth and Ambrose followed with a well-executed squeeze play to score Gardner with the fifth and final run of the contest.

After tossing nine scoreless innings on the day and her fourth shutout of the season, McTague was back in the circle for the championship game.

The Fighting Scots scored their first run of the day in the top of the second and the Foresters still trailed after leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame. 

The home team drew even in the third. Hemmer doubled with one out, advanced to third on a base hit by Ambrose, and scored her sixth run of the day on a Snarski groundout. It was Snarski's 100th career run batted in.

Lake Forest grabbed the lead in the fourth when a two-out single by Hemmer plated Gardner.

Snarski snagged a line drive in the top of the fifth and made a diving tag on the Monmouth runner going back to the base for an unassisted double play. She then belted the first pitch of the bottom in the inning over the right centerfield fence for her seventh homer of the season.

The visitors closed to within a run on a double to the right field corner in the sixth. However, a perfect relay from senior right fielder Tara Airola to Beall to Ambrose cut down the batter trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

After leaving 11 runners on base in the first five innings, the Foresters had two on and two out in the sixth when Beall crushed a home run to center field to extend the lead to four. She tied Snarski for the team lead with seven homers this season.

Werner came on in relief in the seventh and struck out the first batter she faced before inducing a pair of groundouts to close out the victory. McTague allowed just five base hits in six innings and struck out two to improve to 12-7 on the year. She did not walk a batter in 15 innings on the day.

Lake Forest will enter next weekend's NCAA Division III Regional Tournament with a 28-12 record. Monmouth finished the season with a matching 28-12 mark and Carroll at 24-15.

The Foresters' opponents and regional tournament location will be revealed during the NCAA Division III Tournament selection shot on Monday at noon.