SOFTBALL: Bulldogs open season

For its first game of 2014, the Yale softball team traveled south this weekend to escape the snow and play in the Norfolk State Spartan Clash in Virginia Beach.

The Bulldogs (1–2, 0–0 Ivy) dropped close games to Wagner (2–0, 0–0 Northeast) and Norfolk State (1–6, 0–0 Mid-Eastern) on Saturday before rallying to beat Fairleigh Dickinson (1–2, 0–0 Northeast) 4–1 on Sunday.

“I think we definitely came back the second day and really played like the team we can be,” said captain and centerfielder Tori Balta ’14. “We played up to our potential the second day.”

Pitcher Kristen Leung ’14 got the win for Yale, allowing one earned run and fanning four in her 5.1 innings pitched. Newcomer Lindsay Efflandt ’17 recorded the save with 1.2 scoreless innings. Earlier in the day against Norfolk State, Efflandt pitched another two innings in relief and allowed just one unearned run.

Yale outhit its opponent in all three games but could only come up with the offense to win on its third try. The Bulldogs left 28 runners on base in the three games.

Catcher Sarah Onorato ’15 said that although the team lacked timely hitting, the number of hits the offense put up in total bodes well for the future.

“A lot of times you see teams having trouble getting going offensively in the beginning of the season, and the fact that we came out hitting and were able to put some hits on the board is good,” Onorato said. “Now, we need to focus on trying to get those runners in when they’re in scoring position.”

Balta went five for 12 overall batting leadoff, and first baseman Lauren Delgadillo ’16 led the team with three RBI’s.

Wagner took a 2–0 lead early on Saturday with a run in each of the first two innings. Yale responded, scoring six in the next two, thanks in part to two RBI’s apiece by Balta and Delgadillo, who returned this year after missing much of last season due to an injury.

But Yale left the bases loaded at the end of its third inning rally, and that lost opportunity would prove problematic later in the game. In the fifth, the Seahawks hit a three-run homer, with one of the runners reaching on a walk and another on an error.

Wagner scored four more runs on five hits in the sixth, giving the Bulldogs six outs to overcome a 9–6 deficit. Yale put two runners on base in its half of the sixth and another two in the seventh, but could only plate one. Yale ended up with a 9–7 loss despite outhitting Wagner 14–11.

Yale ace Chelsey Dunham ’14 pitched the first five innings in the loss, allowing six runs, five earned, on eight hits. Kylie Williamson ’15 came in for the sixth inning but was taken out after recording one out and allowing three runs. Williamson took the loss in the game.

“We didn’t really take care of the ball like we should have, and that gave them opportunities to build momentum,” Onorato said. “There were a couple of instances where we had a walk, and then an error, and then a hit. It seemed like a pattern.”

Rhydian Glass ’16 finished the final inning and two-thirds without allowing any earned runs.

Glass continued her strong pitching later that day as the starter against Norfolk State, allowing two earned runs on four hits in four innings.

Efflandt relieved Glass and allowed one unearned run on an error in her two innings. In the sixth, Efflandt recorded a one-two-three inning with three straight groundball outs.

The Yale offense, however, could not match the pitching performance. The Elis tallied five hits but scored just one run on an error. Left fielder Allie Souza ’16 was on first as the tying run when a strikeout ended the game in a 3–1 loss. In total, Yale stranded six runners in scoring position.

“We had a really strong pitching performance from [Glass], but unfortunately we weren’t able to give her the run support that she needed,” Onorato said.

On Sunday in 65-degree Virginia Beach weather, the Bulldogs were finally able to gather strong hitting and pitching at the same time.

Leung no-hit Fairleigh Dickinson through three innings, while Knight pitcher Cheryl Lopez also kept the Bulldogs at bay in the beginning of the game. Neither team could score in the first four.

In the fifth, Yale scored its first runs when Souza singled up the middle, Balta moved her over on a misplayed bunt and shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 knocked Souza in with a sacrifice fly. Onorato, the next batter, singled down the left field line to drive in Balta and put Yale up 2–0.

The Knights threatened Yale in the sixth when they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk with just one out. Efflandt came in to relieve Leung and got out of the jam with just one run allowed.

“[Efflandt] got put in a tough situation, and she came in and really shut them down, which was great to see,” Onorato said. “Especially as a freshman pitcher, there’s a lot of pressure, so she did a great job.”

Yale would go on to score two more in the seventh on RBI’s by third baseman Hannah Brennan ’15 and Delgadillo, and Efflandt pitched a scoreless seventh to complete the save.

Both Onorato and Balta agreed that the three opponents that the Bulldogs faced were comparable to the competition they will see in the Ivy League this season.

“[That’s] good, because we could compete against and beat any of the teams that we played this weekend,” Onorato said.

Yale has two weeks off before its next games in Clearwater, Fla. on March 11.

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