Worcester, Mass. – WPI senior hurler Erin Flaherty (Stoughton, Mass.) came within one pitch of tossing a perfect game and her Engineers salvaged a doubleheader split with cross town rival Clark University on Friday afternoon in New England Women's And Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) softball action at O'Brien Field.
The host Cougars rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the opener, 5-4 and WPI then posted a 7-0 win behind Flaherty in the nightcap.
Flaherty, who already has one no-hitter in her career, was dazzling, retiring the first 20 batters she faced, including eight via the strikeout.
After striking out Stefanie Kettenacker (Hastings-on-the-Hudson, N.Y.) to leadoff the bottom of the seventh, she then retired Mel Melkonian (Worcester, Mass.) on a pop up to the shortstop. Clark's Erin Murphy (Boxboro, Mass.) then sent a 2-0 pitch to the left centerfield gap that rolled to the base of the fence, ending Flaherty's bid at perfection. Unfazed, she got Tatiana Chunis (Sutton, Mass.) to groundout to second on the next pitch to end the game.
WPI (12-8, 3-1 NEWMAC) struck for four runs in the top of the second to give Flaherty plenty of breathing room with the help of three Clark miscues in the field. The big blow, however, was the leadoff homerun by Erin Beaulieu (Bethany, Conn.).
They added a single run on the third on an Amanda Pierce (Ware, Mass.) RBI single, then tacked on two more in the fourth on a Juliana Fekete (Belgrade, Maine) double and a Nicole McDonough (Abington, Mass.) sacrifice fly.
Clark (9-7, 1-3 NEWMAC) actually held a 1-0 lead in game one after a Meghan Lennon (Charlton, Mass.) RBI groundout, but the Engineers answered back with three runs in the third.
Fekete led off the inning with a single and then came around to score on a double by Katie Bumila (Raynham, Mass.). McDonough then cleared the bases with her league-leading sixth homerun of the season to left field.
The Cougars took the lead again for good, drawing six walks in the frame and getting an RBI single from Murphy in the middle of it all.
McDonough closed the gap to 5-4 with an RBI single in the sixth, but Clark reliever Hayley Buckheit (Camden Hills, Maine) retired the final five batters of the game to record the save.
Allie Hardy (West Townsend, Mass.) went the first four innings for WPI, allowing six hits and one earned run, while Cougar starter Nicole Meuse (Hudson, Mass.) went 5.1 innings, scattering eight hits in picking up her fifth win of the season.
Clark will visit Babson on Saturday, while the Engineers host Coast Guard on Saturday as well.