Softball | Jumbos look to build on winning streak in Maine
Sweep seems attainable against last−place Mules
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:04
Just past the midway point of the spring, the softball team has already exceeded expectations for 2012. With 17 games remaining in the regular season, the Jumbos, who own a 19−3 record, are approaching last year’s win total of 23, and they will look to build on an eight−game winning streak tomorrow and Saturday against the struggling Colby Mules.
So far, the team’s recipe for success has been balance, mixing an offensive attack that leads the NESCAC in on−base percentage and a dominant pitching staff anchored by freshman sensation Allyson Fournier.
Fournier, a two−time NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, has been nothing short of spectacular in her first season as a Jumbo. In her two starts last week, she threw a perfect game and a two−hitter, striking out 26 batters in 13 innings while allowing only six baserunners. Opponents have managed just five runs all season against the right−hander and have been held to a .109 batting average.
“Allyson certainly has a lot of talent,” coach Cheryl Milligan said. “Her spin rates and the movements on her pitches have been at a high level for a while and are still at a very high level for the college game.”
This weekend, the team will travel to Waterville, Maine to take on Colby in a three−game series. The Mules find themselves in last place in the NESCAC East, with a winless record in conference play and a 4−13 record overall. Their offense is led by star sophomore Brianne Wheeler, who is hitting .426 with 17 RBIs and seven doubles. Senior co−captain Katie Graichen has also gotten off to a hot start, hitting .411 and scoring 11 runs.
The Jumbos know that in order to sweep the series, they cannot afford to underestimate their opponent.
“Our focus has to be better,” Milligan said. “We cannot go into Colby resting on our laurels because Colby hasn’t been at the top of the conference in the past few years. We aren’t going to take them lightly, and we aren’t going to let what they’re doing affect us.”
Offensively, the Jumbos are paced by sophomore catcher Jo Clair, who has continued to improve after a stellar freshman season in which she broke Tufts’ all−time single season home run record. The reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year and All−NESCAC first−team selection leads the conference with five home runs, sits in third with 29 RBIs and is fifth with a .500 batting average. She has accomplished all this while playing nearly flawless defense behind the plate and guiding her pitching staff to a 2.88 ERA.
“[Jo] does a great job of keeping me focused and calm when I’m pitching, and the whole team is really good [offensively], so it’s good to know I have them to back me up,” Fournier said.
Fellow first−team All−NESCAC selections, senior tri−captain first baseman Lena Cantone and second baseman Emily Beinecke have also performed well, hitting .438 and .406, respectively. Meanwhile, sophomore outfielder Sara Hedtler has enjoyed a breakout season batting leadoff for the Jumbos.
“Our goal is to win every game, every inning. We have been talking about that a lot in practice,” Fournier said. “We want to make sure we always win the inning. If the other team scores three, then we want to come back and score five. We always want to be on top. This weekend we definitely want to win all three.”
After their three−game set at Colby, the Jumbos will travel to Wellesley on Sunday to play a round robin with Wellesley and No. 3 Eastern Connecticut State University. Tufts defeated the third−ranked Warriors on March 19, during their spring break trip.
“We beat them in Florida, but we want to come back and beat them again because they haven’t lost since then,” Fournier said. “It will be a very big game.”