After finishing the 2013–14 season with a disappointing 8–33 record, including a 4–16 conference record, the Yale women’s softball team is optimistic for a comeback this season.
Though the year was scheduled to open at the Norfolk State Tournament this Friday, inclement weather conditions in Virginia forced the cancellation of the tournament. The Bulldogs will now play their season opener against Maine in Tampa, Florida on March 10.
“The team and I have the expectation of being very competitive this season as we all possess a drive to win by taking the game one pitch at a time,” shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 said.
The team lost four seniors to the graduating class last year, including starting center fielder Tori Balta ’14 and two pitchers, Chelsea Dunham ’14 and Kristen Leung ’14, who combined for 123 innings pitched out of the team’s 265.1 total innings. However, the Bulldogs are also welcoming some strong freshman pitchers as well as a dynamic group of versatile rookies who will contribute to the team right away, according to captain Sarah Onorato ’15, who is also a sports columnist for the News.
“We have a very talented class of incoming freshmen, combined with a solid group of returners,” Onorato said. “This year’s team is probably the most competitive group of players we’ve had in recent years, and I think that will reflect well on the field.”
Onorato is one of the best Yale players in recent memory. She begins this season tied for second all-time at Yale with 17 career home runs, just three shy of the school record, as well as fifth in Yale history with 31 career doubles. Last season, Onorato caught all innings in Yale’s 41 games and batted 0.314 throughout the season, enough to earn her the team’s Barbara Chou Leadership Award.
Additionally, Onorato enjoyed one of the most spectacular seasons in school history in 2012–13. The first Bulldog player to be named Ivy League Player of the Year since 1991, Onorato ranked fourth nationally with 0.4 doubles per game and 21st with a 0.430 batting average. Onorato was also named to the All-Ivy first team at catcher and led the conference in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Joining her in the veteran lineup is first baseman Lauren Delgadillo ’16, who was named to the CollegeSportsMadness.com preseason All-Ivy League second team. A first-team All-Ivy first baseman last year, Delgadillo finished last year hitting 0.276 — second on the team — but a stellar 0.412 average in conference games, good enough for fifth in the league.
Labbadia will also likely start at shortstop, as the junior hit 0.274 with a 0.337 on-base percentage a year ago before missing the final 15 games with an illness.
On the mound, the Elis return their best pitcher from a year ago in Lindsay Efflandt ’17. Efflandt topped the Bulldogs in innings pitched, earned run average and strikeouts. Beyond Efflandt, Rhydian Glass ’16 and Kylie Williamson ’15 figure to be two returning players who will see action at pitcher.
Five freshmen join the Bulldogs this year. Among the new faces are utility player Sydney Ginsberg ’18 and shortstop and pitcher Maddie Wuelfing ’18. Named to the Western New England Prep School Softball Association All Star team in her senior year of high school, Ginsberg batted 0.543 and had 22 RBI in 15 games in her final season. Wuelfing could also make a major impact, as the Rocklin, Calif. native won the league MVP award as a senior last year and excelled both as a hitter, with a 0.333 average, and as a pitcher, with a 1.15 ERA.
In preparation for the season opener in Tampa, the Bulldogs have been simulating a competitive, game-like atmosphere during practices, according to Onorato.
“I think with our new mental conditioning coach, we are doing a lot more focused on the mental game and preparing for the game that way,” outfielder Carolyn McGuire ’17 said. “Also, I think we are focusing more on game like situations which help us prepare when other teams play more games than [we do].”
Labbadia agreed, saying that the team has worked a lot on mental conditioning as of late.
The Elis will play eight games in total in Florida from March 10 to March 15.