A dramatic walk-off home run concluded an unforgettable week for the Swarthmore College softball team, which captured the first Centennial Conference title in program history and secured a berth in the upcoming NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Garnet clinched the title with a 4-2 win over host and top-seeded Ursinus College after Kate Hart ’23 hit a two-run homer to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh.
Swarthmore entered the conference postseason as the fifth seed and needed to beat Gettysburg College on Tuesday, May 2 in a play-in game in order to qualify for the double-elimination tournament. The Garnet advanced with a resounding 11-2 victory as pitcher Emily Bertrand ’25 allowed only four hits in six innings and Olivia McClammy '25 powered the offense with four hits and four RBI.
Swarthmore followed with a 3-0 win over Ursinus on Thursday, May 4 behind another stellar performance from Bertrand in the circle. Against Washington College on May 6, the Garnet trailed 1-0 after three innings, but scored a run each in the fourth, sixth, and seventh to advance to the championship game. Bertrand had two RBI and allowed only one run as Sarah Schab ’25 closed it out with a two-inning save.
The team entered Sunday undefeated in the tournament and would have another opportunity to claim the title if it lost the first game against Ursinus; the Garnet, however, left nothing to chance and took care of business in game one.
After four scoreless innings, Ursinus capitalized on a fielding error in the top of the fifth and put two on the board. The hosts held this advantage entering the seventh and final inning and retired the first two batters, putting themselves one out away from a winner-take-all elimination game.
Swarthmore started a rally with singles by Cassidy Cheong ’23 and Alexandra Simon ’24 before McClammy tied the game at two all with a double to left center. Hart stepped up to the plate and launched a game-ending shot to deep left field, driving the ball with just enough power to clear the fence.
The ending mirrored last year's Centennial Conference championship, where the Garnet lost in extra innings after a walk-off home run by Muhlenberg College in the final game of the tournament.
"I don't think we would be where we are now if that didn't happen last season," says head coach Melissa Finley. "Not only did it give us the experience of playing under these conditions with loud fans and high pressure, but it left us motivated to get back to that moment again."
Bertrand capped her week with seven strikeouts in the complete-game effort and earned MVP honors. Swarthmore enters the NCAA Tournament on a nine-game winning streak and hopes this late-season surge will translate to further success. The entire tournament field will be announced during the NCAA selection show on Monday, May 15.
"I expect this team to compete with whomever we draw," says Finley. "We have shown that we can compete and win against some of the top teams in the country and those games prepared us well for this upcoming challenge."