Softball rolls to 10-2 start

Playing under a blue sky on an actual field for the first time in three months, the softball team escaped the cold weather of Elm City in favor of the Sunshine State on their annual spring break trip.

The Elis (10-2) blew their opponents away during the eight-day jaunt to Kissimmee, Fla. Just two of their 10 victories came with margins of less than three runs.

The Bulldog bats were the weapons of choice during the visit, with most of the squad hitting over .300 about a quarter of the way through the season. Shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08 is atop the heap with a .512 average, 15 RBI and two home runs. But contributions up and down the lineup — four players racked up at least 10 base hits — were the crux of the Yale effort.

“The greatest part about our lineup is that in any given game the offense is going to come from a variety of different people,” captain and second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 said.

Making good use of the extra base hit, the Elis knocked 26 doubles and pitcher Holly Gutterud ’10 added an RBI triple against Farleigh Dickinson (4-13) as part of a three-run inning. But the Elis’ 111 base hits and good baserunning — outfielder Ashley Sloan ’10 had nine stolen bases — contributed most to the 74 runs scored.

New assistant coach Jay Stratton worked with each individual hitter before the trip to Florida, and his efforts paid off over spring break, Guerland said.

The week in Kissimmee was more than just a winning spree because the Bulldogs got a chance to try different lineups and get a better idea of how the starting 10 would look before heading into conference play. The seven freshmen all got many opportunities at the plate, and pitcher K.R. Ling ’10 recorded the Elis’ best ERA (0.54).

I guess I’ve been working on getting to this point for most of my life,” catcher Tracy Timm ’10 said. “I guess there was a little bit of pressure [getting to start] but the team makes it really easy and we had a great time in Florida.”

While the Bulldogs demolished their opposition at the plate, the deep pitching staff threw with ease to ensure Yale leads would stand. In almost every game, the Eli staff maintained the squad’s large margins of victory, winning by as many as 13 runs against Colgate (8-15). In the only nailbiter of the break, Manhattan (1-17) tied up the game 2-2 in the seventh. But late-inning heroics pushed the Elis ahead in the bottom of the inning, as Torres slugged walk-off RBI double.

The pitching staff retired to New Haven having held opponents to a .247 batting average, with three players throwing under 2.00. With a little help from the six double plays turned behind them, the pitching staff let up only 29 runs in 12 games.

“The pitchers did really well, and obviously the defense is going to help,” utility player Allie Canulli ’10 said. “It gave them more confidence to have a good defense behind them, but it was mostly [the pitchers].”

The only two losses the Bulldogs endured came at the hands of Butler and Cleveland State (14-3). In the first loss against Butler (8-7), the Elis came out flat to fall, 7-2, and in the second Cleveland State would score all five of its runs in the fifth inning in a 5-1 victory.

The Bulldogs will ride on the momentum they picked up in their pre-league success down south, but they have had to wait a little longer than expected. The Elis returned home only to see four more matches canceled late last week before returning to action with a two-game sweep over Marist (5-17) yesterday. Ivy League play begins against Cornell on March 31.

“Florida was as successful as we could have wanted,” Guerland said. “I think the fact that we’re going right into Ivy games is a good thing because we have an incredible amount of confidence coming our of the Florida trip.”

The Bulldogs next take the field against Fairfield on Wednesday, March 28 at the DeWitt Family Field.

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