Coming into the season, the softball team didn’t know what to expect from senior pitcher Deanna DiBernardi ’09. The southpaw had a shoulder injury that could only be fixed with major surgery and was put on a 70-pitch limit for each of her starts — until a couple weeks ago, when the decision was made to let DiBernardi stay in games as long as she was effective and wasn’t in too much pain. And the strategy paid off.
In her second-to-last start as a Bulldog and final one at home, DiBernardi tossed a no-hitter to lead the Elis (22-22, 11-9 Ivy) to a 3-0 victory in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep over Brown (12-26, 5-15). The effort was one of four dominant pitching performances for the Bulldogs over the weekend.
In game one of the four-game series, fellow senior hurler Rebecca Wojciak ’09 pitched her own gem, a five-hit shutout in another 3-0 Eli win. And yesterday, in Providence, R.I., two 5-1 victories led by the same duo on the mound sealed a weekend sweep of the Bears.
“What they did was really impressive,” second baseman Katie Yanagisawa ’11 said of Wojciak and DiBernardi. “Rebecca has been consistent all season and Deanna has fought through injuries on a pitch count.”
In that first game of the weekend, Wojciak set the table for the weekend. The hurler scattered five hits, struck out eight and walked just one over seven innings.
Wojciak was in a tight duel with Brown starter Jessica Iwasaki until the Bulldogs struck for three runs in the bottom of the fifth. In that frame, designated player Katie Edwards ’09 started the rally with a base hit, and was followed with singles by catcher McKynlee Westman ’11 and right fielder Lauren Huddletson ’10. With the bases loaded, Westman scored on a wild pitch before second baseman Yanagisawa hit a two-run single to finish the day’s scoring.
In game two, the Bears’ offense found more trouble against Eli pitching. DiBernardi struck out four and walked just two in a no-hitter in her final start at DeWitt Family Field. Only four Bears reached base in the seven innings against DiBernardi, who got some help from her defense, including an impressive catch in right field by Huddleston. Not that DiBernardi was thinking about having a no-hitter — her first as a collegiate.
“I didn’t realize it until afterwards when they announced it,” she said. “You just don’t really notice it when you’re out there.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs gave DiBernardi an early lead with two runs in the first inning. Centerfielder Ashley Sloan ’10 walked to lead things off for the Elis and a Bear error allowed Yanisagawa to reach safely. A double off the bat of shortstop Meg Johnson ’12 drove Sloan in and captain Megan Enyeart ’09, also in her last home game, drove Yanasigawa in with a sacrifice fly. The final run was scored when Sloan doubled in Chelsey Locarno ’12 in the sixth.
Sunday brought a change of scenery but not results.
Wojciak took the mound in game three of the weekend series, which moved to Providence for Sunday, and threw another complete game, scattering four hits, striking out four, and surrendered no earned runs — the single Brown tally was unearned.
The game was scoreless until the sixth when the Elis scored the game’s first run, but the Bears quickly responded by tying it in the bottom half. Yale then bursted out with four in the seventh, highlighted by Edwards’s two-out, two-run single to put the game out of reach.
In game two, DiBernardi put a stamp on her career with another great performance in the circle to complete the four-game sweep in the last action for four Bulldog seniors. The senior had a perfect first inning to run her no-hit streak to eight before Katie Strobel doubled to lead off the second.
The southpaw went on to pitch another complete game with seven strikes and just six Brown hits.
A scoreless tie was broken in the fourth when Yale put a run on the board and made it 3-0 after five. The Bulldogs tacked on two more in the fifth before Brown finally scored off of DiBernardi in the bottom of the inning.
On the weekend, DiBernardi and Wojciak each pitched 14 innings and combined to allow just one earned run.
The Bulldogs finished third in the North Division of the Ancient Eight with an 11-9 conference record, which is good for fourth overall in the league. Dartmouth (22-20, 13-7), the North Division winner, will face South Division winner, Cornell (38-10, 15-3) for the Ivy League championship and a spot in the NCAA regional playoffs.
The fourth place finish is the most successful season at Yale for the four graduating seniors on the roster.
“It’s exciting, I hope they continue to improve,” Enyeart said. “I loved that I could go into any game and feel confident that we had a chance at winning, and I feel like everyone on the team thought that way.”