After spending the first part of the season in Florida, Tufts softball came back to Medford with the end goal of winning back-to-back NESCAC Championships. Their ace from last season, Kristina Haghdan, is now working as a coach for the Jumbos.
Rookie of the year Sophia DiCocco (12–4) is tearing up her sophomore season leading the NESCAC with a 0.6 ERA, an entire point ahead of her competitors while also pitching more innings than anyone else in the conference. DiCocco was recently named to the Schutt Sports/NFCA National Player & Pitcher of the Year Watch List and has looked as sharp as ever against her recent opponents. DiCocco talked about her improvement this season.
“I think what’s really allowed me to perform better is just a softball IQ when I’m pitching,” DiCocco said. “Because I feel like I always get ahead in the count, … but I think this season I’ve been able to seal the deal.”
Tufts locked in this past week and swept Trinity and Brandeis in five games, extending their winning streak to seven. On Friday, the Jumbos took on the Trinity Bantams in a close defensive battle that ended with the Brown and Blue pulling through with a 1–0 victory. DiCocco threw a two hit shutout, but most of the action came in the bottom of the third inning when freshman outfielder Lindsay Neumann singled to leadoff, and then junior infielder Katrina Yuzefpolsky got to first on an error from the hot corner. The bases got loaded after junior outfielder Michelle Adelman was hit by a pitch. Tufts finally got on the board after junior infielder Josie Steinberg smashed the ball to right center, sending Neumann home. That was the only scoring the whole game as DiCocco locked down the Bantams. DiCocco spoke about the level of competition they face after winning the NESCAC Championship last year.
“I think the pressure has been on us since day one,” DiCocco said. “And it’s just as hard on us now. Because with each team we play, we know they’re coming at us trying to win.”
The Saturday games were much higher-scoring affairs. Both games went in favor of Tufts, but the first game was much messier. The first inning went poorly for the home team as Trinity hit a home run. But senior infielder Nicole Russo responded quickly with a long shot of her own that scored three. The run continued in the third as the Jumbos scored the rest of their eight runs. Junior Rachel Moore doubled to left field scoring one, and then outfielder Keila McCabe sent a solid ball into center field that ended up being a sac fly to score Steinberg. Junior catcher Emma Jacobson then hit a short ball that the catcher couldn’t get to in time, scoring Russo. Tufts scored two more runs before the inning ended, while they held the Bantams to two more runs for the rest of the game, finishing with a 11–5 win for the Brown and Blue.
The final game of the series featured a better defensive showing from the Jumbos who won 4–1. The game started out slowly until the fourth inning, when the Bantams scored off an unearned run. Tufts answered back in the bottom of the fourth when first-year catcher Keriann Slayton smashed a three-run home run, and then Moore stole home to score the final run of the game. The Jumbos ended up winning 4–1.
DiCocco commented on what the team did to regroup and pull off these wins after losing some key games midway through the season.
“This season was off to a good start,” DiCocco said. “And then I think it was like a week or two ago, we had lost four times in a row, the first game of each series. And that was really tough. So we sat down as a team a few times and tried to work things out.”
Tufts played Brandeis on Wednesday in a midweek matchup between non-conference opponents. Brandeis gave Tufts some trouble last season, but the Jumbos played the Judges well this year. In the first game, the Jumbos scored half of their runs in the first inning. In the top of the sixth, sophomore infielder Bela Jiminez went yard to give the Jumbos a 4–0 lead. Jiminez went 3-for-4 on the day and is having a solid year batting .318 after coming off a shoulder injury last season. DiCocco held the Brandeis Judges to a goose egg until the seventh inning, when she gave up two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Tufts won the bout 6–2 and went straight into the next game of the doubleheader maintaining their momentum. The second game was a high scoring affair with Tufts jumping to a three-run lead at the end of the second. The Judges mounted a quick comeback in the next few innings taking the lead in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4–3. The Jumbos responded in the sixth as Slayton doubled to score two. In the seventh, McCabe doubled to give the visiting team a 7–4 lead, and sophomore infielder Lexi Grein put the nails in the coffin by sending one over the fence to make the final score 9–4 in favor of the Jumbos.
Tufts plays Bates in its final three games of the regular season this upcoming weekend.