The Bowdoin softball team (23-6, 5-1 NESCAC) is currently on a 12-game win streak after beating Colby (7-15, 0-6 NESCAC) this weekend 3-0 and sweeping a double-header against Saint Joseph’s (11-13) 9-5 and 11-0 on Tuesday.
The Polar Bears were launched to the top spot in the NESCAC East by their five-game divisional win streak, as well as some critical losses by a dominant Tufts program (16-11, 4-3 NESCAC). Before falling to Trinity 6-3 on April 14, the Jumbos had a 65-game divisional win streak; the last time a NESCAC East team beat them was in 2011.
These divisional developments open up the NESCAC East in a particularly high-stakes year as the top seed will host the entirety of NESCAC Championships. Bowdoin is hoping to hold onto its No. 1 seed this weekend as it hosts Tufts for a significant three-game series.
Although Tufts has won three NCAA DIII championships in the past four years, the team feels confident going into this weekend’s series, especially due to Tufts’ recent performance. Trinity’s (17-10, 7-2 NESCAC) ability to sweep Tufts in its three-game series bodes well for Bowdoin as the Polar Bears have beaten the Bantams twice this season.
“It’s all about confidence and not overthinking the Tufts name because they do have many national championships to their name,” said captain Emily Griffin ’17. “They’re on a five-game [divisional] losing streak right now so we definitely are looking to take advantage of that, but, of course, we’re not going to take anything for granted. We’re going to go out there and try to play our game while staying relaxed at the same time.”
Despite the losing streak, captain Marisa O’Toole ’17 believes that Tufts could still pose a threat due to its strong hitting and pitching: Tufts has 76 conference hits compared to Bowdoin’s 56, yet Tufts has played one more conference game than Bowdoin.
“Tufts is notoriously a very good hitting team, so I think they’ve got some dangerous people at bat. We’ve got to watch out for that for sure,” O’Toole said. “They typically have very good pitching. That being said, we have amazing pitchers on our team, as well, and I have every confidence that they are going to pitch good games and they are going to do their best and suppress the hitting of Tufts.”
According to O’Toole, one of the main obstacles the team faces is its lack of self-confidence, especially when facing big-name teams.
“I think we’re still working on believing that we can do anything,” she said. “We’re a very humble group and we just like to go out there and play our best, and I think that sometimes in years past, we’ve let big teams kind of get in our heads a little bit.”
Fortunately, Griffin believes that the 8-0, 2-1 and 3-0 wins against Colby helped elevate the team’s certainty in its own play.
“I think it definitely did increase our confidence,” she said. “I think we’ve continued to prove to ourselves this season that we can come back and not panic in tight games like that. Although our bats were a little slower that game, we did continue to have our rhythm and I think we knew that we weren’t going to lose.”
Another contribution to the team’s success has been the team’s dynamic on and off the field, according to O’Toole. In the fall, the team brought in sport and psychology consultant Dr. Tiffany Jones, PhD to help increase the team’s chemistry.
“One of the things [Jones] suggested for a championship culture was to go on ‘dates’ with your teammates,” O’Toole said. “We take the time to go get a meal, get gelato or do homework with teammates you otherwise wouldn’t spend that much time with just by virtue of how group dynamics work. I think that’s been really crucial to having a really solid and deep team where everyone feels supported by one another.”
Griffin agrees the the emphasis on team chemistry has helped the team by increasing its confidence and tightening its relationship.
“Team chemistry added to our team’s success,” she said. “We’ve been able to hold each other accountable while also having this cohesive, supportive team atmosphere which I think has been really beneficial because if someone is struggling a little bit, you can go up to them and have a frank, yet positive, conversation.”
The team will play Tufts at home on Saturday at 3 p.m. followed by a double-header on Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.