After wet weather washed out a week of games, the Jumbos (14-6) returned to the diamond eager to extend their four-game winning streak that began during spring break. The team played six games in four days, starting with home contests against the Colby Mules (7-12) and the Bates Bobcats (5-7) before traveling to face the Babson Beavers (16-9).
According to senior first baseman Summer Horowitz, the rainy weather exacerbated the difficulties of readjusting to playing against NESCAC teams after a two-week break.
“This year was a particularly hard adjustment in that we had two weeks off between when we got back from Florida and when we played due to the weather,” she said. “It almost felt like we had a second preseason, which was a bit disappointing because everyone comes back [wanting] it to be nice outside after coming back from the beautiful weather of Florida.”
Horowitz added that the games against NESCAC opponents are comparatively more important, therefore requiring more focus from the players.
“It’s less of a grind and more of a conscious effort into playing our best softball,” she said.
First-year pitcher and first baseman Gillian O’Connor elaborated on the additional challenges that came from moving from one-off contests to the two- and three-game series format.
“If we have to play the same team a few times in a row, we have to change our approach every game. So, we change up positions [and] change up our game plan, and obviously, the other team’s probably going to change up their pitchers and everything as well,” O’Connor said. “Whereas if we see a new team every game, then it’s going to be different.”
On Tuesday, Tufts split a two-game series against Babson and won the second encounter 8-0 in five innings. The Jumbos scored five runs in the first inning, spearheaded by senior tri-captain first baseman Cassie Ruscz’s three-run shot to left. During the next inning, junior catcher/outfielder Raven Fournier powered a pitch over the right field wall, scoring for herself and junior utility player Samantha Siciliano.
Senior utility player Shelby Lipson’s RBI double in the third frame added to Tufts’ lead. Meanwhile, O’Connor improved her record to 5-1 by holding the Beavers scoreless in four innings of work. Sophomore pitcher Amolee Hawkins contributed an inning of scoreless relief to complete the shutout.
O’Connor credited her teammates for enabling her and her fellow pitchers’ successes this season.
“We have a really strong pitching staff as a whole, and I think we all complement each other,” she said. “If someone throws up-pitches really well, somebody else throws really good down-pitches. I think that we have great defense behind all the pitchers. We have great catching this season … and we’ve had really great support with our hitting also.”
Earlier that day, Babson defeated Tufts 9-4. The visitors began the game scoring three runs in the second courtesy of a two-run single by junior catcher/utility player Sara Willner-Giwerc and a sacrifice fly by senior outfielder Maggie Hoffman. The Jumbos’ 3-0 advantage vanished in the bottom of the third inning, however, as two errors allowed six runs — five of which were unearned — to cross the plate. The Beavers tacked onto their lead in the fifth and sixth frames, and a sixth inning run-scoring fielder’s choice by first-year outfielder Emily Serata did little to change the outcome of the contest.
Horowitz praised the team’s resilience in winning the second game against Babson.
“We certainly didn’t come out the way we wanted to come out in the first game, and it almost felt like we beat ourselves, so that was pretty disappointing,” she said. “But we did show a lot of grit and relentlessness in the second game by coming right back out and run-ruling the other team. It was good to see we had a lot of fight in us.”
On Sunday, Tufts improved its 2017 NESCAC East division record to 4-0 by edging out Bates, 2-1. Both of Tufts’ scores came on Siciliano’s two-run single to center, plating senior tri-captain outfielder Carrie Copacino and junior catcher Sarah Finnigan. First-year pitcher Allison Tilton took care of the rest with relative ease, striking out a career-high eight batters in her team-high fourth complete game.
Earlier that day, Tufts blanked Colby 8-0 in five innings. Junior pitcher/utility player Raina Galbiati tossed a gem, scattering six singles and striking out six in a complete game shutout. After scoring two runs in the first frame and ousting Colby hurler Wiley Holton, the Jumbos blew the game open with a five-run third.
Ruscz began the inning by socking a home run over the left field wall. After Fournier doubled and first-year infielder Jamie Stevens singled, a groundout to third by Galbiati allowed Stevens to advance to second. With one out and runners in scoring position, junior outfielder/catcher Michelle Chisdak delivered with an RBI groundout to first that plated Fournier. During the next at-bat, Horowitz slapped an RBI single to bring home Stevens. Siciliano’s two-run double to left field later that same inning cemented Tufts’ control over the contest.
After going 5-for-35 (.143) while in Florida, Horowitz has significantly improved at the plate by going 4-for-14 (.286) in her first six games back from the trip. The Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. native acknowledged her early-season struggles while expressing hope that her hitting would improve as the season progresses.
“Offensively, I’ve been off to a really slow start, so I’ve just been working hard,” she said. “I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m sure that as the season goes on, with enough practice, I’ll get there.”
The day before, Tufts won both its games against Colby in five innings. The Jumbos began their defense of the NESCAC East Division title by beating the Mules 19-1. Nine Jumbos plated runs, led by Hoffman’s four RBIs in the first two innings alone. Tilton and Hawkins combined ceded a single run while striking out seven.
In the next contest, the hosts once again trounced the visiting Mules 9-1. After surrendering a first inning solo shot to junior catcher Skylar Labbe, O’Connor managed not to concede any more runs. Horowitz responded with a one-run dinger of her own in the second, and Copacino gave Tufts the lead with an RBI single to left in the fourth frame.
The Jumbos tacked on four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, capped by a game-ending two-run three-bagger by Fournier. In doing so, the Springfield, Mass. native recorded her seventh career triple, thereby vaulting to fourth on Tufts’ all-time record list.
According to O’Connor, the team’s chemistry continues to improve.
“I think that we’ve come into working together as a team,” she said. “At the beginning of [the team’s trip to] Florida, it was interesting to see the team dynamic and how everybody was on the field for the first time. Since then, we’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with each other … I think the team is just working really well together so far.”
The Jumbos next travel to Hartford, Conn. to square off against the Trinity Bantams (14-9). The first installment of the three-game series will take place today at 4 p.m.