Last year, the softball team played its inaugural season at William O. Dewitt, Jr. ’63 Family Field. This season, the squad will try to decorate its new home with an Ivy League Championship banner.
The Bulldogs (12-9-1) are just one week away from the beginning of Ancient Eight play. The team believes it has all the ingredients for a championship run, but increased parody in the conference, a young roster, and a developing pitching staff are just some of the unknowns Yale will be facing in the upcoming weeks.
“What it’s going to come down to is you better come with your best game, or stay home,” head coach Andy Van Etten said. “We’ve got it going in the right direction right now, so if we can get some pitching and timely hitting, we’ll be in good shape.”
The Elis finished 7-7 in Ivy League play in 2001, ending the season in fifth place, four games behind co-champions Cornell and Harvard.
“It’s going to be a battle all the way around,” captain Laura Beckert ’03 said. “Everyone’s gotten stronger this year, so no one’s going to be an easy game. Every weekend we’re going to have to come out and play four good games.”
The Bulldogs lost key seniors Monica Lebron ’01, Alice Liu ’01, and Kristen Maturo ’01 after last season and only have one senior, pitcher Cara Denver ’02, on their current roster. The team is largely made up of underclassmen, including seven freshmen. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs are looking at their youth as a strength, instead of as an obstacle.
“No one’s really making a big issue of it,” Julia Bossett ’05 said. “You practice so much over the winter that by the time the season comes, class isn’t really an issue any more.”
Denver, however, said she does sometimes feel the strain of being the only senior on the team.
“It’s just kind of hard, because most classes have some kind of unity, but I’m just sort of out there on my own,” Denver said. “It’s also hard because of leadership, because half the team is freshmen.”
On offense, the Elis are off to an impressive start. Yale has already belted 10 home runs, leaving them one long ball away from a new team record. Jesseka Bartholomew ’03 and Shayna Filson ’04, 2001 first team All-Ivy honorees, lead the team with four and three home runs, respectively.
But while the team always welcomes a homer, Van Etten likes to stress timely hitting over power hitting.
“It’s just being aggressive at the plate, but getting the right pitch,” Beckert said about the team’s batting philosophy. “Hitting according to situations and hitting our pitch [is the most important thing.]”
On defense, the Bulldogs will rely on the pitching rotation of Denver, Filson and Jillian Miles ’04. Denver is off to a brilliant start, giving up just four walks in 72 innings and garnering a 1.26 ERA. Miles and Filson, while less consistent, are hoping that a year of experience under their belts will significantly improve their throwing.
In her most recent start, Miles pitched a one-hitter in a 2-0 victory over St. John’s. She said that the three have the potential to be a formidable pitching staff, but that it will all depend on the consistency of herself and Filson.
“You see me and Shayna struggling and you know how good we could be, [so] it’s really frustrating for the coach,” Miles said. “Being behind Cara [in last year’s rotation] was kind of hard, but now I know what I need to do to get to that level.”
The Bulldogs will face Providence next Wednesday in their final non-conference matchup before opening Ancient Eight play at home against Dartmouth the following Saturday.