Silent bats are hurting the softball team’s chances of making noise in the Ivy League title race.
The Elis (18-12, 3-9 Ivy) will take the field in Hanover this weekend for a four-game series against Dartmouth (10-21, 6-6) as the conference season begins to wind down. The Big Green — whose 6-6 conference record is good enough for second place in the North Division — has only recorded wins against Columbia (16-18, 6-8) and Brown (7-23, 1-11), the two last place teams.
On paper, the Elis appear to have a decided advantage over the weak hitting, poor pitching home team because of their superior pitching and defense. But after a hugely successful early spring, the Bulldogs have been struggling in conference play and only managed to take a game each from Harvard, Columbia and Penn.
The Bulldogs hope to use their comparatively weak Ivy foe as a stepping stone from which to rebound from a Wednesday afternoon sweep at the hands of Wagner. The Bulldogs fell 8-1 and 7-5 on Staten Island.
The squad has the second-best pitching staff in the Ancient Eight and has surrendered a league-low 90 runs. Pitchers Rebecca Wojciak ’09, K.R. Ling ’10 and Holly Gutterud ’10 are all throwing under 2.00.
“I have total confidence in our pitching staff,” captain and second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 said. “They’ve done a great job for us all year and should have more wins with the effort they’ve given on the mound.”
Against a Big Green team that strikes out almost six times a game and has the second-worst batting average in the Ivies, the Eli staff should face few challenges in the Dartmouth lineup.
The Elis also have a decent defense to back up the pitchers, and the Bulldogs should be able to capitalize on the Big Green’s inability to advance runners or hit well with players on base. The Elis boast a quick double-play combo in Guerland and shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08, which helps the team stay in games.
But the Bulldogs’ defense was put to the test against Wagner on Wednesday. Seahawk Victoria Batistelli hit three home runs and seven RBI over the course of the two-game sweep, and the Elis will have to ensure that the Big Green hitters are not given similar opportunities.
“I’ve never been concerned about our defense,” Guerland said. “We’re a solid defensive team. It’s just the offense that needs to come around, and we should be winning all of these games.”
Ultimately, the Bulldogs’ ailing bats will make or break the series. Though the Elis are a solid hitting team overall — they average .291 as a team — they have been struggling at the plate recently.
Torres said the team has been focusing on its hitting leading up to this weekend’s conference matchups.
“We’ve been working on the fundamentals,” she said. “There’s nothing better than seeing as many pitches as you can in preparation for a game to get your swing in tune in time for the weekend.”
Despite hitting .314 with runners in scoring position, the Bulldogs have problems stringing hits together in pressure situations. Guerland said that once the team loosens up at the plate, as it did in the final game against Harvard — which was the only Yale victory — the squad has an easier time batting the runners around.
“We just need to stay relaxed,” she said. “Against Harvard, everyone just took a deep breath and had fun. If we do that the hitting should follow.”
With only eight Ivy contests remaining, the Elis need to find their way at the plate to have a shot at a conference title. Though the three losses to Harvard put a dent in the Bulldogs’ plans, the squad is confident that they are still alive in the race.
“It’s going to be a little harder but we’re still going to play,” catcher Katie Edwards ’09 said. “We’re not going to give up just because it’s going to be harder.”
Centerfielder Ashley Sloan ’10 said the team has a good chance against the Big Green if they do not let the pressure of their rapidly concluding season affect them.
“We’re trying to go into every game the same,” she said. “Yes, we’re aware of the importance of every game but we’re trying to go into every one playing relaxed and with the confidence and trust in what we’ve been working on all season.”