Jumbos take two out-of-three from Polar Bears

UT Samatha Siciliano (LA '18) bats during a softball game against Bowdoin in a 7-5 win on April 1, 2016. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

The Jumbos (18-12) concluded their 12-game road trip this weekend by traveling to Pickard Field in Brunswick, Maine for a three-game swing against their NESCAC East rivals, the Bowdoin Polar Bears (24-8). Although the Polar Bears entered the series on a 12-game winning streak, the Jumbos won two out of three games to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Tufts beat Bowdoin twice on Sunday. In the first leg of the doubleheader, the Jumbos thumped the Polar Bears, 8-1. Bowdoin’s solitary run came on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning. After that, first-year Gillian O’Connor and sophomore Amolee Hawkins, both pitchers, combined to keep the Polar Bears scoreless. The Jumbos’ bats, meanwhile, were largely silent for four innings before exploding for seven runs in the fifth. For the game, senior first baseman Summer Horowitz and first-year infielder Jamie Stevens had two hits and two RBIs each.

Stevens has shone offensively in her first season with the Jumbos, slashing .433/.466/.627 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. According to coach Cheryl Milligan, Stevens is productive no matter where she is slotted in the batting order.

“Jamie [Stevens] has been a great contributor for us. She has been able to help us start off innings as well as drive in runs,” Milligan told the Daily in an email. “For our money, we have used her in spots in the lineup where we need to be effective, both getting on and driving in RBIs. She takes great swings and has been excellent about learning about hitting, making good decisions and getting better and more confident.”

In the second game of the day, Tufts beat Bowdoin, 6-3. O’Connor was effective in her second start of the afternoon, holding Bowdoin to three runs in six innings. Meanwhile, sophomore Christian Cain put Tufts’ first runs on the board in the top of the fourth with a two-run single. After Bowdoin’s junior infielder Lauren O’Shea halved the deficit to 2-1 with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the fourth, Tufts’ offense put the game out of reach with four runs in the top of the fifth. With one out and runners at first and second, junior catcher/outfielder Raven Fournier slashed a RBI double down the right field line. In the next at-bat, Horowitz plated both Fournier and senior tri-captain first baseman Cassie Ruscz with a two-run single. 

Milligan praised the performances of O’Connor and the other first-year pitchers.

“Gillian [O’Connor] had a great day on Sunday and helped us through some tough games when we really needed her,” Milligan said. “Overall, [the first-year pitchers] have received a lot of feedback, and we are beginning to make our pitches and be more effective in the edges of the zone. We have been [on] a learning curve to keep our pitches from creeping up in the zone and coming over the middle of the plate.”

The day before, Bowdoin won the first game in the series, 4-3. With the game deadlocked at two runs apiece in the top of fourth inning, first-year outfielder Emily Serata doubled down the left field line to score first-year pitcher/outfielder Maria Ostapovich and give Tufts a 3-2 lead. Bowdoin responded in the bottom half of the inning, however, tying the game on an RBI double by junior catcher/outfielder Jordan Gowdy. The Polar Bears took the lead for good in the sixth frame with an RBI single by senior tri-captain infielder Marisa O’Toole.

On April 19, the Jumbos recovered from a five-game losing streak to beat the MIT Engineers (21-9) twice. Tufts won the early game, 8-0, in five innings. Junior pitcher/utility player Raina Galbiati tossed a one-hit complete game shutout for the Jumbos. Tufts’ offense, meanwhile, jumped out to an early lead by scoring four runs in the top half of the first and never looked back. Stevens led the offense by going 3-for-3 with three RBI.

Sophomore catcher/utility player Kelsey Dion described the emotional importance of beating MIT to end Tufts’ losing streak.

“It was great to get our bats going and play well against a historically good, ranked program,” Dion told the Daily in an email. “We got some really positive momentum and energy in game one [by] ending the game in five innings, which carried nicely and gave us confidence going into game two.”

Later that same day, the Jumbos beat the Engineers, 7-3. O’Connor held MIT to three runs and six hits in seven solid innings of work. Meanwhile, Tufts scored four runs in the second and added insurance runs in the third and fourth frames. All told, seven different Jumbos crossed the plate in the victory.

On April 17, Tufts lost both games against Williams (24-10). In the earlier match-up, first-year pitcher/outfielder Rebecca Duncan outdueled Galbiati, and Williams staved off a Tufts comeback attempt to put out a 3-2 win. With two outs, a runner on first and the team trailing by two in the top of the fifth, Ruscz socked a two-run shot down the left field line to tie the game. With her fifth home run in as many games, Ruscz became the first NESCAC player this season to reach double-digit dingers. Just as they lived by the home run, however, so too did the Jumbos die by the home run. With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Ephs sophomore infielder Jessica Kim drilled a ball over the left field wall to give her team the lead for good.

In the later contest, the Ephs cowed the Jumbos, 9-1, in five innings. Kim opened the scoring for the hosts in the bottom of the first with a leadoff solo shot to left. Williams broke the game open with a five-run second, and Tufts never recovered. The only Jumbos score came on a fifth-inning RBI single by Stevens.

On April 15, the Trinity Bantams (18-11) closed out a three-game sweep of the Jumbos with two wins. In the first game, the Bantams withstood the Jumbos, 6-5. After Tufts scored two runs off Trinity’s first-year pitcher Lindsay Golia in the top half of the first, Trinity promptly replied in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run home run by junior infielder Michelle Treglia. Ruscz opened the fifth inning with a solo shot, and Tufts added two more runs in the sixth via an RBI double by junior utility player Samantha Siciliano and an RBI hit-by-pitch by Fournier. Tufts did not score again, however, and Golia earned her team-best ninth win with a complete-game performance.

Later that day, the Bantams beat the Jumbos, 6-3. Trinity sophomore Courtney Erickson opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with a two-run single, and two Bantam RBI singles in the second inning gave Trinity a 4-0 lead. Tufts got on the board in the third frame, but an inning later, sophomore catcher Nicole Towner drove a two-run double to center, and the Jumbos could not muster a rally in the seventh inning.

The day before, Trinity overcame Tufts in the series opener, 6-3. The Bantams notched their first run in the bottom of the first when a single by first-year first baseman/catcher Natalie Bruno plated Towner. The Jumbos answered in the third inning when Siciliano tied the game with an RBI single. The next batter up, Ruscz, smashed a two-run home run to give the visitors a two-score advantage. In the bottom half of the third, however, Trinity demonstrated the notorious fragility of a 3-1 lead. The Bantams scored three runs of their own, courtesy of an RBI double by junior outfielder Meaghan Race and a two-run single by junior first baseman/third baseman Katharine Haghdan. Haghdan slapped another two-run single in the fifth inning to seal up the game for the hosts.

Reflecting on the Jumbos’ season so far, one of the strongest predictors of victory has been scoring first. While Tufts is 12-4 in games that it scores first, the team is 6-8 in those contests where its opponents plate the first runs. When asked, Serata affirmed the importance of getting on the scoreboard first.

“Scoring first is definitely something we emphasize as a team,” Serata told the Daily in an email. “It definitely gives everyone confidence and causes everyone to play more loose when we have a lead.”

This weekend, the Jumbos close out their regular season with two home match-ups against the Bates Bobcats (10-13). Serata underscored the postseason ramifications of the encounter.

“Winning the games against Bates [is] crucial this weekend to get to the NESCAC tournament,” she said. “I feel like the team’s momentum is moving in the right direction after our games at Bowdoin, and we are all excited to play this weekend.”

The first game in the series begins on Sunday at 12 p.m.