Baseball, softball teams warming with spring

Two pitchers and a shortstop make UAA All-Tournament teams

UAA All-Tournament shortstop Brittany Grimm

Pitcher John McGrath, 5-0 on the season

Midway through the spring season, the weather is starting to heat up and so are the Brandeis Judges on the baseball and softball diamonds.

With more than a third of the schedule left to play, the Brandeis baseball team, at 15-10, has exceeded its win total from 2010 and has won five in a row, matching its longest winning streak since 2006. Head coach Pete Varney's Judges are 8-3 since returning to New England from their spring trips to Florida in February and March.

Strong pitching and timely hitting have been key to the recent success. The Judges placed two pitchers on the University Athletic Association All-Tournament team and recently had another named UAA Pitcher of the Week.

Sophomore Dylan Britton of Poughquag, N.Y., and senior John McGrath of New York City earned All-Tourney honors after finishing first and second, respectively, in the UAA tournament in earned-run average. Britton posted a 0.93 ERA in two outings, while McGrath had a 1.17 ERA after his lone start.

Meanwhile, sophomore lefty Mike Swerdloff of Scarsdale, N.Y., captured UAA weekly honors on April 4 after going 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two appearances, including a six-inning, 11-strikeout performance April 3 against WPI.

At the plate, the Judges have been led by sophomore catcher Chris Ferro of Walpole, Mass. Ferro, who was also named to the UAA All-Tournament team and copped Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Hitter of the Week honors on April 5, is hitting .395 with 10 stolen bases and 26 runs scored, all tops on the team.

He earned his ECAC honor by hitting .500 (5 for 10) with four extra-base hits for a 1.200 slugging percentage, driving in a team-high seven runs and scoring five. Ferro had two doubles, a triple and a home run in a 3-0 week for the Judges.

In their last contest, Brandeis rallied from a 3-0 deficit after six-and-a-half innings to defeat Rhode Island College, who had been nationally-ranked earlier in the season. The Judges scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning and three more runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 5-3 victory. McGrath threw a complete game for his longest outing of the season and improved to 5-0 in the process. Junior Jon Chu of Hollis Hills, N.Y., delivered a game-tying pinch hit, and a two-run single by senior Pat Nicholson of East Walpole, Mass., was the game-winner.

The Judges host the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, for a Sunday doubleheader beginning at noon.

On the softball field, after a slow start, coach Jessica Johnson's squad has won nine of its last 11 games to move back over .500 at 13-12.

The Judges, who are missing some key pieces from their 2010 NCAA tournament squad due to injury, are starting to come together. Rookie pitcher Melissa Nolan of Windsor, Conn., a recent UAA Pitcher of the Week, and UAA All-Tournament selection Brittany Grimm of Perkiomenville, Penn., have been key reasons for the Judges' success.

Nolan claimed UAA honors on April 4 by going 2-1 the previous week with a 0.57 ERA, 13 strikeouts and a .125 opponents batting average in 12.1 innings pitched. In a recent 2-1 win over Suffolk University on April 6, Nolan not only struck out 12 Rams to give her 77 on the season – second most in the UAA – she also had the game-winning hit in the top of the seventh inning -- an RBI triple on which she scored on an error.

Grimm, a shortstop, earned All-Tournament honors from the UAA for the second year in a row. She was a selection at third base last season. Grimm hit .333 (9 for 27), 10th-best in the UAA, with six RBI and five runs scored. She led the Association with four doubles and placed fourth with 16 assists.

Grimm is one of only two Judges to play in all 25 games this season, leading the squad with 33 hits, and 17 RBI, while ranking second with a .367 batting average and 18 runs scored.

During their recent hot streak, the Judges are outscoring their opponents, 82-40, with 28 doubles compared to their opponents' 11. They've been winning both blowouts - three of their wins have come via the eight-run rule - and nailbiters – three others were decided by two runs or less.

Brandeis travels to Tufts University Sunday at noon.

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