After a grueling eight-day, 14-game road blitz through Florida, the Yale softball team is looking to rebound from a 5-9 early-season showing.
Enter Army, a team the Elis have easily handled in the past. The Bulldogs look to use today’s double-header at West Point as a springboard to an early-spring rebound.
Catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 expressed her optimism about the team’s prospects.
“The team is really coming into its own right now,” Kwiatkowski said. “We are hitting better and producing more offense.”
Despite the numbers on their standings sheet, associate head coach Barbara Reinalda was generally pleased with the team’s performance over break.
“Even though the record doesn’t show it from Florida, we had some bright spots and really saw a lot of improvement,” Reinalda said.
According to captain Jillian Miles ’04, the Bulldogs came into the season expecting their offense to be weaker than its defense — just the opposite has been true so far this spring.
“We are looking to step up our defense because we are losing the game in later innings,” Miles said. “We need to play seven innings instead of just five. Since we got back from Florida we have only worked on defense in practice.”
Second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 said the team was able to work out most of its problems in Florida.
“I really think that now defense is one of our strong points. We have a good balance between offense and defense,” Guerland said. “From a pitcher’s point of view it is nice to know that even if a ball is hit into the field, there is going to be a strong team backing you up.”
The Elis break down their season into three parts. The first section consists of preliminary training in New Haven and competition in Florida over spring break. In the second part, Yale challenges non-Ivy League teams, and focuses on working out the kinks in its game. The last portion is Ivy competition.
After working out at the Coxe Cage in the first portion of the season, playing on real grass and dirt down in Florida proved to be a bit of jolt for the Elis. Provided that the transition back to cold weather does not become a problem, Yale expects to fare better in the latter parts of the season.
In addition to performing better statistically, young and old alike on the Eli squad have contributed to an improving unit.
“[Miles] has done a great job as captain,” Hunt said. “She has shown strong leadership in pulling the team together. Likewise, the freshmen have been playing nicely, and have been integrated into the team well.”
Much of the team’s leadership has come through individual performances on the field. First baseman Chelsea Kanyer ’06, who went on an eight-game hitting streak down in Florida, has sounded the trumpet for the Eli offense.
“It seems like [Kanyer] gets a hit every time that comes up to bat,” Guerland said. “Even without runners on base you get the feeling that she is going to make something happen.”
Shortstop Leah Kelley ’04 has also been inspiring the team with her athleticism and her diving catches.
Reinalda noted that the freshmen have been more than pulling their weight on the team.
“We are looking for big things from the freshmen,” Reinalda said. “We are hoping that the class steps up and contributes. They are one of the strongest freshmen classes that we have seen in a while.”
Kwiatkowski thinks that the games against Army should prepare the team well for competition among the Ivies. Miles and Hunt will most likely be the starting pitchers.