ITHACA, N.Y. – The Brandeis University softball team dropped a 5-3 decision at the hands of Penn State Berks today in the opening round of the NCAA Division III tournament. The Judges fall to 27-7-1 on the season and will play an elimination game tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. against either host Ithaca College or Farmingdale (N.Y.) State College. The Nittany Lions improve to 32-8 and advance to the winner's bracket.
Brandeis struck first in this game, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Senior catcher Keri Lehtonen (Oneco, Conn./Plainfield) reached on a dropped pop-up to lead off the game for the Judges. Two batters later, she came home on a home run to center field by junior catcher Scottie Todd (Tampa, Fla./Strawberry Crest). The homer was Todd's sixth of the season and the eighth of her career.
Berks answered in the top of the second. Third baseman Cori Dickinson drew a leadoff walk and scored two batters later on a double to right-centerfield by designated player Abby Files. Nittany Lion pitcher Jess Rozick settled down after allowing the homer to Todd, allowing just two Brandeis hits the rest of the way.
Berks tied the game up in the top of the fifth when Rozick doubled with one out, moved to third on an infield single and scored on grounder to second by left fielder Maddy Davidson.
The Nittany Lions broke the deadlock with three runs in the sixth. Dickinson once again led off the frame with a walk. Todd got the next two outs, but centerfielder Heather Rissell doubled to center to put her squad on top. Rozick drove in what proved to be the game-winning run with a single up the middle and scored on a double by left fielder Hunter Hart to give the Nittany Lions a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brandeis had a chance to tie the game up, as Berks committed three errors. This allowed one run to score on a ball put in play by rookie rightfielder Amidori Anderson (Sparks, Nev./Spanish Springs) and put runners in scoring position with two outs, but Rozick fanned pinch hitter Ashleigh Fultz (Silver Spring, Md. / St. Johns College H.S.) to close out the game.
Rozick was impressive in the circle, improving to 15-4 as she allowed just three hits and three run – none earned. She struck out nine and did not walk a batter, throwing 75 of her 103 pitches for strikes. Todd fell to 12-5 on the campaign, allowing eight hits and five earned runs in 5.2 innings. She struck out three and walked five. Rookie Sydney Goldman (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) threw the final 1.1 innings and struck out two and gave up one hit.
In addition to Todd's homer, the Brandeis hits came from Anderson and rookie third baseman Marley Felder (Miami, Fla./American Heritage School).
Brandeis will look to pick up their first NCAA tournament win since 2010 tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 when they meet the loser of a first-round matchup between #10 Ithaca and Farmingdale (N.Y.) State.