Entering the third week of the season, the Yale softball team is looking to “right the ship” after starting its 2017–18 campaign with an 0–8 record. The Bulldogs have suffered two winless weekend tournaments — in Durham, North Carolina and Houston, Texas — and now set their sights on this weekend’s Maryland Invitational.
The Elis are looking for their first winning season in eight years. Last season, the team finished with an overall 0.378-win percentage, an increase from the previous season. This upward trend extended to Ivy play as well, as the Bulldogs went 10–10 as opposed to 9–11 the season before. Despite the current winless start to the season, opportunities remain to salvage the nonconference portion of the schedule in preparation for the Ivy slate. The last time the Bulldogs started 0–8, in 2010, the team won four of its next five.
“Our expectations remain high, and our goal is to compete for the Ivy League title,” head coach Jen Goodwin said. “With the new format — a three-game series against every team — it will make for a fun race. As we continue to work through some things this weekend and early next week, it’s all in preparation for our [Ivy] opener the 17th. We want to get some momentum going.”
Yale’s two completed tournaments this year have included tough opposition who had already played more games than the Elis, as well as a couple of close calls. The Bulldogs opened their season at the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational against Houston and Syracuse — two teams who had played a combined 17 games at that point. In Durham, the Elis fell agonizingly close in nine innings to Duke, losing 4–3.
Yale fell to a disappointing 2–16 record through the first 18 games of the 2016–17 campaign during which it played a solitary home game against South Florida. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs were able to bounce back to a 17–28 overall record. In this back half of the schedule, the Elis only owned losing records against Penn, Harvard and Ivy champions Princeton out of the eleven teams it faced. Yale finished fourth in conference, an improvement from its fifth-place finish the season before.
“Last season we made some big strides, and with that came a lot of confidence,” Goodwin said.
Five Eli players were recognized by the Ivy League last season, and most of them are returning to the diamond this season. Both catcher Madison Sack ’19, who led the team with seven home runs and third baseman Allison Skinner ’18, who batted nearly .400 in 20 league games, earned first-team All-Ivy recognition. Second baseman Laina Do ’17, outfielder Shelby Kennedy ’19 and pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 were all named to the second team.
Now captain, Skinner is second on the team this season in on-base percentage and is hitting .286. Yale’s best offensive player thus far has been Annie Tarte ’20, however, as she leads the team in slugging percentage and runs batted in.
The Bulldogs welcome five new members of the team this year: Sydney Grobman ’21, Olivia Lee ’21, Miranda Papes ’21, Kortney Ponce ’21 and Phylicia Wilkov ’21. Grobman is currently leading the group in batting average, hitting .350 in 20 plate appearances. Papes, meanwhile, has registered the second-most innings pitched on the team behind Terra Jerpbak ’19.
“We have a very special group [of first years] and I expect them all to contribute this year,” Goodwin said. “There have been a few times where four of them have been on the infield at the same time, and you wouldn’t know it. They don’t play like it’s their first year of DI softball, and the returners have helped with that transition tremendously.”
Returning seniors on the roster include captain Skinner, Casalino and Sydney Ginsberg ’18.
The Bulldogs will play a double-header on Friday, playing games against Miami of Ohio and Jacksonville at the Maryland Invitational.
Bill Gallagher | firstname.lastname@example.org