Tufts takes two of three in weekend series with Bowdoin

Junior infielder Christian Cain fouls off a pitch in Tufts' 3–1 win over Bowdoin on March 30, 2018. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts softball team played a trio of crucial games last weekend — its first series against a NESCAC opponent in the 2018 season. In a three-game homestand against the Bowdoin Polar Bears (14–5), the Jumbos were able to pick up wins in two of the three games.

After two victories for Tufts that featured strong pitching and defense, Bowdoin finally prevailed in the final game of the series on Saturday afternoon, 7–6. The game was the most thrilling of the series, as the teams played an additional two innings after being tied at the end of seven innings.

Five of the Jumbos’ runs came in a scorching second inning, which started with an RBI single from sophomore first baseman Casey Maggiore. Shortly after, first-year second baseman Emma Della Volpe notched her first collegiate home run in a big way with a grand slam. The swing gave the Jumbos an early 5–0 lead, but the Polar Bears weren’t finished.

A lone sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made the score 5–1, but Bowdoin still needed a miracle in the final inning to stay alive. The Polar Bears found such fortune with an RBI single and a three-RBI double in the top of the seventh to send the game to extra innings.

The eighth inning passed with no runs from either team, but junior shortstop Samantha Valdivia followed an RBI double with an RBI line out gave the Polar Bears a 7–5 lead after the top of the ninth. Tufts didn’t go down without a fight, as first-year shortstop Mia Steinberg cut the deficit to one with a sacrifice fly, but the comeback effort then stalled.

The first half of Saturday’s doubleheader went much more smoothly for the Jumbos, who won comfortably thanks to a big fifth inning. First-year pitcher Kristina Haghdan (4–3) threw a complete game and only gave up two runs in her victory, one of which came via an error.

Senior catcher Raven Fournier kicked off the day with a bang by bringing herself and junior left fielder Kristen Caporelli home with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first. An error gifted the Polar Bears a run in the top of the fourth, making the score 2–1. The Jumbos quickly responded in a big way, putting together an impressive string of at-bats in the fifth inning.

RBI singles from sophomore third baseman Jamie Stevens, junior first baseman Kelsey Dion and senior shortstop Sara Willner-Giwerc opened up a 5–1 lead for the hosts. A sacrifice bunt from sophomore center fielder Annika Han gave Tufts a little more insurance, closing the inning having put four runs on the board for a 6–1 advantage.

The Polar Bears scored a run with an RBI single in the top of the sixth. Unlike their rally in the subsequent contest, though, that’s all the Polar Bears had left to offer in the game, as the hosts secured a 6–2 victory — their second win of the weekend.

Tufts’ first win came on Friday in the opening game of the three-game set against Bowdoin. It featured an impressive bout between both teams’ pitchers, as Tufts first-year Kristi Van Meter (6–2) and Bowdoin sophomore Kate Hoadley (5–2) both threw complete games for their respective sides. Another strong fifth inning from the Jumbos earned them the victory, though.

The visitors started off on the right foot, as senior second baseman Lauren O’Shea’s solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to give the Polar Bears an early lead. It seemed to be the start of a rough day for Van Meter, but she and the rest of the Tufts defense refused to allow another run. Despite Van Meter’s virtuoso performance, the Amston, Conn. native is still looking to improve in her first collegiate season.

“I’d say it’s a work in progress,” Van Meter said. “I’m a [first-year], so I’m still learning how college hitters handle their at-bats. I think the more I learn about how aggressive people are [on] different counts … the better I can adjust my game and take advantage of certain situations.”

Though their defense held strong, the Jumbos still needed to score to secure a victory in their home opener. Della Volpe, the NESCAC Player of the Week, kicked off the offensive attack in the fifth inning with an RBI double that tied the score at one. Senior second baseman Samantha Siciliano followed with a two-run home run, giving the Jumbos a 3–1 lead.

Following two quick outs in the top of the seventh, Van Meter allowed a single to senior catcher Claire McCarthy. Van Meter got the next Bowdoin batter to ground out, however, wrapping up Tufts’ victory.

With the weekend results, the Jumbos improved their season record to 13–5 and opened their campaign in the NESCAC East with a 2–1 mark.

“We weren’t perfect, but we did improve — especially in some of the areas we’re trying to focus on,” Van Meter said.

The Jumbos’ doubleheader against the MIT Engineers (11–4–1) originally scheduled for today was postponed Monday night, with a new date to be determined.