Strong pitching leads Jumbos to two of three wins against Bobcats

Sophomore outfielder Emily Serata relays a throw to first-year second baseman Emma Della Volpe in Tufts' 7–6 loss to Bowdoin on March 31. Allison Culbert / The Tufts Daily

Due to the seemingly annual April snow, the Tufts softball team (15–6) only took on Bates this week, as its two-game series with MIT was pushed to April 25. The Bobcats (11–8) are just the second NESCAC East opponent whom the Jumbos have taken on this season, giving the weekend series a bit of added importance.

The storm pushed the game scheduled for April 6 to Sunday, with the teams still playing twice on Saturday. When the dust (or snow) settled on Sunday afternoon, Tufts had come out on top in two of the three games, dropping the final one to come up short of a sweep.

After a Saturday doubleheader in which the Jumbos gave up no runs, the team entered Sunday hoping to continue the trend. Sophomore Gillian O’Connor did just that, pitching a superb complete game, while allowing only three hits and notching five strikeouts.

Despite O’Connor’s brilliance, a Tufts error in the bottom of third inning gifted Bates the first run of the game. Though the Bobcats failed to score again, the run was all they needed to secure the victory. The Jumbos offense produced five hits, but the hosts were unable to convert them into runs, as the game ended 1–0.

“Gil [O’Connor] threw an awesome game and we had some really good at-bats,” first-year pitcher Kristi Van Meter said. “Some of our hits just didn’t line up to where we were producing a lot of runs.”

Tufts’ strongest game of the weekend came in the back end of Saturday’s doubleheader, as the Jumbos put up seven runs on the scoreboard. First-year pitcher Kristina Haghdan (5–3) threw perhaps the best game of her young career, penciling in a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts to boot.

Tufts’ offense got its runs in a variety of ways. In the top of the third inning, sophomore outfielder Emily Serata crossed the plate thanks to a Bates error. In the fourth inning, sophomore third baseman Jamie Stevens singled in a run, before senior catcher Sarah Finnigan plated two more with a single of her own. The highlight of the day, though, came from Tufts senior shortstop Sara Willner-Giwerc in the sixth inning. The Saratoga Springs, N.Y. native launched a three-run homer over the left field fence to blow the game open, as it ended 7–0.

The first game of the day didn’t feature quite as much offense for the Jumbos, but they received another excellent pitching performance — this time, courtesy of Van Meter — to win 1–0. The Amston, Conn. native grabbed her seventh win of the season by shutting out the Bobcats and striking out eight of batters in her seven innings of work.

The lone run of the game came via Stevens’ groundout to the pitcher in the sixth inning, which advanced sophomore center fielder Maggie Lebinski home. Van Meter retired the Bobcats in the bottom of the sixth and closed the door in the seventh for the impressive win.

The Jumbos’ success on Saturday clinched their 2–1 series win over the Bobcats, while the weekend moves their overall record to 15–6, with a 4–2 mark in the NESCAC East Division. The team feels good after winning a pair of series with conference rivals — Bowdoin and Bates — but still feels that there’s room for improvement.

“Ideally, you always look to sweep the team,” senior catcher/outfielder Raven Fournier said. “But I think we’ve learned from our loss and are ready to go into this weekend strong.”

Van Meter echoed her teammate’s tempered comments.

“I think we’re happy with it, but not thrilled,” she said. “We’re not fully satisfied with our performance. We’re looking to really bring it in the last half of our season.”

That stretch starts this weekend with a road series against Colby (1–15), which features a doubleheader on Friday before an 11:00 a.m. first pitch on Saturday. The Jumbos are confident that they can apply what they’ve learned from their previous NESCAC East experience this weekend.

“We just need to come out swinging every at-bat and be very confident in ourselves,” Fournier said. “Everyone on the team is prepared and they’re ready to go up to the plate at any moment, so I think we just need to try to go up with the mentality that we’re getting a hit every at-bat. I know that’s not how it works, but thinking that sets you up better in your mind.”