Hart Homers, Gravel Pitches Well, Keuka Falls at NCAA’s
May 12, 2012
John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
AMHERST, MASS. — Sophomore Jill Hart (Cowlesville, NY/Iroquois) had a whopping two home runs on the 2012 season heading into Saturday’s elimination game of the NCAA regional tournament at Amherst, Mass., and both of her round-trippers had been inside-the-park shots.
When Hart connected on a first-pitch fastball to lead off the top of the sixth inning of Keuka’s win-or-go-home game with host Amherst, there was a sense among the members of the Storm that the one run would be enough to keep the Green and Gold’s NCAA hopes alive.
Hart’s solo shot put Keuka up 1-0, and with the way sophomore Danielle Gravel (Sidney, NY/Sidney), who was fighting through the pain of an injury to her pitching hand, was masterfully dealing on the mound, the Storm had reason to think they could pull out the win.
But the host Jeffs played small ball, scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth on three straight bunt singles and a sacrifice fly to emerge with a 2-1 win at Amherst College.
The Storm, the six-time NEAC postseason champions, saw their season end with a 23-13 record while Amherst (36-5) advances to face top-seeded Cortland (40-9) at 10 a.m. Sunday morning in an elimination game.
Keuka, the No. 8 seed, had one last chance to tie it in the top of the seventh, but Arielle Doering closed the door for No. 3 Amherst with a 1-2-3 inning.
“We came in here the underdog and we gave everyone a run for their money; we went a lot farther than a lot of people thought we would go,” Hart said. “I was just excited to get a good pitch to hit, I didn’t realize it was over the fence. I kept running really fast until coach told me to slow down. But it was exciting, we were ahead by one and it gave us hope that we could play with this team and we could play anyone. [At that point], I thought now we had a chance to win.”
Gravel, the North Eastern Athletic Conference’s (NEAC) Pitcher of the Year in the North Division, put in an impressive performance on the mound.
One day after suffering a wrist injury to her pitching hand when a batted ball struck her flush in the wrist during the Green and Gold’s 5-4, nine-inning win over St. Joseph’s (Maine), Gravel was dialed-in against the Jeffs.
The right-hander allowed only two runs on six hits — all singles — over six innings, but Gravel saw her record fall to 18-6. It was her 24th complete game in 26 appearances.
“Dani pitched incredibly well for us today, especially after she got hit yesterday,” said third baseman Brooke Lovell (Arkport, NY/Arkport), one of the Storm’s three captains along with senior Elly Disbrow (Penn Yan, NY/Penn Yan) and junior Terin Brown (Wayland, NY/Wayland-Cohocton).
“Her hand was bruised and pretty swollen this morning, and I know her arm was sore, and she still came through big for us. It shows a lot of character.”
Freshman Kelly Proper (Silver Springs, NY/Letchworth) went 2-for-3 and made 13 putouts at first base while Hart, Gravel and sophomore Jessica Bandrowski (Center Moriches, NY/Center Moriches) each had hits for Keuka.
For the third straight NCAA game, Keuka was out-hit (6 to 5) but this time the Storm couldn’t pull out the win.
“I just feel great about this season. Today it stings, especially for us since we were so close,” said Disbrow, the NEAC North Co-Player of the Year who maintained a 4.0 grade-point average every semester on campus.
“In a year or in five years, I’m not going to remember the strikeouts or the errors, I’m going to remember the people. That’s what life is all about, just forming, creating and maintaining those friendships. That’s what made this team so special. I just love these girls; I’d rather lose with them than win with anybody else.”
Bandrowski led off the game with a bloop single into left-center field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from senior Elly Disbrow (Penn Yan, NY/Penn Yan). But Bandrowski was stranded at second after a strikeout and a flyout.
Gravel worked around singles in both the first and the second innings but held Amherst off the scoreboard by getting six groundouts over the first two frames.
The Green and Gold had a good scoring opportunity in the second when Proper ripped a single into left field and junior Terin Brown (Wayland, NY/Wayland-Cohocton) reached on a fielder’s choice. Junior Brittany Smyder (Avon, NY/Avon) moved the runners up to second and third on her sacrifice bunt, but a strikeout and a pop out ended the threat.
Keuka again threatened in the fourth. Proper reached on an infield single and Brown coaxed a walk to put runners on first and second. Gravel singled into center to load the bases with two outs, but a strikeout ended the inning.
Gravel needed only seven pitches to retire the Jeffs in order in the fourth, but Amherst starter Theresa Kelley was equally effective in the fifth, setting Keuka down in order. At one point, Gravel retired eight straight batters until a two-out error in the fifth, but a groundout to Bandrowski ended the fifth with the game still scoreless.
After Hart blasted her third home run of the year to give Keuka a lead in its third straight NCAA regional game, Kelly was replaced by Doering, who held the Storm hitless over two innings of relief.
“We had a phenomenal season this year and we accomplished so much, especially since th majority of the team is rookies and freshmen,” Brown said. “This is a great team, we have great chemistry and we’ll always have great memories from this season.”