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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Softball finishes a strong spring training with 14–1 record

The softball team is pictured on March 26.

After runs to the NESCAC title game and the NCAA super regionals in 2022, Tufts softball enters this season with high expectations. Going 14–1 in their spring training games in Florida certainly starts the season off on the right foot, as the Jumbos begin their quest for a third NESCAC title in four seasons.

In 15 spring training games, the Jumbos outscored opponents 126–20. Seven of their 14 wins ended in mercy rules, and their only loss was a 3–2 nailbiter against Wisconsin-Whitewater.

The Jumbos responded in style after their lone loss of the spring. In their last three games in Florida, they didn’t give up a single run, beating Millikin 5–0, Westminster College 13–0 in a five inning mercy rule and Elmhurst 10–0, also in five innings.

Besides the UW-Whitewater loss, the only other game where opponents came within three runs of the Jumbos was a nine inning thriller against Wisconsin-Oshkosh on March 24, in which sophomore outfielder Lindsay Neumann hit a walk-off three run homer to win the game 4–2.

On offense, seniors Michelle Adelman, Josie Steinberg and Rachel Moore put up huge numbers to lead the scoring. The three led the team in OPS with marks of 1.272, 1.213 and 1.184, respectively, and combined for 40 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

The Jumbos were also strong in the circle, holding opponents to 14 earned runs in 95 innings pitched. Opponents only managed a .194 batting average, struck out 77 times and drew just 18 walks.

Thanks to their strong spring, Tufts was ranked No. 10 in the most recent NFCA Division III Coaches Poll. They were the only NESCAC team to make the top 25.

Steinberg was named NESCAC Softball Player of the Week for March 20–26. The shortstop went 19 for 35 at the plate for the week, scored 14 runs and drove in 13, all while playing standout defense. For the spring as a whole, she recorded multiple hits in 10 of the 14 games she started in, including a four-hit performance against Farmingdale State, helping her post a team-leading .549 batting average. In spite of her individual accomplishments, Steinberg’s main focus is the team.

“Getting any kind of honor from the NESCAC is obviously really nice to receive, but I’ve talked to a lot of my teammates about stuff like that, and in general, for me personally, I try not to look at stats and stuff that much, and so, the most important things to me are the team wins and the team accomplishments,” Steinberg said. “It’s not the goal at the end of the day obviously, but it was definitely an honor to receive.”

For a team to win 14 of 15 games, lots of things have to be going well. Depth and versatility are areas in particular where the Jumbos thrived this spring.

“We tried so many different people in so many different positions and so many different lineups,” Steinberg said. “The most encouraging thing, I would say, from my point of view, was the fact that we had so many different lineups out there, and we were able to crush it every time.”

Even after a great performance in spring training, there are areas where the Jumbos want to improve throughout the season. Defense will be a focus going forward as the weather improves, as it was an area the team found it hard to work on indoors.

“When we’re fully inside, there’s a lot less you can get done defensively compared to the amount of hitting stations and drills we can do inside and the amount of live [batting practice] that we can do,” Steinberg said.

The Jumbos begin the regular season on Saturday with a home showdown against the Amherst Mammoths, the reigning NESCAC champions who beat Tufts 1–0 in the title game last year. Steinberg is confident that the increased depth that this year’s squad demonstrated in Florida will be a boost in that game and throughout the season.

“The toughest part about what happened last year is that last year’s team was a better team than their team, and I think we just had an off day,” Steinberg said. “This year, [with] the amount of depth that we have and the amount of people, you can have a couple of people who are off but there’s always gonna be someone who’s hot.”

Expectations for this team are high, but the Jumbos aren’t taking anything for granted. They know the dangers of complacency, and they know that they’ll have plenty of tough games against motivated opponents.

“The higher you are in the ranks, the bigger target is going to be put on your back, so every time we walk out on that field, we are going to be getting everybody’s best,” Steinberg said. “Everyone is going to want to beat us more than they’re going to want to beat anyone else.”

Even with that target on their back, this team is motivated and optimistic heading into the start of NESCAC play.

“This is just one of the most motivated teams I’ve been on, and I really think that people realize how special of a group it is and how far we can make it,” Steinberg said. “There’s just a ton of potential, and spring break was great for sorting some of that out.”

After a week off following spring training, the Jumbos jump into the regular season this weekend, with NESCAC matchups against the Mammoths and the Hamilton Continentals on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.