Tufts softball primed for another successful season
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 01:03
Tufts softball is coming off a remarkable season in which it won the NESCAC with a perfect 12-0 record, went 41-7 overall and tied for fifth place in the country at the NCAA Finals. Last year was a banner year for the Jumbos, but what they will do for an encore is yet to be seen.
Head Coach Cheryl Milligan is looking for the answer to that question as the Jumbos prepare for their 2013 campaign.
Milligan was extremely satisfied with how her team performed last year, but views that success as a foundation, not a ceiling. She believes her players are capable of improving and is pushing them to the next level by having them focus on the little things.
“We have a mission to be beyond where we were last year, but we will be pursuing much smaller goals every day to reach that point,” she said. “If we do that, the final result will take care of itself.”
Milligan’s versatile team is poised for more success this spring. Most of last season’s key contributors are back after helping Tufts field the NESCAC’s second-best offense and third-best pitching staff in 2012. With a combination of speed, defense, pitching and hitting, the Jumbos are dangerous because they can beat their opponents in a variety of ways. On top of that, they put themselves in a position to win by embracing the intangibles, even amid their success.
“Our biggest strength is our commitment to putting in the work and sacrificing,” Milligan said. “We look for no-drama, no ‘me-ism,’ and we currently have a team that is willing to lay down their own wants and needs for one another and the team.”
That kind of camaraderie should help ease the pain of graduating four respected seniors, including three-time All-American Lena Cantone, from last year’s squad. Thankfully, Tufts has four seniors waiting in the wings, ready to step up and lead the Jumbos back to the top of the NESCAC.
The Jumbos are also fortunate to have six sophomores who will benefit from an additional year of maturity, including Allyson Fournier, a First Team All-American last year who staked her claim as one of the premier power pitchers in Div. III softball.
Fournier emerged as the unquestioned ace of Tufts’ pitching staff and went on to post the best ERA, strikeout rate and hit rate in Division III. The reigning NESCAC Pitcher and Rookie of the Year is like Tufts’ Stephen Strasburg: a young, elite hurler with room to grow.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Milligan likes what she sees in preseason practices.
“We are executing better, playing confident ball and many of the players have stepped up their game at the plate,” she observed. “We have three freshmen that are doing great, and a nice core of veterans leading the way. I believe that this year we will succeed in having a more balanced lineup 1-through-9, and I think we have some very gifted hitters who will come into their own and continue our clutch hitting.”
Her players will get to put their skills to the test soon enough. Like many softball teams around the Northeast, the Jumbos will travel to Florida for spring break. But instead of relaxing in Miami, they’ll be rounding into form at the National Training Center in Clermont.
With 14 games along with scheduled practices crammed into the vacation week, Tufts should be firing on all cylinders when classes resume.
Milligan is already looking forward to the preparation paying off, and will look to hit the ground running when the Jumbos return and begin their in-conference schedule against Bates on March 29.
“[We] will come back to Tufts ready for conference and beyond,” she said.