Softball plays host to FDU in first homestand

Home field beckons for the softball team, and hopefully a sweep as well.

The Elis play their first home contests of the season this Saturday when they take on Fairleigh Dickinson in a doubleheader. The Bulldogs (4-10, 0-0 Ivy) come into the game having won two of their last three, while the Knights (1-7) are in the midst of a three-game slide.

The Elis have already faced Fairleigh Dickinson this season, topping the Knights 3-0 on March 12. But although the Bulldogs recognize that they are taking on a weaker team, they are still going to be working hard to regain top form.

“Even though we played them down in Florida and won, we will still need to focus on playing like we know how to win again,” outfielder Rachel Kelley ’05 said.

The Bulldogs head into this game looking to fix several problems, most notably their penchant for leaving runners on base. The Elis stranded 16 runners in their doubleheader against Manhattan last weekend, a number they will have to bring down if they want to score every inning — another team goal.

The Elis’ starter in the first game will most likely be Peggy Hunt ’06. Hunt has been a solid performer for the Bulldogs both this spring and in her previous two seasons, but the junior has struggled lately. In her last outing, Hunt was blasted by Manhattan, allowing 13 hits and seven earned runs in five innings of work.

Hunt’s last victory came in the win over Fairleigh Dickinson, when she pitched a near-perfect game — seven scoreless innings, one hit, no earned runs and no walks.

Aside from their junior ace, the Bulldogs will also be relying on second baseman Christina Guerland ’07. Guerland is on track to outdo a stellar rookie campaign — in which she was third on the team in runs and fourth in hits — given the extremely strong numbers she put up over spring break.

“You always want to continue hitting well, especially now that we’re back, when the season really matters,” Guerland said. “I was really happy to hit as well as I did in Florida. I’m coming back with confidence. And whether it’s me or someone else, we have to be successful at bat.”

Team members said that because of the small size of this year’s squad, every player must contribute in order for the team to succeed.

“Everyone on this team has a very important role and makes a huge impact when they play well,” captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 said. “At some point this season every player will be the hero. Having everyone get hot at the same time is the important thing.”

The Bulldogs may not bring the most imposing record into Saturday’s action, but they come into this weekend’s play after putting up their strongest performance of the season in last Saturday’s comeback win over Manhattan, in the second game of the doubleheader.

Led by Ashley Linnenbank’s ’06 performance on the mound — one earned run in seven innings — and Guerland’s three-hit day, the Elis came back to tie the game in the final inning and take the lead on Guerland’s final hit, a single into left field that scored center fielder Courtney Blachford ’08.

The Bulldogs had dropped the early game, 10-2.

“When you’re playing doubleheaders, it’s tough to lose the first game,” Guerland said. “The other team gets momentum. For us to take a 15-minute break and come back with focus, ready to play the second game gives us confidence for those games where we may lose the first one.”

Fairleigh Dickinson’s chief offensive threat is catcher Caitlyn Reuter. The sophomore boasts the second-highest batting average on the team (.292) and leads the Knights with a .458 slugging percentage.

Third baseman Jessi Potter is another consistent threat. She is currently third on the team with a .263 batting average.

Also, the Knights may send sophomore ace Nicole Webb to the mound, who has not pitched since March 15 — the last and only time that Fairleigh Dickinson won a game this season. Webb is currently second on the team with a 3.50 ERA and held batters to a .283 batting average last year en route to recording 10 of her team’s 15 wins.

The Elis know that despite their poor record, the Knights should not be taken lightly. But with the Bulldogs finally coming home, they are excited and ready to perform well.

“Playing on our field is amazing,” Kelley said. “There’s nothing like playing on your home turf. Everything feels so familiar, and that in turn helps everybody to focus better.”

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