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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Softball wins 3 of 4 matchups on successful senior weekend

The program honored one of its most successful graduating classes with winning performances.

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Senior Sophia DiCocco is pictured against Middlebury.

Winning is hard. Winning consistently is even harder. And yet, for the graduating seniors and fifth-years of the Jumbos softball team, winning has come naturally. Across their entire collegiate careers, the graduating class has compiled a record of 121–30, with a 45–5 NESCAC mark. So, on senior weekend, the best way to honor the program’s veterans was by winning, and that is exactly what occurred.

Entering a home doubleheader against the Trinity College Bantams on Saturday, the Jumbos had won six consecutive contests. Sporting a 7–1 record, junior pitcher Sky Johnson assumed her place in the circle and mowed down the Bantam lineup, striking out six and allowing only one hit in a complete game shutout. Back-to-back doubles from fifth-year shortstop Josie Steinberg and sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Perucci opened the scoring in the first. While the extra-base hits slowed down, the scoring did not. A groundout from sophomore first baseman Haley Leimbach and RBI singles from fifth-years Michelle Adelman and Rachel Moore and senior Bela Jimenez brought the lead to 5–0 by the bottom of the fifth inning. With Johnson shutting down the Bantams, the Jumbos had a chance to end the contest early with an eight-run rule victory. They did just that in the bottom of the sixth, as Moore drove home Adelman with a single and Perucci finished the game off with a two-run single of her own. The 8–0 win marked the Jumbos’ fifth run-rule triumph of the season.

“I was feeling pretty good. I think all of my pitches were working and I was definitely able to rely on my defense to make good plays for me and back me up,” Johnson said. 

However, in the second game of the doubleheader, it would be the Bantams who emerged as shutout victors. Trinity starter Kaysen Shikar tossed a gem, going the full seven innings in the circle, striking out four and allowing just two hits. The game was tight, remaining at 1–0 until the top of the seventh, when a single from first-year Mikayla O’Brien and a double from junior Taylor Mikolajczak gave the Bantams a 3–0 advantage. With the Jumbos unable to muster any runs in the bottom of the seventh, they lost their second NESCAC contest in a season for the first time since 2019.

“I just think our offense really didn’t adjust to the pitcher well. I think we’ll learn a lot from it, but we just need to do a better job of adjusting when there’s different pitchers throwing … and learning from each other as a team,” Adelman said.

Despite the loss, the page was turned to Sunday’s doubleheader against the Middlebury Panthers with anticipation. In a pregame ceremony on Spicer Field, the team’s fifth-years and seniors — Moore, Adelman, Steinberg, Jimenez, Sophia DiCocco, and Keila McCabe — were honored by fans, teammates and coaches. This year’s graduating class is certainly one to celebrate, as they have appeared in the NCAA Tournament each year of their career, in addition to a College World Series berth and a NESCAC Championship in 2021.

On the festivities, Adelman said, “It was just really nice. I mean, I love the girls that graduated with me last year, and I love this class. And just being able to celebrate with everyone, … it was a real full circle moment.”

“All of the seniors have been super important and a super integral part of our program, and they really motivate us and we all want to do well for the seniors, so getting to honor them before the game, and just make it about them and see everything that they’ve contributed not only to the program, but their impact on us as players, has been super cool,” Johnson said. 

Inspired by the spirit of success, the team came roaring back after a Cece Ziegler home run put the Panthers in the lead early on, while Johnson limited the damage and struck out four over six innings of work. Moore’s RBI double knotted the game at one before Adelman’s RBI groundout gave the Jumbos the lead in the fifth. The hammer for the Jumbos came in the bottom of the sixth, when sophomore utility player Lauryn Horita smacked her fourth home run of the season to give the Jumbos a much-needed insurance run. DiCocco relieved Johnson in the seventh and retired the Panthers in order, shutting the door on the Jumbos’ win.

Looking to ride high off of their previous victory, the Jumbos sent sophomore hurler Claire Guitmann to the circle for the day’s second contest. She received run-support galore, as nine different Jumbos drove in at least a run. Leading the way was Horita, who smacked another home run, this time a three-run blast, and Adelman, who also had three RBIs. Guitmann went three innings, allowing three runs on five hits, before DiCocco was called upon again to shut the door. In two innings of work, she allowed no hits, as the Jumbos trounced the Panthers 16–3 in five innings.

Ultimately, the best way to part with this graduating class is by doing what they do best — winning. And that goal won’t be complete until another trophy is added to the hardware cabinet.

“Our first college season was the World Series. … So just being able to spread that knowledge and kind of share what the feeling was and understand what we need to do to get to that point again, is really nice,” Adelman said.

But Senior Day is a reminder that nothing lasts forever, especially a college career. And so, the Jumbos are determined to make the most of the rest of their season and understand what is required to do so.

“Staying motivated throughout every game, staying excited and energized throughout each and every game and knowing that the season’s long, but we’re only getting so many softball seasons left in our careers,” Johnson said.