ALLENTOWN, Pa. – A bevy of timely hits, a dose of run-preventing defense, and two quality starts from Kaitlyn Willis coalesced to fuel the Ursinus College softball team's Centennial Conference sweep at first-place Muhlenberg.
The Bears (11-15, 3-5) put everything together in winning both ends of a doubleheader in Allentown for the first time since 2012. Ursinus scored eight of its 11 runs with two outs, cut down two Mules at the plate in the opener, and got a pair of gems from Willis en route to 5-1 and 6-1 triumphs against a Muhlenberg squad that had won four of five and was coming off a sweep of defending champion Haverford.
The Mules (9-13, 5-3) feature two of the top six pitchers in the CC in terms of ERA, but Ursinus received offense up and down the lineup. Willis did not require much support, twirling consecutive five-hitters.
Game 1: Ursinus 5, Muhlenberg 1
A pair of clutch two-out hits was sufficient for the Bears, but it was their run prevention that proved just as critical. The Mules threatened in the second, putting runners on second and third with only one out, but a fine defensive play helped Ursinus get out of the jam. Sophomore Kayla Quinn fielded a grounder and fired home to freshman Isabella Dewes, who applied the tag for the second out. Freshman Marissa Beebe then snagged a line drive to end the inning.
Ursinus capitalized when Muhlenberg was unable to make a play in right field, a two-out error that allowed Quinn to go to third. Back-to-back walks to sophomore Samantha Garritano and Beebe loaded the bases for sophomore Faith Carson, who cleared them with a triple to right center as the visitors seized a 3-0 lead.
The Mules got on the board in the bottom of the frame, but another sterling defensive play got Ursinus out of a big inning. With a runner on third and one out, Manto caught a fly ball and gunned down Hannah Caiola at the plate for her second outfield assist of the season.
Another piece of timely two-out hitting broke it open in the sixth, as Garritano punched a single up the middle with the bases loaded to bring in two more runs after Quinn kept the inning alive with a single.
Willis took it from there, retiring 11 of the last 12 she faced and holding the Mules hitless after the fourth. The junior struck out one and walked two in a five-hit performance.
Carson went 2-for-4 with the three huge RBI at the plate, while Manto was 2-for-4 and Garritano finished with two RBI and a run scored.
Game 2: Ursinus 6, Muhlenberg 1
Willis, who also got the call to start Game 2, helped herself with an RBI groundout in the top of the second. The Bears then pieced together four consecutive hits off Hayley Peterson, the reigning CC Pitcher of the Week, who had allowed two runs total in her previous three starts. Crouse's single plated Manto and, after a single by Dewes, Quinn slashed an RBI double to right. Garritano's infield single extended the lead to 4-0 after a six-hit inning.
Ursinus swelled its lead in the fourth, when Quinn followed a walk to Crouse and a double off the bat of Dewes with an RBI single to left to chase Peterson. Garritano greeted the relief with a base hit through the left side to score Dewes and make it 6-0.
Muhlenberg got on the board in the fourth and wanted more with the bases loaded and one out, but Willis got a strikeout and a fielder's choice to limit the damage. The junior faced no further difficulty in completing her second straight five-hitter.
The first three in the order – Dewes, Quinn, and Garritano – finished 7-for-11 with four RBI and two runs. Dewes was 3-for-3 with two runs and a walk, with Quinn and Garritano each supplying two hits and two RBI. Crouse scored twice and drove in a run.
Willis' line was nearly identical, this time striking out four to just one walk in improving to 9-6 with her 25th career victory.
The Bears host Gettysburg on Saturday.