Softball beats Colby, clinches NESCAC East pennant on Senior Day

Tufts player freshman Emma Della Volpe is pictured at bat during Tufts' 3-0 win over Bates on Mar. 30, 2019. (Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts softball team continued its regional domination with three wins over the Colby White Mules to secure the NESCAC East pennant for the regular season.

In the doubleheader on Friday, the Jumbos honored their seniors for Senior Day in the team’s final home action of the year against NESCAC opposition. The Jumbos eviscerated the Mules with no remorse, silencing the Colby bats with convincing 13–1 and 12–0 victories, both in just five innings. Senior first baseman Kelsey Dion reflected on the Senior Day celebrations.

“I think my fondest moment is either hitting my first collegiate home run or sweeping Amherst last season,” Dion said, reminiscing about her four-year career.

The Georgetown, Mass., native didn’t let the festivities of the day get in the way of her and the team’s goals for the rest of the season.

“Our biggest objective is going to be putting all the pieces together; we need to make sure all three parts of the game show up and perform on the same day,” Dion said.

In the second game of the doubleheader, sophomore pitcher Kristina Haghdan was on the mound, throwing three innings of two-hit ball before being relieved by junior pitcher Allison Tilton of Jupiter, Fla. Offensively, the Jumbos shared the wealth, just like they have all season, with seven different players tallying RBIs, including senior center fielder Christian Cain, senior utility player Kristen Caporelli and Dion.

Sophomore shortstop Mia Steinberg starred for the Jumbos in the first game, going 3-for-3 with a home run, a triple and three RBIs. Junior pitcher and first baseman Gillian O’Connor had a strong start, pitching all five innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits. O’Connor now holds a 5–1 record on the year.

“It’s definitely bittersweet to celebrate Senior Day,” Dion said. “The sadness hasn’t really hit me yet; we have a lot more work to do, and a whole lot that we can accomplish.”

First-year infielder Vanessa Venkataraman shared her thoughts about the senior class. The group of seniors calls themselves “The Funk” and bring energy and passion to every contest. According to Venkataraman, it has a trickle-down effect on other, younger players, like utility player Alexis Aboulafia, who knocked in two RBIs against the Mules.

“I’ve been inspired by all of our seniors in different ways,” Venkataraman said. “Christian inspires me with her desire to always improve. Isabel Smokelin inspires me because there’s not a single challenge she’ll back down from.”

The two sides squared off on Thursday under overcast skies for their first matchup of the season. The Jumbos never gave the Mules a chance to get into the contest, putting up seven runs in the bottom of the first inning and adding three more in the bottom of the second inning to put the game out of reach for Colby. Five different Jumbos tallied RBIs in the first, with Caporelli leading the way with a three-run double. The Taunton, Mass., native went on to score two runs later in the contest, finishing with a line of two for three with four RBIs.

With an early lead of this magnitude, the Jumbos benched their starters, giving new players four solid innings of college softball — invaluable experience for the postseason and years to come. The Mules refused to go away, however, putting up at least one run in every inning from the third onward, including a three-run fifth inning. Many of their runs were unearned, as the Jumbos were plagued by five defensive errors — a recurring problem for the Jumbos this season.

The errors almost cost them again on Thursday, as Colby closed the deficit to four runs before finally falling 11–7 on the day. Haghdan started for the Jumbos and posted a very strong start, going six innings while only allowing six hits and just one earned run. The Phillips-Andover alumna has gone 8–2 on the year and has developed into an excellent complement to classmate Kristi Van Meter.

“Right now, we just want to take it game-by-game,” Venkataraman, who still has years to go before her own Senior Day, said. “Our spring break trip to Florida really helped us bond … To me it’s like a family; we support each other through both the wins and the losses.”

Losing has not been a big part of the Jumbos’ vocabulary this season, and they look to keep it that way in the regular season run-in. To cap off the season, Tufts will play doubleheaders against MIT and Williams on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Tufts will then face the No. 4 team in the NESCAC West, Amherst, on May 3 in the first round of the NESCAC Championship.


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