Softball aims to regain winning Florida ways

Rain in New Haven put a damper on the softball team’s third week of home competition, forcing the doubleheader against St. John’s to be canceled.

But the off day will give the Elis (13-7, 0-4 Ivy) another day of practice and a chance to shake off the disappointment of last week’s four game sweep. The squad kicks off a weekend road trip at Penn (14-10, 6-2) on Saturday and heads to Columbia (11-16, 2-6) on Sunday.

Shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08 prepares to take a cut at an offering from a Cornell pitcher on Saturday. Rain cancelled yesterday’s game, and the Elis hit the road this weekend.
Matt Lucas
Shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08 prepares to take a cut at an offering from a Cornell pitcher on Saturday. Rain cancelled yesterday’s game, and the Elis hit the road this weekend.

The Bulldogs began their season well with a 10-2 record in non-conference play in Florida, but were unable to get their base runners home against Ivy rivals last weekend. This week, the Elis have been working on situation hitting, trying to place the ball better with runners on base, shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08 said.

“All the games last weekend were pretty much close games,” she said. “We were just missing that one hit that would shift the momentum in our favor.”

On top of the recent drought at the plate, Eli pitchers have given up eight home runs in the last six games, after allowing only two round-trippers in twice as many games in Florida. But pitcher Rebecca Wojciak ’09 proved to be a glimmer of light in the 0-4 weekend, and her durable arm kept the Bulldogs close in two games. Holly Gutterud ’10 has been another valuable asset inside the circle, as she is 3-0 in nine appearances and holds batters to a .221 average.

The Elis may be slumping but, along with some consistent pitchers, boast two .400 batters in Torres and catcher Katie Edwards ’09. Once the squad stops leaving players on base, they may look more like they did in Florida.

“We just couldn’t seem to string the hits together [last weekend],” Gutterud said. “I think we can score off of any pitcher. We’ve never been beaten by another team — we’ve only beaten ourselves.”

This weekend, the Bulldogs take on two South Division opponents with exactly opposite conference records. Penn has six Ancient Eight victories and has only dropped two to Harvard, the North Division leader. The Lions were rocked by Penn and Dartmouth before sweeping the Crimson for their lone league wins.

Penn’s average pitching staff may be just the thing to help the Elis put more runs on the board. Opponents have hit .300 off the Quakers and drove in 102 runs against Quaker arms this year.

But for all their shortcomings on the mound, the Quakers know how to get runners home. Penn is second in the conference with 147 runs scored, and bats .324 with runners on base.

Columbia may have a flair for the dramatic, judging by their most recent performances against Dartmouth and Harvard. Two rookie pitchers threw two consecutive complete-game 1-0 losses against the Big Green, the second of which was decided in the bottom of the eighth. The Lions then rebounded with a ninth-inning grand slam in the second game to finish a sweep against the Crimson the next day.

Heroics aside, Columbia is sitting at the bottom of the South Division with weak hitting and only decent pitchers. Like the Elis, the Lions leave a lot of players on base but score few runs. The pitchers’ main weapon is the strikeout, but the Bulldogs rarely go down on strikes, perhaps giving them an advantage at the dish.

“Since we don’t strike out a lot, we’re going to put the ball in play more than [Columbia is] used to,” Torres said. “They are going to have to get the out on the field instead of relying on their pitchers.”

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