Middlebury's bid to upend Tufts in the opening round of the NESCAC Softball Tournament came up just short, as the Panthers fell to the host Jumbos (28-8) 2-0 on Friday in Massachusetts. Middlebury finished the season with a 12-19 mark and qualified for the conference tournament for the second-straight spring.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third inning, as the Jumbos got a one-out triple to center field from Maggie Lebinski, before a single to left by Mia Steinberg made it 1-0.
The Panthers threatened in the fourth inning when Melanie Mandell and Liza Tarr both walked. Tufts pitcher Kristina Haghdan retired the final two batters of the frame to get out of the jam, including a deep fly ball down the line in right field by Sara Tobias.
Irene Margiotta pitched her way out of a similar jam in the last half of the inning for Middlebury, striking out Emily Serata to retire the side.
The Panthers got a pair of runners on base in the fifth when Olivia Bravo singled and Sophie Bolinger walked, but a long rain delay put a temporary hold on the inning. When play resumed, Emily Moore singled to load the bases which sparked a pitching change from the Jumbos. Tufts' Krista Van Meter entered the circle and set down the next two batters, protecting the 1-0 lead.
Tobias thwarted Tufts' scoring chance in the bottom of the fifth, making a tumbling catch in right field to end the inning with runners on second and third.
The Jumbos added an insurance run in the last of the sixth, as Jamie Stevens belted a solo home run to left center for a 2-0 final.
Moore, Bravo and Jen McGann each had a hit for the Panthers, while Margiotta (9-14) suffered the loss. She allowed only the two runs on nine hits, while tossing her 32nd career complete game to place third on the program's all-time list.
For Tufts, Kristen Caporelli and Stevens each had two hits, while Haghdan (11-3) went the first 4.1 innings and Van Meter earned her third save with 2.2 perfect innings.
Middlebury had its chances to get the scoreboard, getting runners on base in four-straight innings, but finished with seven left on base.