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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Jumbo bats heat up as softball finishes another perfect season in NESCAC East

First Baseman/Outfielder Summer Horowitz (LA ’17) hits the ball in Softball's 7-5 win against Bowdoin on April 1.

Tufts softball won six out of seven games over the past nine days, including a sweep of Bates over the weekend to finish the season undefeated in the NESCAC East, further demonstrating it deserves the division's No.1 seed heading into the playoffs. The stretch also included a sweep of a doubleheader against Endicott last Wednesday, with the lone loss of the past week coming against Babson in the first game of a doubleheader this Wednesday evening, though Tufts came back in the next game to win 11-2.

After splitting a doubleheader against MIT last Tuesday, Tufts traveled to Endicott for another doubleheader on Wednesday, April 20. The Jumbos seemed to have little trouble, brushing off Endicott's Gulls by 15-3 and 12-6 margins. Tufts hitters jumped on Endicott pitching early in game one, pushing across six runs in the first inning, while sophomore starter Raina Galbiati continued a strong breakout season by keeping the hosts off the board for the first three innings. Galbiati's strong performance on the mound last week earned her NESCAC Pitcher of the Week honors.

The first seven Jumbo hitters all singled consecutively to open the game, scoring five runs before the Gulls recorded their first out. From there, Endicott's sloppy defense prolonged the inning, and Galbiati came in to score the sixth run later in the inning, as Tufts batted around and sent 12 hitters to the plate.

The next few innings saw much less scoring for both teams, though Endicott got a few runs back to keep the deficit at 7-3 heading into the top of the fifth. But the Jumbo bats came alive again to light up the Gulls' pitching for eight more runs to put the game away. A fielding error allowed junior Marly Becker to score, while junior center fielder Carrie Copacino later scored off a single from sophomore Michelle Chisdak. First-year Christian Cain singled to center field to score senior co-captain Christina Raso. Cain and Chisdak both came around to score, before junior first basemen Maggie Hoffman drilled a homer to left center to bring the score to 15-3. The hosts were unable to get any runs back in the bottom half of the inning, and the mercy rule ended the game.

The Jumbo bats stayed hot in game two, and the result was not much different. Junior cleanup hitter Cassie Ruscz returned to the lineup after sitting out the first game and homered in her first at-bat to put Tufts up by two in the first inning. Neither team managed to score again until the fourth, when things got ugly for the Endicott defense. The Jumbos scored four runs on just two hits and four Gulls' errors, with three of the four runs unearned and the fourth walked in with the bases loaded. The Gulls finally got on the board with a run in the bottom half of the inning to keep the score at 6-1.

Tufts sophomore slugger Raven Fournier homered in the fifth to push the lead to 8-1, but Endicott came back strong with five runs in the bottom of the inning to claw back into the game and get within two runs. Not to be outdone, though, the Jumbos iced off the win in the seventh with more home runs from Ruscz, Fournier and Hoffman to push the lead back to 12-6.

“Endicott was a weekday game, and we went up there and hit the ball all day long and scored a ton of runs,” coach Cheryl Milligan said of the matchup.

The afternoon's offensive outpouring saw the Jumbos tally 27 runs on 28 hits and six home runs over the two games, with Ruscz, Fournier and Hoffman each homering twice and combining for 15 RBIs on the day.

Tufts then headed up to Bates for its final NESCAC East three-game series of the season, which was split between Friday and Saturday. For the fourth time this season, the Jumbos swept the division series to move to 12-0 in the East.

Tufts dominated the first game on Friday afternoon, shutting out the hosts 9-0 over six innings, with Ruscz and first-year Kristen Caporelli going yard in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Game two on Saturday morning didn't go much better for Bates, as Tufts again started strong with three runs in the first inning. Raso scored on a Bates error, while junior Summer Horowitz later homered to score Fournier as well. The Jumbos also scored a run in the second inning when Raso singled and sent sophomore Sara Willner-Giwerc home. Bates came back in the third inning with three runs to cut Tufts' margin to 4-3. But ultimately Tufts' momentum could not be checked, and the visitors pulled away in the later innings when the Jumbos managed to score eight runs across the fifth, sixth and seventh to secure the 12-5 win.

The final game of the Bates series later in the day stayed close through the first three frames, but sticking true to form with big middle-inning production, Tufts exploded for five runs in the fourth, which saw back-to-back-to-back home runs from Fournier, Copacino and Galbiati. Bates Bobcats responded with two runs in the fifth and four in the sixth, but the Jumbos also got three in the fifth and stayed up 10-7 to cruise to the win.

After a rare three-day off, Tufts returned home to Spicer Field on Wednesday to host Babson in yet another doubleheader, though game one saw the team's six-game winning streak end with a 9-6 loss.

“We have historically had a problem with weekday games, especially the first game of the double-header,” Horowitz told the Daily in an e-mail. “We tend to take a few innings to get going, and that seemed to be the problem against Babson. We were able to run rule Babson in the second games, making us realize that when we play our best, we are very tough to beat. We just need to work harder at showing up in the first inning every game and bringing our relentless attitude every inning.”

The Jumbos entered the first game ranked third in the NCAA regional rankings, while Babson Beavers who gave the hosts some real competition for the first time in several games, entered as No. 10. Both teams were relatively quiet early on, with Babson up 2-1 going into the fifth. The Jumbos pushed across four runs in the inning to take the lead, but the Beavers then responded with seven in the top of the sixth to go up 9-5, a lead which they held onto despite a late Jumbo run.

“At any point in this game, if you aren’t ready to play, teams will take advantage of that. We went ahead with four-run inning, but they came back with a seven-run inning,” Milligan said of the loss. “There were a bunch of balls misplayed, and the pitchers struggled. We tend to struggle on a school day afternoon, and for us that is something we are trying to work on. Every game is critical for RPI and ranking at this point.”

But the hosts showed their resilience and came out strong in the second game, as Ruscz homered yet again in the first to put her team up 3-0. Babson managed to get two back in the second, but Tufts came back with four runs in the bottom of the inning to open the margin back up to 7-2. After homering in game one's losing effort, Horowitz hit her second home run of the day in the second-inning rally. The Jumbos picked up four more runs in the fourth inning to go up 11-2 and then blanked the Beavers, with the game being called after five frames.

Strong offense has propelled the team's success lately, and over the past week plus, Tufts has not failed to score at least six runs in any of its seven games. The Jumbos have recently been getting big contributions from All-Americans Fournier and Ruscz, whose season home run tallies now stand at seven and 12, respectively. But other Jumbos like Horowitz, who has five dingers on the season, and Galbiati, who in addition to seeming like the team's ace on the mound recently, boasts a .462 batting average that leads the team, have also gotten hot at the plate.

Although Tufts staff hasn't had to work that hard because of the generous run support, if they can lower opponents' scoring, the team could shape up to be a formidable force driving through the NCAA tournament again this year. In the final weekend of the regular season, the Jumbos next play the Hamilton Continentals in a Saturday doubleheader, starting at noon at Spicer Field.