Kristina Kim

As the weather in sunny Orlando, Florida heated up from 64 degrees this past Friday to 73 on Sunday, so too did the Yale softball team, which capped off a season-opening five-game stretch in the Sunshine State with the team’s first win of the 2016 campaign.

Playing in the Citrus Classic over the weekend, the Bulldogs (1–4, 0–0 Ivy) dropped their first four games of the season, each by a margin of at least four runs, before the road trip culminated in a 5–0 win over Morgan State. With errorless defensive play, a dominant pitching performance from Francesca Casalino ’18 and a 3–3 and two-RBI performance out of right fielder Rachel Paris ’17, the Elis put on an impressive show before heading back to New Haven.

“A lot of things came together for us on Sunday against Morgan State,” Paris said. “Our situational hitting was better and we had some clutch hits with two outs.”

The most notable example of that situational hitting came from Paris herself: a single off her bat in the third inning scored two of Yale’s five runs in the game. The hit capped Yale’s biggest inning of the entire weekend, as the Bulldogs brought home three base runners, all of whom reached base on errors.

Yale added to its lead in the sixth with two more runs that also involved fielding blunders by the Bears. Paris doubled to start the inning before catcher Camille Weisenbach ’17 reached first and second on two Morgan State errors, allowing Paris to reach the plate. Weisenbach then advanced to third  on a pinch-hit single by Sidney Ginsburg ’18, before captain and left fielder Allie Souza ’16 brought her home with a sacrifice fly to center.

Casalino, meanwhile, produced a stellar performance for Yale on the mound. After a freshman season with nine complete games, Yale’s ace held Morgan State’s offense to two hits, striking out nine Bears over the course of the shutout.

The outing came after a rocky start for the sophomore. Casalino pitched 11 innings over the course of the first four games, giving up seven earned runs on 14 hits, but remained unfazed heading into the final contest.

“It was just about trying to get back into the rhythm of pitching live to other batters,” Casalino said. “This year I am trying to switch it up and do different things.”

One such change was an adjustment to her pitch arsenal. After relying heavily last year on her best pitches, the riseball and curveball, Casalino said she varied her pitches in order to keep opponents guessing.

Despite a positive end to the weekend, the Bulldogs were unable to overcome opponents in their first four games. The first was a 4–0 shutout loss to Charlotte, which improved to a 10-–0 record on the season with the help of lights-out pitching from Lexi Betancourt. Yale then lost 8–2 to Central Florida, 6–2 to Penn State and 7–2 to East Carolina.

“The first few games we were just trying to get back into the swing of things,” Casalino said. “This is what dirt feels like, this is a team that we’re facing.”

First baseman Lauren Delgadillo ’16 and shortshop Brittany Labbadia ’16 both hit well in all four games, finishing with batting averages of 0.417 and 0.357, respectively. Labbadia had her strongest game against Penn State, when she went 2–3 and batted in one run.

The Elis can now look forward to an upcoming series near Los Angeles over spring break. On the West Coast, Yale will participate in the Mizuno Invitational and the Cal State Northridge Tournament.