It’s only halfway through the season but the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Women’s softball team (18-5-1, 11-1 SCIAC) have already made themselves known to teams across the country. After sweeping California Lutheran University (10-11, 4-6 SCIAC) on Feb. 27 and sweeping both Redlands University (14-6, 6-4 SCIAC) and Pomona-Pitzer (3-14, 1-5 SCIAC) on Mar. 4 and 5, the Athenas flew to Columbus, Georgia, for the NFCA Leadoff Classic tournament from Mar. 11-13. They arrived feeling confident after six straight wins, but they knew that it would be a tough three days.
The Athenas were facing a whole new set of teams from across the country in Georgia—some that were ranked in the top 20 in the country in Division III softball. The air was muggy, hands were sweating, and the ball traveled differently in the change of climate. The team arrived jet-lagged, and despite the fact that they had traveled farther than any other team to get there, they were ready to compete.
CMS went up against Kean College (7-9, 0-0 Conf.) in the first round and won 2-1. After Kean took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third off an infield hit, the Athenas regained the lead with an RBI single in the top of the sixth from Carlene Roberts CM ’16. The Athenas then faced Birmingham Southern College (18-5, 8-1 Conf.) later that day. Although CMS fell to the Panthers 8-4 in seven innings, this was one of only two losses throughout the entire six-game tournament.
The excitement came in a tight game against their first encounter with Virginia Wesleyan College (15-4, 2-0 Conf). The match was neck-and-neck in the first seven innings, with Wesleyan scoring one run in the fourth and the Athenas scoring one run in the fifth. Tied 1-1 after seven innings, both teams prepared for extra innings. Though the Athenas knew they were facing Texas Lutheran University (20-1, 8-0 Conf.) later that afternoon, they went into the eighth inning against Wesleyan with their strongest effort.
The Athenas proved their dominance over Wesleyan in the top of the eighth, scoring five runs and stunning their opponents. Wesleyan could not put the brakes on a series of powerful hits from the Athenas, including another single from Robinson, and a single from Abigail Metsch SC ’19. After eight innings, CMS finished with an impressive 6-2 win.
Such excitement in the morning instilled confidence in the team, but it was not enough to pull out a win against Texas Lutheran University later that afternoon. CMS lost 4-1, but the team kept good spirits for Mar. 13, their third and final day in Georgia. The Athenas had a rematch against Wesleyan, this time wasting no energy with extra innings and winning 3-0.
A week after the team’s travels, third-baseman Abigail Metsch SC '19 is still in awe of her team’s success in Georgia.
“You could tell everyone else at the tournament was shocked to see us play so well. I mean, they had never even heard of us before, and many of them are nationally ranked. But now, they all know who we are. Not only are we doing well in Southern California since we’re No. 1 in SCIACs, but after finishing third at NFCA Leadoff Classic, some teams on the East Coast are intimidated,” Metsch said.
The Athenas returned home from their travels full of energy and with enough strength to pull out four more wins that week. The team run-ruled Hamline University (7-7) 8-0 and 8-0 on Friday, Mar. 18, with lights-out pitching from Anna Gurr CM ’18 and Briana Halle CM ’18 in game one, and Molly Rubidoux CM ’16 and Halle in the second game. The following day, CMS faced Whittier College (9-11, 1-7 SCIAC), easily winning while on the road 8-0 and 12-5.
The second half of the season is looking good for the Athenas. If they can maintain their first-place standing in SCIACs, they hope to move on and play through the month of May, remaining together as a team even after students leave school for the summer.