Williams softball ready to host Babson in NCAA Division III Super Regional

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WILLIASMTOWN — Williams College outfielder Ali Michalik is one of four seniors on coach Kris Herman's roster, and had been on the team through three prior trips to the NCAA Division III softball tournament.

Did Michalik and the Ephs think much about that before they came out Sunday and knocked off RPI to win the Williams Regional?

"You put it in a drawer. It's a lot of negative energy that we don't want," she said.

Positive energy, and good pitching by freshman Rebecca Duncan, was a parlay that got the Ephs out of the regional and into this weekend's Super Regional.

Williams (34-10) will be hosting the best-of-three series against Babson College (32-14). The winner advances to the NCAA D-III Championship, to be played at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., from May 25-30. That's where the NCAA Division I College World Series will begin two days after the D-III tournament comes to an end.

The first game of the Super Regional is Friday at 4 p.m. The second game is Saturday at 1, with the "if" game to follow.

Williams and Babson are two of three New England teams playing for the right to head to Oklahoma. Amherst is playing Ramapo in a Super Regional in the Pioneer Valley. Williams, according to the most recent Division III national rankings, was 19th in the nation.

When the last regional rankings were released, Williams was No. 1 in New England, followed by Amherst and Babson.

In Thursday's Super Regional game in Amherst, the Mammoths scored a 4-3 win over Ramapo. Amherst (31-10) took a 4-2 lead into the seventh, but needed Lorena Ukanwa to record a save in relief of Gina Pagan.

Williams and Babson have crossed paths in the NCAA tournament once, back in 2006. Williams, the top seed, defeated Babson 1-0 in the tournament's first game. Williams eventually earned its way to the finals thanks to a weekend's worth of rain that gave the Ephs a ticket to the finals. NCAA rules then allowed for the top-seeded undefeated team in the regional to advance to the finals.

Williams and Babson then played in Huntington Beach, Calif., during Williams' March West Coast trip. The Ephs beat the Beavers 3-0.

Babson will arrive in Williamstown seeking its first-ever berth in the finals.

The Beavers are coached by Dave Canan, who is in his 18th season at the helm in Babson Park. He guided his team out of the loser's bracket last weekend to arrive here.

Babson lost to Rowan 4-3, falling into the loser's bracket. The Beavers rebounded with a nine-inning, 1-0 win over Framingham State in an elimination game. They then beat Rowan 7-4 and 3-2 in order to play Williams.

Babson has a 1-2 punch in the circle in junior Ali Reilly and freshman Brooke Stock. Both pitchers are 16-7 while Stock has a 2.53 earned-run average and Reilly has a 2.60 ERA. Stock has struck out 145 hitters in 160 1/3 innings, while Reilly has struck out 119 in 161 2/3 innings.

Offensively, the Beavers appear to be a slap and bunt kind of team. As a team, Babson outhit its foes .304 to .240. Babson likes to run, having attempted 64 stolen bases and made good on 42 of them. Babson has also sacrificed 38 times to 25 for Williams.

The biggest offensive difference between the two teams is that Babson manufactures runs and Williams likes to bludgeon opponents.

In 44 games, Williams has hit 44 home runs. That includes three blasts during the regional last weekend. The Babson pitchers will have to be wary of power hitters Lexi Curt (10 home runs), Jessica Kim (9), Mackenzie Murphy (8) and Rebecca Duncan (7). They are the top four hitters in the Williams lineup.

Last weekend, the Ephs used three pitchers — Brooke Bovier, Murphy and Duncan — to win the regional. Duncan, the regional's MVP, picked up a win in relief of Bovier on Friday and shut out RPI on Sunday.

It is a veteran Williams team that returned this year, and it is a team that may have its best yet to come. Michalik is the only senior regular on the team.

She has seen a lot in three-plus years, and said the success started long before practice did.

"We committed ourselves to a really strong off-season," Michalik said. "I think what makes us different than other teams is how much we commit to working on being good teammates."

Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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