The softball team hopes the weather won’t be the only thing heating up come April.
The Bulldogs (6-12) have their work cut out for them this weekend, with three teams coming to play the Elis in doubleheaders. The Bulldogs host Central Connecticut (3-10) on Friday and Fairfield (11-13) on Saturday, and wrap things up against Marist (6-12) on Sunday.
While their opponents post only a .364 combined winning percentage, the Elis will be tested by the long weekend. And despite showing promise several times this spring, the Bulldogs .333 winning percentage leaves room for improvement.
The Elis recognize that the weekend will be difficult, but necessary to work out some kinks before the Ivy season.
“I think it’d be difficult to not play this many games this weekend,” pitcher Ashley Linnenbank ’06 said. “We all realize that Ivies are right around the corner, and our period of preparation has been cut short because of the weather. We need to get as many games as possible under our belt, as soon as possible.”
In recent weeks, the Elis have made it their goal to reduce the number of runners they leave on base. But recently, just getting on base has been difficult for the Bulldogs. In Wednesday’s doubleheader against St. John’s, the Elis managed a paltry three hits in a 2-0 loss, and only three more than that in a 2-1 win.
The Bulldogs are extremely capable of hitting the ball. Last Saturday, in the second game of the doubleheader against Fairleigh Dickinson, every Eli got at least one hit as the Bulldogs put up a season-high 17 base knocks. And given how the undermanned pitching staff of Peggy Hunt ’06, Linnenbank and Jessica Meyer ’07 has been has been baffling batters recently, the Elis can count on games staying close.
In other words, the Bulldogs understand that winning or losing is in their hands.
“We have not faced a team that has completely blown us out,” captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 said. “Ability-wise, we can hang in there with anybody.”
While everyone in the Eli lineup is capable of hitting the ball, the top of the order has to produce if the Bulldogs are going to win this weekend. Second baseman Christina Guerland is the only Eli who is hitting above .300. When Guerland gets on base, the powerful tandem of Kanyer and catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 should be able to bring her home more often than not.
Kwiatowski has been particularly strong lately, going 5-for-12 over the last four games and notching an extra base hit in each of the last three contests.
However, team members stress that all nine hitters in the Eli order can produce consistent hits.
“You want your 2-3-4 hitters to be hot, but I feel like the lineup is really good all the way through,” Kanyer said. “But certain parts get hot at different times. We’re waiting for all of it to be hot at the same time — hopefully we’ll see more of that this weekend.”
Fairfield looks to be the toughest opponent of the weekend. The Stags may be a sub-500 team now, but they have won three of their last four, all by at least three runs.
Fairfield is led by a trio of underclassmen, all of whom are batting over .330. Rookie outfielder Julia Jacoby is the top Stag in batting average (.354), hits (28) and steals (6). Sophomore pitcher/outfielder Cagney Rignalda boasts a .347 batting average and leads Fairfield with 21 runs scored.
Last but certainly not least is freshman catcher Erin Frank. Aside from her .338 batting average, Frank leads the Stags with 10 doubles, five home runs and 26 RBIs.
But as usual, the Elis are looking to play their own game: score runs every inning, play tight defense, leave fewer runners stranded, and put the leadoff runner on base.
With league play looming, the Bulldogs are looking to break out this weekend and take some confidence into their upcoming schedule.
“I think we just want to stay strong and rested,” Hunt said. “With six games, everyone’s got to have high energy. It would be great go through the weekend and take some strong performances into Ivy play. It would encourage the team and get momentum going.”