Big Green Receives Rude Greeting in NCAA Debut
Dartmouth third baseman Katie McEachern tries unsuccessfully to tag out Arizona State's Aliz Johnson at home plate during their NCAA softball regional game in Tempe, AZ. The Sun Devils won, 8-0, in five innings. Bruce Yeung photograph
Dartmouth center fielder Megan Averitt barely misses a home run by Arizona State’s Nikki Giarard, which ended the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Sun Devils defeated the Big Green, 8-0. Bruce Yeung photograph
Dartmouth'sKristen Rumley prepares to bat with the support of the Dartmouth bench on Friday. Bruce Yeung photograph
Tempe, Ariz. — On Friday, about an hour later than originally planned, the Dartmouth College softball team made its first NCAA tournament appearance at the Tempe Regional. Unfortunately for the Big Green players, it ended a little sooner than they may have hoped as Dallas Escobedo and the Sun Devils overwhelmed the Big Green, racing to an 8-0 mercy-rule victory.
Dartmouth coach Rachel Hanson said her team had not faced an opposing pitcher like Escobedo all season, and from the game’s opening pitch it was clear that the Big Green had met its match. The junior right-hander pitched five solid innings, allowing just one hit while striking out eight, including the first four batters she faced.
“It was exactly what we thought it’d be,” Hanson said afterward. “I really liked the way we battled at the plate. It took us a couple of innings to really get our timing down. She’s a little faster than what we’ve seen lately but I think showing that discipline was huge and I think we did a very good job of that.
“She keeps you off-balance,” Hanson said of Escobedo. She’s a very good pitcher and the catcher or coach or whoever called a very good game.”
Dartmouth’s ace in the circle, Kristen Rumley, was able to overcome a leadoff bunt single by Alix Johnson in the bottom half of the first inning and a walk to catcher Amber Freeman before running into more trouble in the second.
After a leadoff walk to first baseman Bethany Kemp, freshman Chelsea Gonzales delivered a two-run home run over the center field wall to put the Sun Devils (45-10-1) ahead 2-0.
Rumley appeared to regain her form, limiting the damage even after a Nikki Girard single to get out of the inning. Rumley cruised along until the fifth inning, when the Sun Devil hitters flexed their muscles once again and went to work on the junior left-hander.
Johnson led off the inning with a double before advancing to third on a Cheyenne Coyle groundout to shortstop. Hanson elected to intentionally walk Freeman, which ultimately proved costly for the Big Green as the very next batter, junior Haley Steele, lined to third.
Rather than taking the forceout at first or second base, Dartmouth third basemen Kelsey Miller tried for a play at the plate, but after briefly being caught in a rundown, Johnson was able to beat the throw at home, which opened the floodgates for the Sun Devil offense.
A pair of singles by Elizabeth Caporcuscio and Bethany Kemp made it 5-0. A groundout by Gonzales to shortstop brought home Caporuscio, putting the Big Green on the verge of being mercy-ruled as Girard came to the plate once again.
The sophomore wasted very little time extinguishing any hopes of prolonging the Big Green’s first tournament game, crushing another two run shot off Rumley to center, sending the Sun Devils off with the victory.
“I’m so proud of our team,” Hanson said.
“My girls battled their guts out today. I’m really proud of the way they competed. They’re great hitters and they kind of figured some things out and obviously started pouring it on in the fifth and it escalated pretty quickly, but I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Rumley, who finished the regular season 18-7 with a 1.85 ERA, gave up seven hits and eight earned runs in 52⁄3 innings on Friday.
“I just think it was the consistency of their hitting,” Hanson said. “We hadn’t seen a line up that stacked and that deep, really, this year. We played some good teams — Cal Poly really hit the ball well when we played them — but I think by that third time through, they were really just tough outs.
“They’re just at a little different level and there’s a reason they’re in the top ten in the country.”
Dartmouth will look to bounce back today when it takes on San Diego State at 8:30 on ESPNU. Despite trailing by three runs heading into the final at bat, the Aztecs were able to force extra innings against Michigan in the day’s first game before falling 8-7 in nine innings to the Wolverines.
The Big Green and Aztecs have faced off twice before, with San Diego State winning both meetings on March 20, 2004.