An unearned run in the first inning proved to be the difference, as Middlebury dropped a tight 1-0 decision to Williams in the opener of its NESCAC West series on Friday. The Panthers (17-12-1, 4-6) and Ephs (25-10, 8-1) return to the field on Saturday and will conclude their weekend divisional series with a doubleheader beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Williams opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first, when Mackenzie Murphy doubled in a run with a shot to the gap in right center.
In the fifth inning, the Panthers used a key defensive play to prevent the Ephs from adding to their advantage. Williams placed runners on the corners with one out, when Rebecca Duncan hit a ground ball to second base which fielded was by Panther Olivia Bravo. Bravo quickly fired a strike to catcher Liza Tarr, who applied to tag at the plate to a sliding Jessica Kim. Middlebury pitcher Allison Quigley got out of the inning, getting Margo Beck to ground out and end the threat.
Quigley retired Williams in order in the top of the seventh, but Duncan returned the favor in the latter half of the inning, closing out the 1-0 win.
In the circle for the Panthers, Quigley (8-8) took the loss despite one of her best outings of the season. She gave up six hits and one unearned run, while striking out six. Duncan (11-4) scattered four hits with seven strike outs and no walks.
Mandell went 2-3 for Middlebury, while Murphy went 2-3 with a double and a RBI for the visitors.