MANSFIELD, Conn. – The Castleton softball team played its way to a doubleheader split on Saturday afternoon against New England College, bouncing back from a loss in game one to come away with a victory in the second half of the twin bill in its first North Atlantic Conference games of the season.
The Spartans led early in the first game before eventually falling by a 6-5 final, but came from behind for a 6-4 win in the second game of the day. Castleton is now 7-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play, while New England College moves to 5-11 overall and 1-1 in the NAC.
Timi Carone paced the offense with a 4-for-8 effort, scoring three times and driving in a pair of runs over two games. McKinlie Carpenter went 2-for-5 with two RBIs on the day, while Briley Blackbird was 3-for-6 for the Spartans. Taylor Paquette combined to work 9.0 innings over the two games, giving up just three earned runs and striking out four batters while moving her record to 5-0 in the circle.
Joslyn Gallagher and Debra Mazzeo each hit home runs for NEC on the day, with Gallagher's coming as part of a 3-for-5 effort over two games. Gabriella Marcheschi also went 4-for-6 with an RBI.
Kayla Wood got the nod for Castleton in the circle, going 4.0 innings and allowing six runs, just two of which were earned, on seven hits. Paquette went 2.0 scoreless innings in relief. Carone had three hits in the loss, while Jordan Gouger had two hits in the contest.
Castleton jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the opening game of the day, as two hits and two errors led to three Spartan runs in the top half of the first inning. Carone led off the game with a base hit before stealing second and scoring on an error by the first baseman. Karli Theberge came around to score on a base hit by Gouger, before Kayley Fountain scored on an RBI double by Carpenter.
The Pilgrims got two runs back in the home half of the second inning, when Brianna Castellano notched a two-out, two-run single to make it a 3-2 game. NEC then tied the game in the next inning, as Gallagher led off with a single before being pinch-run for by Morgan LeVasseur. LeVasseur came around to score when Taylor Dill lofted a sacrifice fly to make it a 3-3 ballgame.
Castleton retook the lead once more in the top of the fourth inning, as it brought eight batters to the plate while scoring a pair of runs. Blackbird tallied a one-out bunt single, before Sami Carlo notched a base hit of her own. A single by Carone loaded the bases, before Theberge drove in Blackbird with a base hit, keeping the bases full of Spartans. Sara Baker grounded into a fielder's choice that cut down Carlo at the plate, but Fountain came through with a two-out single to drive in Carone and make it 5-3 in favor of Castleton.
The Pilgrims continued to fight back from multiple-run deficits, as they came back with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning behind the power of back-to-back home runs. Gallagher launched a two-run shot to tie the game after the leadoff runner reached on an error, and Mazzeo followed that up by going deep to give NEC a 6-5 lead with just two innings to play.
The Spartans received a base runner via walk in each of the final two innings, but that was all they could muster as the game ended with the Pilgrims on top, 6-5.
Paquette carried her game-one momentum in the circle into the second game, earning the win in game two with a complete-game effort. She allowed just three earned runs on eight hits while striking out two. She also added two hits at the plate, along with Baker and Tori Swaine.
The Pilgrims jumped out to the first lead of game two, putting up a run in the opening frame to go up 1-0. Gallagher sent a base hit into center field to score a run, but was cut down trying to stretch a single into a double to end the inning.
The Spartans tied the game up at 1-1 in the fourth inning, when Swaine notched a sacrifice fly to score Baker. Castleton then jumped out to its first lead of the game, 3-1, in the fifth inning, as Carone roped an RBI triple to score Paquette, before scoring on an error by the shortstop.
The lead was short-lived, however, as NEC answered back with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the fifth inning. The Pilgrims opened the inning with three consecutive hits, closing the deficit to 3-2 in the process. After a sacrifice bunt gave them runners at second and third, a squeeze bunt scored the tying run to make it 3-3. A two-out double by Marcheschi gave NEC the lead, 4-3, but she was thrown out at third base in the process to end the inning.
The Spartans battled back again, however, overcoming another deficit to retake the lead for good. Castleton scored three runs in the top of the sixth, going ahead 6-4 and not looking back the rest of the way. Hits by Swaine, Carpenter and Paquette to open the inning tied the game at 4-4, before Carpenter scored on a fielder's choice later in the inning. With two outs in the inning, Paquette scored Castleton's last run of the game on a wild pitch to give the Spartans an insurance run heading to the final innings.
After a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth, Paquette retired the final six hitters she faced to end the contest and give Castleton its first conference victory of 2017.
The Spartans are back in action on Tuesday, traveling to Rensselaer for a non-conference doubleheader. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.