Pelletier no-hits Colby as softball clinches spot in NESCAC playoffs

Kirsten Pelletier allowed no hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters in Bates' 8-0 victory over Colby April 27, 2018. The win clinched a playoff berth for the host Bobcats. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Bates sophomore Kirsten Pelletier threw her second no-hitter of the season as the Bobcats defeated Colby 8-0 in five innings on Friday, clinching a spot in the eight-team NESCAC Softball Championship tournament.

Pelletier (Sidney, Maine) gave up only two walks and struck out 10 batters to rise to 10-8 on the year and lower her earned-run average to 1.95. Pelletier also no-hit North Central (Minn.) over seven innings in Bates' season opener on March 6.

Bates' 18th victory ties for the most in team history, matching the 18-12 2012 team and the 18-13 squad of 2001.

The win guarantees Bates a fourth-place finish in the NESCAC East Division. The NESCAC playoffs have been expanded this season from four teams to eight. The tournament will take place at the NESCAC West Division's first-place team May 4-6, and Bates will face that team in Game 1 on Friday, May 4 at 2:30pm.

Colby (2-26, 0-10 NESCAC East) will host Bates in a doubleheader starting at noon Saturday to complete the three-game series.

Pelletier's no-hitter is Bates' third this season, including sophomore Payton Buxton's (Middlebury, Vt.) seven-inning performance against UMaine-Farmington on April 17.

Pelletier and Colby starter Julia Saul traded zeroes over the first two innings, with Pelletier escaping a jam in the top of the first. She walked Ella Hommeyer to lead off the inning. Saul reached on an error on her sacrifice bunt, and the runners advanced to second and third base with one out on Lolo Niemiec's groundout. But Pelletier left the Mule runners stranded with back-to-back strikeouts, then struck out the side in the second. Meanwhile, Saul held Bates to one hit over the first two innings.

But the Bobcats plated six runs in the third inning to take control of the game, as rain began to fall on Lafayette Street Field. First-year Caroline Bass (Newton, Mass.) led off with a bunt single, followed by junior Andrea Russo's (Cheshire, Conn.) infield single. Pelletier bunted the runners over to second and third, and Bass scored when sophomore Julia Panepinto's (Buffalo, N.Y.) line drive hit the shortstop's glove but couldn't be caught.

After Panepinto stole second base, senior Paige Ahlholm (North Andover, Mass.) hit a towering double that hit the fence in center field on one bounce, bringing home both Russo and Panepinto for a 3-0 lead.

Bates loaded the bases with first-year Mary Collette's (Watertown, Conn.) walk and Buxton's hit by pitch, and sophomore Erin Murphy (North Andover, Mass.) then stroked a single over third base to score Ahlholm and keep the bases loaded.

Saul was replaced at that point by Lucie Cunningham in the pitching circle, and she got senior Tori Fitzgerald (Holliston, Mass.) to hit a ground ball to shortstop. But Fitzgerald reached safely on a throwing error that allowed by Collette and Buxton to score. She got Bass to ground out to third to end the damage with Bates leading 6-0.

Pelletier left Hartnett stranded at third base after she led off the fourth by reaching on an error, then moved up two bases on bunts by Hailey Rohall and Holly Lallis.

Bates effected the eight-run rule with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Russo's infield single led off the inning, and she made it to third on a Pelletier groundout and a steal. Panepinto then singled up the middle to score Russo for a 7-0 lead.

Bates' eighth run came on the game's wildest play. Collette's popup was ruled an infield fly, but Colby shortstop Paige Hartnett tried to throw out Panepinto who was taking a lead off second. The throw sailed into the outfield, enabling Panepinto to score for an 8-0 Bates lead before Ahlholm was caught leading off of second base at the end of the play for Bates' third out.

Pelletier then retired the Mules in order in the fifth, striking out the last two batters to end the game.

Russo led Bates' seven-hit attack, going 2-for-2 with two runs scored. Ahlholm picked up her 16th RBI with her double.