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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jumbos remain undefeated at 33-0

Junior Carrie Copacino's solid hitting and speed on the base paths have been key to the Jumbos' offense.

In 1995, when coach Cheryl Milligan was a player on Tufts' softball team, she and her teammates finished the season with what was then a record-breaking 31 wins. Twenty years later, with five games left to play in their regular season, the Jumbos have already surpassed that milestone with 33 wins. Despite playing arguably their toughest stretch of the regular season thus far -- with 11 games in eight days -- the team's unblemished record remained intact as it rolled to 33-0 for the season and maintained its No. 1 national ranking.

"We're all pretty tired at this point, we're about halfway through the long stretch of games that we have, and we're trying to keep the whole one-day-at-a-time mentality, [looking at] the previous day, [then] the next day," senior Bri Keenan said.

Yesterday, Tufts easily handled non-conference foe Rhode Island College, winning two shutouts, 19-0 and 5-0.

On Wednesday, the Jumbos swept the Endicott College Gulls in a doubleheader on Spicer Field, just the third time the team has played at home since the new field was completed prior to the start of the season.

"It's been absolutely incredible [playing on Spicer]; it's beautiful and it's one of the best fields that we've played on [and] it's a really great atmosphere," Keenan said.

The first 5-0 victory was fueled by senior pitcher tri-captain Allyson Fournier's 12th shutout of the season, where she struck out 14 of the first 15 Endicott batters. She went on a 13-strikeout streak after Endicott junior tri-captain Jamie Corda ground out in the first inning.The score remained tied at zero until the third inning, as Tufts sophomore center fielder Carrie Copacino was unable to progress past second base in the first and first-year Samantha Siciliano struck out with sophomore Summer Horowitz on third in the second inning.

The Jumbos' offense came together in the third to break the scoreless stalemate, racing ahead with four runs. Copacino led off with a double to second and was quickly brought home by another double from junior Christina Raso. After Keenan hit a single and first-year Raven Fournier was hit by a pitch to load the bases, sophomore Shelby Lipson sent a ball flying in the air. What initially looked like a fly ball to right field got picked up by the wind and carried back to the infield, where the infield fly rule was called. Lipson was Tufts' first out of the inning, but she got an RBI as Raso scored and Keenan settled at third.

The wind worked for Tufts again on the next play, as sophomore third baseman Marissa Heyer's deep fly ball led to a two-run error to make it 4-0. The Jumbos would hold on to the lead for the rest of the game with little trouble.

Tufts' strong pitching continued in the second game, with junior pitcher Erica County remaining firm under pressure even as Endicott College out-hit Tufts 9-5. County held off the Gulls' attempts to get back in the game in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, en route to improving to 12-0 for the season with three strikeouts.

"Erica's been dealing really well with the increased pressure, [and] she really stepped up from last year when we needed her as a starter and not a closer," Allyson Fournier said. "Her role has really gotten larger each year on the team and she's definitely improved year by year and been a huge contribution to the team this year."

Tufts struck first, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. Senior tri-captain center fielder Michelle Cooprider hit her first home run of the season, and Keenan scored her second run of the day after reaching on a fielder's choice.

The Gulls rallied in the top of the third, scoring their first runs of the day to tie the score at 2-2. Endicott first-year outfielder Casie Beauchemin and junior catcher Emily Hoffman both scored off a single from sophomore Lindsee Allienello to bring the visitors into contention.

But Tufts replied in the fourth. With sophomore first baseman Cassie Ruscz and senior tri-captain right fielder Gracie Marshall on second and first base respectively, first-year Raina Galbiati stepped up to the plate and singled home Ruscz for a one-run lead. Senior catcher Stephanie Tercero's sac-fly in the next at-bat extended the lead to 4-2.

Prior to the match-up against Endicott on Wednesday, Tufts played four away games that had been rescheduled from earlier in the month: two the day before against MIT and two the previous Sunday on April 19 at Bowdoin -- the first against Bates and the second against Bowdoin. This four-game stretch included two of Tufts' closest match-ups thus far, with the team pulling out narrow 5-4 victories against both Bowdoin and MIT.Tuesday's first game against MIT stretched to extra innings before Ruscz shone in the ninth, singling home Keenan with two outs to give Tufts the win.

"The team did a good job coming together and doing what we needed to do, it was really a whole team effort," Keenan said.

The Jumbos built up a gradual four-run lead over four innings in game one against MIT, but the Engineers capitalized on a brief lapse on defense for the Jumbos in the fifth inning to tie the game at 4-4.

"They got a few runners out on base early, and we weren't able to execute the plays that we needed to, [so] they were able to tie the game on our mistakes which kind of taught us that we can't back out at any point in the games because teams are going to jump on it," Keenan said. "It was a really good lesson for us that we can't lose focus at any point, no matter how far we are ahead."

After three more scoreless innings for both teams, Tufts finally pulled out the victory with Keenan's run. Keenan finished the game with three hits and three runs.

The Jumbos played a make-up game Sunday morning against the Bates Bobcats at Bowdoin. They had little difficulty clinching the game, winning 13-0 in only five innings.

The tight three-game set against Bowdoin and MIT was a drastic shift in momentum for Tufts, as the Bates game ended a six-game streak that saw the team score 66 runs while allowing just one.

"Because we've had so many games, I think that right now the team is focused on getting better at a certain thing individually or something they need to work on rather than scoring all the runs, so the games lately have been a little closer," Allyson Fournier said. "Hopefully as we move toward the playoffs, the bats will pick up a little more and we'll score more runs."

The scheduling of the games has been tough for most players, but the team has been a model of support for the first-years in their first season of collegiate softball.

"I definitely expected a big schedule [coming in]; obviously it's been a little skewed with the rain-outs, but I think we've been managing very well," Raven Fournier said. "Everyone's been really great helping me ease into everything new."

The Jumbos close out their regular season with a three-game series against Colby on Friday and Saturday and a doubleheader at Wheaton, Mass. on Sunday to cap off a streak of six consecutive days of games.

"We can't really look too far ahead, otherwise it gets overwhelming," Keenan said. "We're trying to improve on how we've done so far and we're not practicing, so coach gives us practice plans for each game -- things to work on that we'd normally work on in practice."