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Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Team Hard-ly had a chance against Williams

An all-star freshman class, the returning NESCAC Player of the Year, a near-untouchable league winning streak, and an offensive explosion that seemed to turn out big hits on command were not enough. What looked to be the most promising season in years came to an end for the Tufts softball team on Sunday, May 15 as they fell 9-0 to Williams in the championship game of the NESCAC tournament. The Ephs picked up their second consecutive league title as the Jumbos saw their chance at a banner fade away at the hands of a no-hitter from Williams junior Clara Hard in her second shutout of the day. The loss put an end to Tufts' 27-8 season much sooner than expected, as the Jumbos' season-long domination had looked to put them in contention for a national berth. The win gave the Ephs their second NESCAC championship, coinciding with the move of former Tufts coach Kris Herman, who led the Jumbos to their first three NESCAC championships before taking over as the head coach at Williams. The Ephs came out slamming, knocking in five runs on six hits in the first inning, including back-to-back home runs from junior Christine Williams and sophomore Katelyn Knox. The Williams lineup ripped fourteen hits off Tufts junior Julia Brenta, who fell to 7-1 with her first loss of the year. The Tufts bats were uncharacteristically silent. Throughout the year, the Jumbo offense has carried the team, leading the league in team batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, home runs, total bases, RBIs and runs scored, and, until Sunday's game, hits. But Hard silenced the Jumbos for her second win of the day after shutting out Tufts 2-0 in Sunday morning's second-round game. The junior's 0.70 ERA and 15 wins are league-bests, and she added three more with her sweep of the tournament. "We just didn't hit," coach Cheryl Milligan said. "I give a lot of credit to Clara [Hard] - she pitched a great game. We got frustrated early and our bats just didn't come around like we're used to them doing." Tufts reached the tournament final on wins over Middlebury in the first round and Trinity in the consolation round after being dealt a loss by Williams in between the victories. On Friday, the Jumbos overcame unseasonable weather conditions to defeat the Panthers 2-0. Despite a solid showing from Middlebury senior pitcher Megan McCarthy and a strong wind that blew several long shots short into the gloves of Middlebury outfielders, the Tufts offense was able to capitalize. Two hits from senior co-captain Courtney Bongiolatti contributed to both runs, as she scored one after reaching base and batted in the other. A leadoff triple down the right field line in the fourth inning put Bongiolatti in perfect position for a sacrifice fly to center from freshman Erica Bailey. In the sixth, freshman Danielle Lopez, the NESCAC Rookie of the Year, ripped her second single of the game and was knocked in by a Bongiolatti double. The weather only got worse on Saturday, and the day's games were cancelled due to the rain. Rescheduled for Sunday and moved to Wheaton College, the second round was not as lucky for the Jumbos. Despite just four hits and six strikeouts from Bailey, Tufts was shutout by Hard and notched only one hit, a long single from Bongiolatti. Both Eph runs in the bottom of the sixth were unearned. The rally was sparked by singles from freshman Kristen Lemons and junior Alana Frost, and the runs scored on a Bongiolatti error. The loss sent Tufts to the consolation round for a matchup against Trinity with a trip to the final on the line. The Jumbos needed a win to stay in the tournament, and that's exactly what they produced. The Bantams took an early 1-0 lead in the third, but Tufts sophomore Alaina Thiel, two for three on the day, evened the score with her first home run of the season, a deep shot to left-center. With the game knotted at one heading into the seventh inning, the Jumbos found their offensive rhythm as senior co-captain Katie Smith followed a two-run single from Bailey with a two-run homer to put Tufts up by four. Trinity had a chance to turn the game around in the bottom of the inning as they loaded the bases, but junior pinch runner Dena Raffa was thrown out at the plate trying to squeeze another run out of a one-run single by senior Paige Blumer. Junior Sarah Conroy picked up the win for the Jumbos, fanning seven Bantams to improve to 9-1 on the season. While the abrupt end to the season was a disappointment, Milligan emphasized the team's phenomenal accomplishments throughout the year. "We took six rookies and put them on the field with two seniors and a sophomore, and we had a great season," Milligan said. "It's a tough way for the seniors to go out, but they've left a mark on an extremely talented group of underclassmen who have three great seasons left."


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Jumbos bring home three NESCAC awards

Senior co-captain Courtney Bongiolatti became the fifth Jumbo in as many years to be named NESCAC Player of the Year on Thursday. Joining her on the awards list were freshman Rookie of the Year Danielle Lopez and NESCAC Coach of the Year Cheryl Milligan. Tufts took three of the four annual awards as Williams junior Clara Hard nabbed Pitcher of the Year. Bongiolatti remained the favorite for the top award throughout most of the season as she led the league in nearly every offensive category. Her 14 home runs, 45 RBIs, 93 total bases, and .869 slugging percentage were conference bests, and she ranked in the top five in batting average (.374), hits (40), and runs scored (26). Her explosive bat set a new Tufts single-season home run record and tied the career home run count of 32, set by Lis Drake, the 2003 NESCAC Player of the Year, from 2000-2003. Joining Bongiolatti on the first all-NESCAC team and taking home Rookie of the Year honors was freshman second baseman Danielle Lopez. Batting .379 and slugging .655, Lopez's name appears within the top five in nearly every conference-wide offensive category. Her 44 hits were a league best, she was second in home runs (8) and total bases (76), third in runs scored (26), and fourth in RBIs (27). In the field, Lopez filled the second base position vacated by Deana Davidian (LA '04) and started every game for the Jumbos. The Jumbos' third selection to the first team All-NESCAC was freshman catcher Megan Cusick, whose presence behind the plate has been a focal point for the Tufts infield all season. Boasting a team-high .990 fielding percentage, Cusick led the league's catchers in runners picked off with three, and has caught six runners stealing. Tufts coach Cheryl Milligan took home NESCAC Coach of the Year honors. Milligan continued to build the Tufts program in her second season at the head spot and led the Jumbos to their highest regular-season win total in recent years. A former Jumbo, Milligan played every inning in her four years at shortstop and her accomplishments as a player are now translating into a successful coaching run. Milligan wrestled the award away from former Tufts coach Kris Herman, now at Williams, who has taken the gold for the past four years. The Jumbos also fielded two players in the second team All-NESCAC, including freshman pitcher Erica Bailey, whose 1.58 ERA was a team low. When not on the mound, Bailey filled in as a designated hitter, propelling the Jumbos' offense with a .337 batting average and eight home runs. Senior Katie Smith, last year's NESCAC Player of the Year, also received second-team honors based on her .339 batting average and 37 hits. The freshmen presence on the postseason awards list is a good sign for next year's squad, and as Milligan continues to solidify her position at the helm of the program, the 2006 Jumbos will look to continue their consistency and dominance.-by Liz Hoffman


The Setonian
Softball

Softball Profiles | Seniors Bongiolatti, Smith anchor Jumbos in final season

The Tufts softball team will lose only two players from the 2005 squad next year, and the underclassmen-heavy roster bodes well for 2006. Those two graduating players, however, have a resume that includes All-American status, two NESCAC Player of the Year awards, All- NESCAC honors, and a host of individual records. The leadership and talent of senior co-captains Courtney Bongiolatti and Katie Smith was a driving force throughout the spring, leading the Jumbos to their 27-8 finish and season-long dominance over NESCAC opponents. The only seniors on a roster that featured six rookies, Bongiolatti and Smith anchored a formidable infield, playing shortstop and first base respectively, and an explosive lineup, batting third and fifth respectively for most of the season. The two were able to motivate and mobilize the raw talent of a strong freshman class. "Both players left their mark in terms of how a team works," coach Cheryl Milligan said. "We were such a young team, so it was the captains' job to get the freshmen to not play like freshmen and for them to have played so well is amazing and a great testament to [the captains'] leadership. They gave the freshman all the experience and confidence they could." Smith also commented on the youth of the team and how many players stepped up to the collegiate level of play despite inexperience. "No matter what their role, everyone put their heart into what they wanted to do," Smith said. "Sometimes it was all freshmen on the field with Courtney and me. We had a lot of unexpected talent, even from the upperclassmen." Bongiolatti and Smith have been driving forces on the team since they were freshmen on the 2001 NESCAC championship team and have grown into the leadership roles that they held this season. "Talent-wise, they came in as good [as they are now], but their ability to lead the team has been learned," Milligan said. "I told them 'this is your team and the team will go as far as you take them.'" Bongiolatti had a record-breaking season at every turn, bringing anticipation to every at-bat. Her offensive numbers were among the league's best, taking the top spot in home runs (14), RBIs (45), and slugging percentage (.869), and ranking in the top five in batting percentage (.374), hits (40), and runs scored (26). She earned first team All-American status (she is the first Tufts softball player to do so), first team New England honors, and first All-NESCAC team. Bongiolatti has preserved her season in the Tufts record books, setting a new single-season home run record with 14, besting the previous record by five. Only three NESCAC players in the history of the league have hit more home runs in a single season. Bongiolatti credits her offensive output to her coach. "Coach Milligan took my hitting to a whole new level," she said. "I literally doubled my home runs [from last year]." Fellow co-captain Katie Smith has also left her mark on Jumbo softball, following a spectacular junior season with a solid senior year. Smith was consistent at the plate, with a .339 batting average, and has scored 23 runs and knocked in 20 runs on 37 hits. She hit four home runs, including a key two-run shot in Tufts' semifinal win over Trinity. She was also strong on the field at the crucial first base position, with 245 putouts and five double plays, the highest on the team. For her contributions this season, Smith was named to the second team All-NESCAC team. Smith and Bongiolatti are friends on and off the field, which has helped them as captains and as players. "Katie Smith is my best friend and the best player to have out on the field," Bongiolatti said. "She tells me what I need to hear and is a huge support on this team." Their different personalities have allowed them to relate to different players on the team and to handle any issue that presented itself. "Our personalities are really different, but I'm really happy we could become good friends through softball," Smith said. "We have a balance between us that has helped us be better captains. We weren't too nice or too mean and we kept each other going." Despite the loss of these two players, Milligan has a lot to look forward to in the breakout season of her freshman class. The Class of 2008 includes the NESCAC Rookie of the Year Danielle Lopez and two selections to All-Conference Teams as catcher Megan Cusick got first team honors while pitcher and designated hitter Erica Bailey nabbed second-team status. With the leadership provided by Bongiolatti and Smith, this year's rookies were able to make the transition to college softball and look to anchor the program through the next three years. Even though next year's roster holds plenty of promise, Milligan will miss the tremendous talent and leadership of her senior captains. "I will miss them a lot - they are truly two unique individuals," Milligan said. "This might be the first time I cry at the team dinner."


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Jumbos clinch top seed, home field for playoffs

Propelled by six home runs and some more record-breaking performances by senior Courtney Bongiolatti, the softball team clinched the top seed and home-field advantage in the NESCAC Tournament. The Jumbos couldn't sweep Trinity in a Saturday double-header, winning the first game 7-1 and dropping the second 7-6, but it was enough to ensure a berth in the league tournament. The team's 4-0, 6-1 sweep of Colby on Sunday moved the team to 25-6 overall, 7-1 against NESCAC East opponents, and ensured the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the first round of playoffs. It was yet another record-breaking weekend for senior co-captain Courtney Bongiolatti, whose stellar play this season has anchored Jumbos' lineup. She continued her slugging spree, clearing the fence three more times to give her 14 home runs on the season and 32 in her career to tie the all-time record set by Lis Drake from 2000-2003. The senior's five hits yielded five RBIs, giving her a season total of 41 and breaking the Tufts single-season record of 39, set by Jodi Beach in 1995. The Jumbos took the first game against Colby behind a two-hit shutout from junior Julia Brenta, the second of her career. A close game throughout, Tufts led by only one, a run knocked in on a second-inning double from freshman Heather Kleinberger, until a two-run double in the sixth from freshman Megan Cusick padded the Jumbos' lead. Brenta got the win to remain undefeated at 6-0. The Tufts pitching staff delivered again in the second half of the doubleheader, as junior Sarah Conroy allowed just one run and six hits in seven innings and struck out six to move to a perfect 8-0 on the season. Bongiolatti's two-run homer in the third put Tufts up 4-0, and her lead-off solo shot in the sixth was part of a two-run inning that sealed the game for the Jumbos. Freshman Danielle Lopez, who leads the team in batting average with a .394 mark in her first season, went 2-3 on the day with two runs scored. On Saturday, the Jumbos started off the doubleheader with a 7-1 victory over Trinity. Three hits and three strikeouts from freshman Erica Bailey in seven innings was backed up by heavy bats early in the game, as the Jumbos rattled off 10 hits to eclipse the Bantams' three. Back-to-back home runs from Bailey and senior co-captain Katie Smith in the third, and a two-run shot from Lopez in the fourth put the Jumbos up 7-0. The Tufts offense fell silent in the last three innings, but the early runs were enough. Bailey picked up the win, while Trinity sophomore Sarah Dougherty got the loss for Trinity, falling to 1-4 on the season. With Bongiolatti's two-run shot in the opening minutes, the second game looked to be a repeat of the first. A double from freshman Mara Dodson and two subsequent Trinity errors led to three more runs for the Jumbos in the second inning, and a leadoff Bongiolatti double and RBI single from Smith in the third gave Tufts a 6-0 lead. "We got all our hits early and we just sat on those runs," Lopez said. "We weren't playing like we needed more runs, and that hurt us." Two key hits got the Bantams back in the game. A solo home run from senior tri-captain Paige Blumer in the fourth and a three-run shot from junior designated hitter Laura Watson brought Trinity within one. With junior Victoria Moshier holding the Jumbos at the plate, the Bantams brought in two more runs in the sixth to take the lead for good. "We let Trinity build up confidence," Smith said. "They got some big hits and saw they had a chance and got really pumped. We hadn't been hitting and we had a tough time getting our bats back." "We should have taken both those games," Lopez said. "It was kind of a wake-up call, a reminder that we're not invincible and that we have to go out and play every inning. We have a lot of strength, and we definitely learned a lot [from the loss] going into Sunday's games." The strength of Tufts pitching has contributed all year to a team whose bats seem to be drawing all the attention. Brenta and Conroy remain undefeated this season, and four Tufts hurlers have an ERA of 1.76 or lower. "We definitely have a lot of faith in our pitchers," Lopez said. "We know they're out there in front of us and they know we're behind them. They can all throw and we've been able to rely on each and every one of them this season." The weekend finished out the regular season for the Jumbos, who will host the first round of the NESCAC tournament next weekend at Spicer Field. "We have a lot of strength," Lopez said. "We have a great chance to go into NESCACs and bring it back to Tufts, win it all. We're definitely ready." "Going into the tournament I don't think we have anything specific to work on," Smith said. "I think everyone has [Regionals and Nationals] in the back of their heads, but we just need to come out, play our game, and see how far it can take us."


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Jumbos moving up in polls, look to clinch playoffs this weekend

The Tufts softball team is making history in this spring season, breaking records and shattering the dreams of every NESCAC team they face. The Jumbos are currently ranked 24th in the country, but will likely move up the ladder as they have defeated 2nd ranked Williams College in the New England Division III regional poll. The Jumbos hope to secure a College World Series berth this weekend as they play four conference games, two double-headers apiece, against Colby College and Trinity College.


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Bongiolatti smashes No. 11 in Williams win

It was a classic case of East vs. West. On Friday, the Williams softball team swept conference rival Hamilton in a doubleheader to move to first place in the NESCAC West Division. Four days later, the Ephs took on the Jumbos, an opponent from the East Division, and found something a little more formidable as Tufts handed them their second conference loss of the year, 7-1. With its seventh straight win, Tufts jumped to 22-5 on the season and remains undefeated in NESCAC play. Senior co-captain Courtney Bongiolatti smacked her 11th home run of the season, extending her hold on the school single-season record. Junior Julia Brenta held the Ephs to just three hits and only one run, striking out six and walking only one to pick up the win and bring her record to 5-0. Brenta is one of three undefeated Tufts pitchers. Williams freshman Melissa Iacobucci was handed the loss, dropping to 4-2. Only three Ephs made it to the plate in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings as Brenta repeated the three-hit, one-run performance by classmate Sarah Conroy last Friday in the team's 7-1 win over Wesleyan. The Jumbos moved out in front with two runs in the second inning when senior co-captain Katie Smith walked and freshman Megan Cusick launched her third home run of the year to put Tufts up by two. "She's just starting to show up [on the stat sheet], but Megan has been hitting the ball hard all year," coach Cheryl Milligan said. "I can't think of a kid smacking the ball harder and getting unluckier breaks all season." The Ephs cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the second inning with a long leadoff double to left by junior Christine Williams, who advanced on a grounder and then scored on a Tufts error. The Jumbos extended their lead in the top of the third, putting two more runs on the board. Freshman Danielle Lopez doubled to right-center, and scored on back-to-back past balls. Bongiolatti's solo shot brought in the final run of the inning. The senior, now slugging .869, leads the NESCAC in home runs and has cleared the fence in six of the last seven games. The Jumbos added three more runs in the fifth inning, scoring on an RBI singles from freshmen Erica Bailey and Mara Dodson and a wild pitch from Iacobucci, one of three for the freshman. The Ephs were unable to find any offensive success against Brenta, failing to bring in another run and tallying only three hits on the day. "Williams has some good hitters, but I think I was hitting my spots," Brenta said. "My curves were moving, my changeup was working, which is a key strikeout pitch. I think also as you get deeper into game and you're not hitting a pitcher, it gets harder." Brenta also commented on the emergence of power and depth in the Tufts bullpen this season, not traditionally one of the team's strong spots. "Everyone's really been hitting their spots this year," she said. "It's hard sometimes when games get rained out and you don't pitch for a while, but we're really deep in our pitching lineup and it's great to know that you can go out and prove yourself but that there are people behind you to back you up if you need it." Tufts will finish the regular season this weekend with doubleheaders at home on Saturday against Colby and on the road against Trinity on Sunday. Both are division conference games, and Trinity, at 2-2 in league play, stands as the biggest challenge to an undefeated NESCAC season for the Jumbos. Tufts still remains well ahead of the NESCAC East competition as the only team above .500. Trinity would need to sweep the Jumbos in order to have a chance of overtaking Tufts for the NESCAC East lead. While acknowledging the success the team has had in the league this season, Milligan commented on the unpredictability of NESCAC competition. "On any given day, we're beatable by any team," she said. "We need to win [against Trinity and Colby]. We have a nice jump right now, but they're certainly important games. We're definitely the team to beat, but we're not unbeatable." Looking ahead to the postseason, a Tufts appearance in the College World Series will depend heavily upon the Jumbos carrying their season-long league dominance through to the NESCAC tournament. The top two seeds from each division will meet in a double-elimination tournament, the winner of which receives an automatic qualifying bid to one of eight first round pools of the national tournament, the key to a World Series berth.


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Bongiolatti is new Jumbo home run champ

It may not have been Mark McGwire's 62nd, but when the ball cleared the fence at Spicer Field in the bottom of the third inning on Friday afternoon, Tufts had a new home run champion. When senior co-captain Courtney Bongiolatti rounded the bases for the 10th time this year, she became the program's new single-season home run champion, yet another feather in number seven's visor. Bongiolatti's three-run shot was part of a 7-1 Tufts win over Wesleyan. The Jumbos have ripped off wins in their last six games and 12 of their last 14, during which Bongiolatti has contributed 16 hits and six home runs. The record was set in 2002 by Bongiolatti's former teammate Lis Drake (LA '03), but Bongiolatti got the last laugh. "We used to have some really tight home run races, and we liked to joke with each other, so this was fun," she said. "But I talked to her yesterday and she congratulated me." Bongiolatti also led the team in home runs last season with six, but some changes in her hitting stance this season, at the suggestion of coach Cheryl Milligan, have made all the difference. "I used to have a closed stance," Bongiolatti said. "After bothering me for a while, Coach convinced me to change, and she was, as always, right. I opened up to be able to hit the outside pitch better." Bongiolatti is a true power hitter at heart, swinging with everything she has during each at-bat. When asked if she had a favorite pitch, she laughed. "I don't really think that much when I'm at the plate," she said. "I really just try to swing as hard as I can and hope I connect." In addition to leading the 2005 squad in home runs, Bongiolatti also tops the stat sheet in RBIs with 38, total bases with 69, and is second in hits with 32. Currently batting .380 in 82 appearances at the plate, the senior boasts a NESCAC-best slugging percentage of .841 and has delivered big hits time and time again this season. In the field, Bongiolatti is the core of the Tufts defense at shortstop; she boasts a fielding percentage of .926 and has recorded 56 putouts. Bongiolatti's fireworks at the plate are part of a Tufts lineup full of explosive bats. In an 8-0 shutout win over Brandeis last Wednesday, the Jumbos broke the Tufts single-season team home run record, courtesy of a pair of two-run shots from freshman Erica Bailey and a solo shot from freshman Danielle Lopez. Tufts leads the NESCAC in nearly every meaningful offensive statistic, including team batting average (.391), team slugging percentage (.505), runs (147), hits (209), home runs (27), RBIs (131), and on-base percentage (.373). "We focus a lot on hitting mechanics," Milligan said. "It comes down to good recruiting, but you can't take those kids and just roll the ball at them. We do more hitting than anyone around, and I think it shows." Bongiolatti appreciates the help from her teammates. "We have a lot of power hitters," she said. "Almost everyone in our lineup can throw it over the fence on any day." And they have. Six other Jumbos have cleared the fence this season, including seven each from Bailey and Lopez. Milligan attributes the team's success at the plate to solid mechanics and smart hitting. "Our mantra is a good swing at a good pitch," she said. "We focus on process-where is your pitch and where is your strike zone. It takes a lot of pressure off big hitters to not worry about where the ball goes all the time. It's about making good contact, and for our good hitters, that tends to give us good hits." Off the diamond, Bongiolatti is a co-captain of the 2005 squad. Milligan said she is a cornerstone of the team, which, at 21-5 and undefeated in league play, shows every sign of continuing the reputation of success the Tufts softball program has built. "What's most impressive about Courtney is her leadership," Milligan said. "She's doing a fantastic job all around leading this team. We're very young and she's our vocal leader, our go-to player." "It's starting to dawn on me that I'm not going to have her next year," Milligan said. "I can't say enough about her. As much talent as we've got on the field, it all funnels through Courtney."


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Softball holds NESCAC lead with 7-1 win

Hot on the heels of a five game winning streak, the Tufts softball team, ranked No. 24 in the nation, continued its NESCAC domination on Friday, defeating Wesleyan 7-1 in convincing fashion. The victory elevated the team to the No. 4 spot in New England. The win was made even more memorable as senior shortstop Courtney Bongiolatti's home run in the third inning broke the Tufts softball record for single-season home runs. Bongiolatti has hit ten home runs in the past 26 games, besting Lis Drake's 2002 record of nine home runs. Junior pitcher Sarah Conroy came through for the Jumbos once again, allowing just three hits and one run to improve her pitching record to 7-0. The Cardinals got off to a strong start in the first inning with an early run when freshman center fielder Becca Feiden scored off of sophomore Molly Gaebe's single to left field. However, the Cardinals put three batters at the plate in the next four innings. "Sarah Conroy is a power pitcher for us," coach Cheryl Milligan said. "She has not always been consistent with her technique, but lots of things are working well and coming together for her, like busting the inside corner. Her power potential has come all the way around." Wesleyan would not lead for long, as the Tufts lineup came alive in the second inning, ripping four hits for two runs. Freshman Heather Kleinberger and junior Laura Spring drove in the two runs, scoring Bongiolatti and senior co-captain Katie Smith. Two Wesleyan errors in the third inning enabled Tufts to score six runs, increasing their lead to 7-1. Freshman Danielle Lopez scored on a fielder's choice grounder hit by freshman Erica Bailey. Bongiolatti smashed her record-breaking home run, driving in two runs and sealing the win for Tufts. Freshman Megan Cusick followed Bongiolatti's long shot with one of her own for an additional score. After the Jumbos' third-inning rally, Wesleyan replaced starter Karla Hargrave with reliever Molly Gaebe, who was able to silence the Tufts bats, not allowing a single hit during the rest of the game. Hargrave took the loss and dropped to 5-9. Though Coach Milligan was impressed with the Jumbo's strong pitching and hitting throughout the games, she was disappointed at the team's response to the new relief pitcher. "The only disappointing part of the entire game was that we couldn't hit after a while." Milligan said. "7-1 was a respectable score but they put in a new pitcher. It doesn't speak to the fact that we will have to learn to adjust in the future." Bongiolatti went 2-3 with the record breaking homer to lead the Tufts offense, which also included two runs from Smith. The softball team was scheduled to play a double-header against Trinity on Saturday, but the games have been rescheduled to Sunday, May 1 due to rain. Trinity stands at 2-2 in the NESCAC East, and would need to sweep the Jumbos in order to catch Tufts for the league lead. The Jumbos' next contest will take place at Williams College on Tuesday at 4:30 pm. Although playing in NESCAC, Williams is in the West Division, so the game will not have any direct impact on Tufts' league record.


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Jumbos break single-season home run record

After freshman Erica Bailey hit her second leadoff-pitch home run of the day over the wall, Brandeis freshman pitcher Natalie Volpe looked over at the visiting team dugout at her coach and shook her head. The two-run shot sparked a Tufts offensive run that yielded four runs and sent the Judges home early, ending the game after only five innings. But that's just how it goes at Spicer Field. The Tufts softball team defeated non-conference Brandeis 8-0 yesterday, picking up its fifth straight win to stand at 20-5 heading into the final stretch of the 2005 season. Bailey pitched all five innings, striking out two and holding on to a no-hitter until the final inning. Bailey earned her sixth win and second shutout of the season, while Volpe fell to 3-7 with the loss. "I just want to do my job as a pitcher, and that's to throw strikes," Bailey said. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and today it was just all working." The pace started off slow for both teams, with the only score coming from a solo home run by freshman Danielle Lopez to give Tufts a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The home run was Lopez's seventh of the season and pushed the Jumbos over the Tufts single-season team home-run record, previously set at 27. The Jumbos came alive at the plate in the bottom of the third inning. Sophomore left fielder Alaina Thiel knocked a leadoff double to center field. A single from sophomore Anne Ross sent Thiel home and set up Bailey's first two-run shot. A deep shot from senior co-captain Katie Smith fell just a few feet short of the fence, but the damage had been done and the Jumbos took the field leading 4-0. It only got worse for the Judges, as they brought only seven batters to the plate in the final two innings. In the bottom of the fifth, another Bailey first-pitch home run brought in Ross for another two on the scoreboard. A Smith double up the first baseline, a single from freshman Megan Cusick, and an RBI from sophomore Lindsay Evans put the Jumbos up 7-0, one run short of the eight needed to end a game before regulation seven innings. The final score came on a line drive from junior outfielder Jess Barrett that sent Cusick barreling home. In 10 appearances this season, Bailey leads Tufts pitchers with 26 strikeouts and 49 innings pitched. She gave up only one hit yesterday when Brandeis freshman Kaitlin Streilein singled to center field. Bailey's standout play has made an impact for the Jumbos on the mound and at the plate. She's hitting .393 with seven home runs and 43 total bases. Coach Cheryl Milligan said Bailey's role as a freshman has played a huge role in the squad's success this season. "Erica came here and is doing what she's supposed to be doing," Milligan said. "[The freshmen] all are - they knew what their job was when they got here in September, they knew last May, and I'd take our freshmen against anybody's. And leadoff home runs never hurt anybody." Senior co-captain Courtney Bongioloatti agreed. "The freshmen have been really impressive," she said. "They came in playing like upperclassmen from the start." The Jumbos moved to 20-5 with the win and seem likely to sweep NESCAC. With two division league games against Trinity and Colby remaining, the team is looking to the NESCAC playoffs and ahead to the national tournament. "This team is definitely 16 players contributing," Milligan said. "We can't find a pitcher to lose right now, and that's fantastic." "I think we'll win NESCACs, I think we can win regionals, and I think we can go to the World Series if we keep playing like this," Bongiolatti said. "Trinity and Colby are good teams, but I don't think there's a pitcher in NESCAC that can throw around us."


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Victories launch team to No. 24

On the heels of last Tuesday's doubleheader losses to No. 10 Babson, the Tufts softball team seems to have gotten back on track. And this might be the track that leads right to a national championship bid. The Jumbos bounced back, defeating Springfield and Bowdoin in two sets of doubleheaders this weekend. With the victories, the team upped its record to 4-0 in the conference and 19-5 overall and moved the Jumbos up to No. 24 in the national rankings. Using solid pitching, hitting and defense, the Jumbos dropped Springfield 4-1 and 3-1 on Thursday before destroying Bowdoin two days later in games that were ended by the mercy rule, 12-3 and 11-2. "We definitely didn't dwell on the [Babson] losses," freshman second baseman Danielle Lopez said. "We focused on our next games. We knew we had to get back to hitting to win the tough couple of games we had coming up." After hitting four home runs in as many games, senior shortstop Courtney Bongiolatti has turned an excellent season into a record-breaking one as she tied the Tufts single-season record for home runs with nine. Bongiolatti went three for six with two home runs and five RBIs as Tufts swept Springfield at home on Thursday and added another two home runs against Bowdoin on Saturday. "The record is a little thing compared to the fact that we won two big conference games," Bongiolatti said. "We went out and absolutely dominated the teams we faced." On Saturday, Tufts overwhelmed Bowdoin in a doubleheader sweep. In the first game, the Jumbos faced the challenge of two-time NESCAC player of the week, Bowdoin pitcher Emily Nelson. "Emily Nelson is one of the best pitchers in the league and we have shown that our offense is one of the best in the league." Lopez said. The Jumbos offense won the showdown, lighting up Nelson for 10 hits and 11 earned runs in three innings. Freshman pitcher Erica Bailey led the Jumbos to an early lead with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Jumbo offense collected twelve hits total in a 12-3 victory that ended by mercy rule after five innings. Bailey also picked up the win, pitching five innings and allowing six hits and three earned runs. Lopez excelled in game one, going two for four with four RBIs and a three-run home run in the third inning. In game two Bongiolatti truly came alive at the plate, bringing Tufts back from a two-run deficit early in the game by smashing her first of two three-run homers. A five-run fourth inning gave Tufts the lead, and the Jumbos put the game away in the sixth with a two-run double from freshman Megan Cusick and Bongiolatti's second three-run homer. The weekend's wins propelled the Jumbos to an undefeated first place in NESCAC at 4-0. "Bowdoin was supposed to be really tough and we dominated them so we're confident," Bongiolatti said. "We're still cautious because teams like Colby and Trinity are very good." The sweep of Bowdoin followed two wins in a home doubleheader against Springfield on Thursday. While Saturday's games were offense-powered, the match-ups against Springfield proved to be a defensive battle. Bongiolatti hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first staking the Jumbos to a 3-0 lead. From there, Tufts pitcher junior Julia Brenta and Springfield senior Brittany Dielemans dueled it out. Dielemans held the Jumbos scoreless for the rest of the game and Brenta shut out Springfield until the seventh inning in which the Pride rallied when junior Keir Stanford came home on a Johansson single to make it a two-run game. The Jumbos appeared to be in trouble as the Pride got the tying run on second base. Brenta held off the rally, however, forcing a ground-ball double play at home and first to ensure the win. In the first half of the doubleheader, Bongiolatti and Lopez put Tufts on the board after a scoreless three innings, each blasting home runs in the bottom of the third. Lopez hit a two-run shot to center field and Bongiolatti added a solo shot to left field to give Tufts a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Sophomore left fielder Alaina Thiel hit a run-scoring double in the fourth inning to push the lead over the Pride to 4-0. Freshman pitcher Heather Kleinberger held the Springfield Pride to only one run on four hits in seven innings. Lopez is confident about where the Jumbos stand in the conference. "I feel that beating Bowdoin was big for us but we still have some important games coming up, especially Williams." Lopez said. "The conference seat seems tight this year with teams splitting a lot so every game is going to be tough." The NESCAC home game against Wesleyan set for Sunday was postponed and rescheduled for Friday. The Jumbos next contest is against Brandeis at home at 4:00 p.m.


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Winning streak ends abruptly

Two of the top-ranked teams in New England took the field on Tuesday as the softball team traveled to Babson for a doubleheader. In a poll released before the game, Babson was ranked No. 10 in the nation and Tufts stood at No. 24. The Beavers defended the higher ranking, winning the games 4-1 and 8-0 to sweep the double-header. "Babson played great," coach Cheryl Miller said. "It was just one of those days where everything went their way, and we didn't force many things to go our way." In the first game, Tufts took an early one-run lead after sophomore Annie Ross singled, then hustled home on a fielding error that added two bases to senior Katie Smith's shot to right field. Things were looking good for the Jumbos, as they were heading to Babson coming off the most successful offensive weekend of the season to date, sweeping all six games and pounding 10 home runs. But that was to be the high water mark of Tufts' offense for the day. The Jumbos managed only two more hits in the first game, as freshman Alisha Blischok pitched seven innings for the Beavers, retiring four batters. The fifth inning offered the Jumbos' best opportunity to even the score as Smith headed to the plate with the bases loaded, but the inning ended on a foul-ball pop-up to first. Babson built on its two-run lead with scores in the sixth and seventh innings, and took the game 4-1. The Jumbos fared no better in the second game of the afternoon. Junior Megan Gaskell, the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference and New England Pitcher of the Week, repeated Blischok's first-half performance on the mound. Striking out four and walking only one, Glaskell delivered the second three-hitter of the day for the win and her third shutout of the season. Only one Jumbo made it past first base, as freshman Danielle Lopez reached second on a Babson error in the third inning. Four of five innings - the second half of doubleheaders are often shorter - saw four or fewer Jumbos up to bat as the Beavers' pitching silenced usually explosive bats. Gaskell produced from the plate as well, helping her own cause by blasting a two-run shot over the wall. The Beavers had 11 hits for eight runs, and retired the Jumbos 8-0, dropping Tufts' record to 15-5. Lauren Ebstein took the loss for the Jumbos and falls to 1-3. The day's games were the lowest offensive output for the Jumbos this season, who average nearly five runs per game and have been shutout only once, by the defending national champions, St. Thomas (Minnesota). Tufts' three hits in each game were their second fewest of the season, and Tuesday's games were the only ones this season without a multiple-base hit from the Jumbos. Milligan commented on the team's failure to come through at the plate, also citing the loss of freshman Mara Dodson, whose .340 batting average has added another weapon to the Jumbos' offensive arsenal this season. Dodson missed the games with a minor ankle injury, but should return soon. "We're not a great defensive team," Milligan said. "But we're a good enough defensive team to get by on our hitting. We didn't do either of them well against Babson." The team returns to action this afternoon at 3:30 in a doubleheader at Spicer Field against in-state rival Springfield. The Jumbos dropped both games to Springfield last year, but had previously won five straight against the Pride. Milligan hopes Tuesday's performance was just a bump in the otherwise smooth road for the Jumbos this spring, and that the team will get back on track against Springfield. "This team is very confident, and they're also very talented," she said. "We just didn't play well [on Tuesday]."


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Offense wins six straight

It had been 12 days since the Tufts women's softball team's last contest, but any thoughts of the team being off its game were dispelled quickly this weekend as the Jumbos won all six of their games, exploding offensively with 10 home runs over the stretch. With their success, the Jumbos played their way to an impressive 15-3 overall record and 2-0 mark in New England Conference games. The team capped a successful weekend with a 9-7 win over No. 9 Wheaton and a 7-3 defeat of Western Connecticut on Sunday. The victories came on the heels of two swept doubleheaders, 4-1 and 6-3 at home over Bates on Saturday and a 2-1 and 6-5 dismissal at Bridgewater State on Thursday. Against Western Connecticut, a two-run home run from senior first baseman Katie Smith and a solo shot from freshman catcher Megan Cusik put the Jumbos up 3-1 early after a brief one-run lead by the Colonials. In the fifth inning, senior shortstop Courtney Bongiolatti came through for the Jumbos with a three-run home run in the fifth inning to lead Tufts to the 7-3 win. "The Western Connecticut win was important to us because we were losing and managed to come from behind and win," Bogiolatti said. The driving force in each of the wins was the stellar play of the freshman class. Responsible for seven of the team's home runs, the Class of 2008 proved themselves as a formidable core for the coming years. Freshman standout Erica Bailey had an impressive weekend for the Jumbos in the pitcher's circle and at the plate. Starting on the mound on Sunday's match against Wheaton, she put in four RBIs at the plate, including a three-run blast to right-center in the bottom of the second. As the starting pitcher against Bridgewater State on Thursday, Bailey allowed just four hits and no earned runs in seven quick innings. She walked no one and struck out five, earning the win in the first game of the doubleheader. "Back home, all the players had to be pretty well-rounded to earn a starting position," Bailey said. "The more involved I am in a game, the better I feel I perform, so when I pitch, I love to be hitting as well." Freshman second baseman Danielle Lopez dominated at the plate the entire weekend. In the double-header against Bridgewater State on Thursday, Lopez smashed four home runs. In the second game, Lopez went three for five with two home runs and five RBIs from the leadoff spot, breaking a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning with a three-run homer that put Tufts ahead 6-3. "Hits were scattered all the way throughout the order with people stepping up and executing plays and making things happen," Lopez said, commenting on the solid hitting throughout the lineup the Jumbos demonstrated throughout the weekend. The Jumbos won their first NESCAC game of the season against Bates in a double-header on Saturday. Junior pitcher Sarah Conroy held Bates scoreless for five innings and allowed just one unearned run in the sixth. Conroy was also two for two at the plate. In the second game, both teams combined for 20 hits in a nail-biter that was tied 1-1 until Tufts scored on a squeeze play in the fourth inning. Freshman pitcher Heather Kleinberger earned the win for Tufts with six innings pitched, allowing nine hits and two earned runs before handing the game over to sophomore Lauren Ebstein. Lopez, Bongiolatti, and Cusick each had two hits for the Jumbos. According to Bongiolatti, the win over Bates was crucial. "The Bates win was very important to us. It's important to start off our first conference games with a win," Bongiolatti said. While the offensive stats dominated the day, Lopez also attributes the team's success to its strong play on the field. "Our defense and pitching was solid. They helped us keep our leads," Lopez said. Bailey returned to the mound on Sunday to lead the Jumbos to a 9-7 victory over Wheaton College, ranked ninth in the nation. The freshman pitcher went two for three with four RBIs and went the distance in the pitcher's circle, pitching seven innings and holding Wheaton to seven runs. "The [game] that was most fun to win was probably Wheaton because they were nationally ranked," Bailey said. "We were excited to see how we would do against a team like that." Tufts proved more than up to the challenge. The Jumbos scored early, thanks to a two-run double by Bongiolatti, who finished with three RBIs. Wheaton scored four unearned runs in the second inning due to three Tufts errors, but Bailey's three-run home run righted the Jumbos' ship and sealed the win. Tufts added three runs in the fourth inning to push its lead to 9-4. Sophomore Annie Ross had an impressive game as well, going two for four with two runs scored. The Jumbos will continue their impressive season with a double-header at Babson this Tuesday, and look to move themselves a little closer to a national contender spot.


The Setonian
Softball

Softball | Jumbos shine at Sun West Tournament

The Tufts softball team spent its break basking in the warm California sun and competing in the Sun West Softball Tournament in Orange, Calif., proving its worth against teams from all over the country. Despite some rain delays early in the tournament, the Jumbos started their season by going 9-3. The tournament was exhausting, with the team playing 12 games over the course of a week, including as many as three games in a day. Tufts destroyed Whittier in its first double-header, 15-2 and 5-4 respectively. The Jumbos also defeated Carleton 9-2, Hope International 14-7 and St. Joseph's 15-0 in a triple-header on Wednesday. The team's only losses came in two games against defending national champion St. Thomas (Minn.) and one against Williams. Junior pitcher Sarah Conroy was crucial to the team's success as a relief pitcher. She kept both Whittier and Hope from scoring in the last few innings to ensure the victory. Conroy allowed Northwest Christian only two runs, contributing to Tufts' narrow 3-2 victory. The reliever also kept MIT at bay in another close game in which Tufts won 2-1. Conroy spoke on her team's performance at Sun West. "We really came out strong because we've been working hard. By the end of the week, we had achieved a great record coming out of California, one of the best Tufts has ever had," Conroy said. The Jumbos attributed much of their success in the Sun West tournament to the powerful hitters in the lineup. "We did a great job adjusting to the different pitching that we saw," Conroy said. "We have a great lineup with lots of power hitters." Many Tufts freshman stepped up, making important contributions to the lineup despite their inexperience competing at the collegiate level. Freshman Erica Bailey made an impression early on both at the plate and on the pitcher's mound. Against Whittier, Bailey hit a home run in the first at-bat of her collegiate career. In the second game, she broke the 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with a three-run shot to center field bringing the score to 5-2. She also contributed to the narrow win over Northwest Christian by scoring one run and driving in another. Bailey pitched the first five innings of the second Whittier game, allowing just three hits and no earned runs. The freshman standout had a tougher time, however, on the mound Friday against defending national champion St. Thomas of Minnesota. The Jumbos remained scoreless while St. Thomas racked up 12 runs on 10 hits. Bailey made up for the loss by shutting out Gustavus on Saturday, 5-0. Senior shortstop Courtney Bongiolatti also had an outstanding week at the plate, picking up right where she left off from last season's .346, six home run, 23 RBI season. In her first two games against Whittier, Bongiolatti blasted two home runs, including a grand slam in the third inning of the first game. Whittier made four costly errors in the field during the third inning, allowing Tufts to break away and score 12 runs. Bongiolatti kept her hot streak going as she batted in a run-scoring double in the second inning against St. Mary's, contributing to the 5-2 victory. She also hit an RBI double against Carleton. The hitting standout scored one run and batted in another against Williams College. Freshman Danielle Lopez had an outstanding week as well, hitting a two-run homerun in the loss to St. Thomas on Monday. Lopez also scored one run and had two hits against Gustavus. Despite the loss against Williams, Lopez managed to notch three hits, as well as one RBI and one run. Third baseman Mara Dodson had a great game against Gustavus. The freshman scored one run and had one RBI in the game. Dodson also blasted a two-run home run against St. Mary's, contributing to the 5-2 win. Practice allowed the freshmen to prepare for the games. "We've been practicing so much beforehand, and we hit every day at practice," Dodson said. "Everyone came ready to play." In its only losses, Tufts put up a good fight against St. Thomas on Monday in their first contest, losing 10-4 in a game that was tied 3-3 until the fourth inning. Tufts lost to NESCAC rival Williams College 12-5 on Saturday in their final game of the tournament. "We had a couple of tough games, but we're not going to hold on to that. We made some mistakes but we will put that behind us and focus on what we did well." Conroy said. In many respects, Tufts seemed to improve as the week went on despite the apparent fatigue. "Towards the end of the week we were executing suicide squeezes and doing the little things right," Conroy said. The Jumbos open their home season this Tuesday against Springfield at 2:30 p.m.