Softball team sweeps Bates in 1st home series

Sophomore pitcher Kristina Haghdan stands at the mound during a game against Bates on Mar. 30, 2019. (Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily)

After closing out a successful week in Florida on a sour note with a pair of losses, the Tufts Jumbos swept the Bates Bobcats this weekend in a three-game series.

A week of practice proved restorative and helpful following the arduous 15-game slate in Florida. Sophomore pitcher Kristina Haghdan noted the benefits of the rest.

“We took care of our bodies [by] getting sleep and rolling out any knots, not pushing ourselves too hard in lift and just listening to our bodies,” Haghdan said. 

The Jumbos were hungry for the beginning of conference action, though, and they made mincemeat of the Bobcats in their home opening weekend.

“Momentum is building — the team really wants to win,” Haghdan said. “We are excited to see where our season goes, and we know that if we want to compete nationally we have to take care of business in our region.”

The Jumbos took on the Bobcats in a doubleheader on Saturday, snatching both narrow and blowout victories.

The offense regained the intensity it lacked in the first Saturday game in the afternoon match-up, winning 11–1. Eight of their runs came in an explosive third inning, with nine of the first 10 Tufts batters getting on base. Among the many impactful offensive sequences were a two-run home run from junior third baseman Jamie Stevens and an RBI double from junior first baseman Casey Maggiore.

Three different Tufts pitchers controlled this game, limiting Bates to only three total hits. Sophomore pitcher Kristi Van Meter shone in her three innings of play, not allowing a single hit; it was not until the fourth inning that Bates scored its only run of the weekend. This performance pushed her overall record on the season to a stellar 7–1.

Haghdan pitched a three-hit shutout in the first game. Through the first four innings she was nearly perfect, allowing only one Bates base runner because of a walk. Bates soon got back on track, loading the bases with only one out in the seventh, but Haghdan closed the game out strong with consecutive strikeouts, ending Bates’ hopes for a comeback. Haghdan remains unbeaten this season with an immaculate 6–0 record.

On the offensive end, the Jumbos scored in sporadic bursts across the two games. They scored all of their runs in the third inning of the first game, with sophomore second baseman Emma Della Volpe and sophomore shortstop Mia Steinberg delivering strong hits.  Maggiore punctuated the inning with a two-run home run that also sent Steinberg home.

Haghdan took pride in the team’s strong performance on Saturday.

“I think we performed how we needed to in order to make a statement with who we are as a team,” she said. “Our goal is to perform at our own level and set the tone of each game. I think as a whole, we have a high standard with what we know we can accomplish and I think we played how we wanted to this weekend. Of course, we know we still have things to work on, so our aim for this week is to continue to make progress with our team’s improvement and take what we learn in practice onto the field during games.”

The Jumbos began the weekend with a resounding 8–0 victory over the Bobcats on Friday afternoon. Van Meter turned in an excellent performance, pitching a one-hit shutout in the mercy-rule shortened six-inning game.

Tufts’ offense, led by Maggiore, dominated in their home opener. She finished with a remarkable four RBI in the contest. Della Volpe also put together a strong performance, batting 2-for-3 on the day and scoring three runs.

These victories pushed Tufts’ overall record to an impressive 16–2, good for first place in the NESCAC East Division.

Interim head coach Lauren Ebstein expressed her satisfaction with the three game series, but maintained the team’s on-to-the-next-game mentality.

“We’re just trying to play one game at a time, so for us that was three games this weekend,” Ebstein said. “We don’t circle any one series more than the others. So we’re just taking it step-by-step, game-by-game, delivering a game plan and executing it. That will obviously be different this week for Endicott and Bowdoin than it was last week. Certainly, it’s nice to pick up those first three conference wins and to do that at home is always awesome. But I think the game plan differs from game to game, so we’ll just use what we did well and learn from what we didn’t do well and try to take that momentum into this week.”

In a conference Tufts almost always dominates, staying level-headed through the inevitable peaks and valleys of a season is an annual struggle. Regardless of the results, there is always room for improvement, and despite the success that the Jumbos have enjoyed thus far, Ebstein still sees untapped potential in her squad.

“We’re going to continue to try to pitch the ball better and hit the ball better,” Ebstein said. “That’s the big scheme of things, but there are little things in both of those areas that we’ve talked about doing better and will continue to talk about doing better. Hopefully we can put a really powerful offense together with a really strong pitching performance and a solid defense come May.”

The Jumbos will look to defend their top spot in the conference this week. They host Endicott College in a Tuesday afternoon doubleheader, with games starting at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.