After struggling early in the season during its Florida swing, the softball team (10-16) has hit its stride since returning home, capturing eight of 10 games during an 18-game homestand.

A day after foiling St. John’s twice in their last at-bats, the Bulldogs continued with nail-biting victories Thursday against Central Connecticut State (5-13). The Elis captured the opener of the doubleheader when Laura Beckert’s ’03 RBI single in the eighth inning plated Libby Peters ’05 to give Yale a 7-6 victory.

Yale finally settled for a more convincing triumph by taking the nightcap 4-1 in a game shortened to five innings because of darkness. A minimum of five innings must be completed for the contest to count.

The early part of the season was marred by a string of one-run and extra-inning losses. Recently, Yale has turned the tables and emerged consistently on the winning end of tight games. Jesseka Bartholomew ’03, the team’s captain and leader in almost all offensive categories, said experience has made all the difference.

“We’re learning to play with each other, starting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and beginning to play more like a team,” said Bartholomew, who went 4-6 with two RBI in the twin bill with Central Connecticut. “Getting a couple of wins gave us the confidence to stay in games. We have the confidence now that no matter how down we are, we know we can compete with any team, and we know we can come back.”

While the team’s approach has not changed, the results certainly have. After starting the season 2-14, the Elis are heading in exactly the right direction as Ivy League play approaches.

“At the beginning of the season, our record on paper was misleading,” shortstop Leah Kelley ’03 said. “Everyone was hitting the ball well; our pitching staff was pitching well. I don’t think the team lost confidence at all. I don’t have the exact reason why we were losing, because we’ve been playing the same for most of the season: steady on defense and offense. Recently, we’ve been lucky to get timely hits.”

In the opener, Peggy Hunt ’06 came in as a relief pitcher with no one out in the first inning and pitched the next eight innings, allowing only three hits and two earned runs. Despite boasting an impressive 1.86 ERA, Hunt’s victory only upped her mark to 2-9 on the season. Beth Pavlicek ’06 continued her torrid spring by hurling another gem in the second game, yielding only three hits and one earned run in her five innings of work. The win boosted her record to 6-2 and lowered her ERA to a microscopic 1.12.

The work of the freshmen on the pitching staff — Hunt, Pavlicek and Ashley Linnenbank ’06 (2-3, 2.81 ERA) — has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the team’s upperclassmen.

“The freshmen are more than amazing,” Bartholomew said. “They have risen to such an amazing amount of potential. They’re confident in themselves; confident on the mound. We don’t treat them like freshman pitchers, and they don’t pitch like freshman pitchers: they have the composure and poise of an experienced staff. I’ve never been so confident in a pitching staff.”

Only a set with Army (10-9) Wednesday now stands between the Bulldogs and the beginning of the Ivy League season when the University of Pennsylvania (6-15, 0-2 Ivy) and Princeton (10-10, 2-0) visit next weekend.

“We’re peaking at the perfect time,” Bartholomew said. “There’s so much parity in the Ivies that one weekend isn’t going to determine anything. We know we have the talent to beat Princeton, and we know we have the talent to beat UPenn.”