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While the Bulldogs may not have swept last week in the Silicon Valley Classic in California, the Yale softball team’s first 2020 season road trip couldn’t have gone much better — they scored 15 runs and notched 35 hits over the series.

The Elis (2–3, 0–0 Ivy) defeated a skilled team from California Baptist (4–10, 0–0 WAC) and outmatched Santa Clara University (7–7, 0–0 West Coast) 9–7. The strength of the pitching circle kept the team in the series, with pitcher Nic Conway ’22 throwing 13 strikeouts over the series and Julia Grobman ’23 throwing seven strikeouts in a single game against San Jose State.

But the Bulldogs are hoping for more offensive success during their five-game series in Lynchburg, Virginia, this weekend in the annual Liberty Classic. The team will play two double-headers on Friday and Saturday against Hofstra (2–6, 0–0 Colonial) and Fairfield University (1–3, 0–0 MAAC) on Friday and against Elon (8–6, 0–0 Colonial) and Butler Colleges (8–3, 0–0 Big East) on Saturday, starting at 11:30 a.m. on both days. Yale will then finish off the series with a single afternoon game on Sunday against East Carolina University (8–5, 0–0 AAC), which is slated to begin at 2:00 p.m.

The Bulldogs will have to double down on their defensive game against an Elon hitting lineup that has already accrued a decent amount of playing time this season. The Phoenixes are just one win above 0.500 thus far but are coming off a five-game losing streak in the Gamecock Invitational, where they fell to defensively skilled teams from Iowa State and Liberty. Yale, on the other hand, is energized off a 10-hit, three-run outburst in a nine-inning, 3–2 victory over California Baptist last Sunday.

“One factor going into this weekend that will benefit us is that we’ve got our first weekend of games underway, so all the first-weekend jitters and rust should be shaken off,” team captain Annie Tarte ’20 said. “The team will be completely settled into game mode, so we’re ready to attack out of the gate on Friday.”

The Bulldogs feature the top two run scorers in the league last season: outfielder Lindsay Kuss ’20, who made several strategic moves to push runs for the Bulldogs last weekend and consistently landed hits in each game of the series; and the top Ivy League run-producer of 2019, infielder Sydney Grobman ’21. She posted two hits in three at-bats with three runs batted in during the Bulldogs’ victory over Santa Clara, and is coming off a 0.356 batting average over the last season.

Kuss has reached base more frequently than any other player on the team, while Sydney Grobman has been impressive in advancing runs for the Bulldogs. Yale also has been getting production from Tarte and outfielder Olivia Vinyard ’20, who nearly secured hitting streaks in the majority of the games last weekend.

“We learned a lot from our tournament last weekend in California and have practiced hard this week to tighten up some loose ends that we had during weekend one,” Kortney Ponce ’21 said. “These tournaments are super fun because we get to compete against some really great teams all while learning a lot about ourselves and honing in on what we need to do to win Ivies.”

In the circle, Conway continues to pile up strikeouts. She struck out eight over seven innings against Colorado State last weekend, a team with one of the highest aggregated batting averages in their conference.

Yale showed out in pitching last weekend and will look to continue its momentum on the mound against heavy hitters from Hofstra, Fairfield and Butler. Outfielder Madison McKevitt leads batting for Hofstra with a 0.308, outfielder Sam Merino leads Fairfield with a 0.643 SLG% and infielder Lauren Fey leads Butler with a 0.547 SLG%.

“We played really well this past weekend despite not having everyone playing at their full potential,” Tarte said. “I’m excited for weekend two now that everyone is more settled in.”

Andrew Bellah | bellah.bellah@yale.edu