The Yale softball team opened up its season in Orlando, Fla. over spring break in impressive fashion.
The Bulldogs recorded six consecutive victories to start off the year and returned to New Haven with a 7-3 record.
“Our team played well as a unit down in Florida,” said team captain Monica Lebron ’01, who leads the team with 12 hits. “It was exciting to see our hard work at 6 a.m. practices pay off.”
The Bulldogs displayed a potent offense, marked by clutch hitting performances, and a strong pitching corps as they began their season.
Yale opened with two victories March 5, a 5-3 win over George Mason and a 5-4 win over Detroit. The following day, the Bulldogs recorded two more close victories with a 6-5, eight-inning defeat of Holy Cross and a 2-0 win over St. Joseph’s.
The Bulldogs then recorded their fifth and sixth victories in the three-day span with a 3-2 win over Roger Morris and a 7-0 drubbing of Sacred Heart.
At that point, each member of the Yale pitching staff, Cara Denver ’02, Shayna Filson ’04 and Jillian Miles ’04, owned a 2-0 record, with Filson and Miles displaying uncommon poise in their first collegiate starts.
The Yale offense was getting its job done as well. Led by Leah Kelley ’04 and Kristen Maturo ’01, who are each hitting over .360, seven Bulldogs finished the Florida trip with batting averages over .300.
“Our hitting is coming along really well,” Kelley said. “We have talented hitters that can hit for both power and average, and that’s really helpful in pushing runners across the plate.”
The Elis were especially impressive at the plate in close games. Yale won six ballgames that were decided by two runs or fewer, including two games which came down either to the team’s final at-bat or extra innings.
“I think we have stepped it up when the game is on the line,” Maturo said. “We may have a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, but they played like veterans when the games were close. The seniors provided the spark we needed in a lot of key situations, and our pitchers also got tougher when the games were tight.”
Unfortunately for Yale, the squad was unable to keep up its impressive play. The Bulldogs lost their next three games by a combined score of 20-2 — with a 5-0 loss to Troy St., a 10-0 defeat at the hands of Villanova and a 5-2 loss to UNC-Wilmington.
Yale did manage to turn things around in its final contest, defeating Siena 4-3 in its final at-bat. Denver capped off an impressive spring, limiting Siena to only one earned run, and Maturo doubled in the bottom of the seventh inning to bring in Alice Liu ’01 to win the game. Maturo and Liu each lead the team with five RBIs. Liu is also second on the team with 11 hits.
All told, Yale had a successful Florida trip. The team finished with an impressive .283 batting average and a 3.13 staff ERA. If any doubts remain as to the team’s prospects for the season, they surround the defense, as the Bulldogs have committed 24 errors in 10 games, compared to their opponents’ 14.
The Bulldogs had six errors both in the Villanova loss and the Siena win.
“The name of the game is defense,” head coach Andy Van Etten said. “If we can improve defensively we should be in good shape this season.”
Still the team looks quite ready as it approaches the rest of the season.
“We still have a few kinks to iron out before we are completely prepared for our Ivy season, but that is why we practice and have non-conference games,” Lebron said. “I have the utmost confidence that our team will continue to rise up.”