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Softball hosts NESCAC playoffs for first time

May 5, 2017

Ann Basu
POWER HITTER: Sam Valdivia ’19 steps up to the plate as Bowdoin edges out a key 4-3 win over rival Tufts (22-14, 8-4 NESCAC) on April 22 that helped secure the team’s No. 1 seed.

After a disappointing loss to Tufts (22-14, 8-4 NESCAC), the softball team (27-8, 9-3 NESCAC) rebounded by sweeping its series against Bates (10-18, 1-11 NESCAC) 3-0, 8-1, 5-1, to clinch the No. 1 spot in NESCAC East, which allows Bowdoin to host the NESCAC Playoffs this weekend. The team’s first opponent will be the NESCAC West No. 2 seed, Amherst (26-8, 10-2 NESCAC). This marks the first time Bowdoin will host the tournament since its creation.

Captain Marisa O’Toole ’17 said the coaching staff was crucial to the team’s ability to put the Tufts series behind it and get the wins needed for this weekend.

“I have to hand it to our coaches for basically saying that that doesn’t define us and that’s not who we were, “ O’Toole said. “We knew that, but it was really great to get that reaffirmed from our coaches. They knew that we were a really good team and that sometimes you’re going to have those days. It’s really important for us not to get shaken up by that and start to doubt ourselves.”

Another key component to the win against Bates was the pitching. Over the course of the weekend, Bowdoin gave up only two runs and 12 hits compared to its own 16 runs and 28 hits.

“The pitchers, all four of them, ended up pitching at some point this weekend, and all four of them were outstanding,” Head Coach Ryan Sullivan said. “That’s a nice relief certainly for the hitters to know that there’s not a lot of pressure because they know their pitchers are going to keep them in the low-scoring games. We know we’re going to be in close games so that it gives us some time.”

To cement the Polar Bears’ spot at the top of NESCAC East, No. 4 Colby (11-19, 4-8 NESCAC) beat No. 2 Trinity (19-13, 8-4 NESCAC) 2-1 to knock the Bantams off the top.

“I’ve never loved Colby so much,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s a great example of how you never know what’s going to happen. We certainly, in years past, have had moments where we kind of drop a game here or there and the big picture becomes an issue as well. But we have never rooted for Colby as much as we did probably this past weekend.”

O’Toole agrees that Colby’s win against Trinity was important, but believes that it was even more important for the team not to worry about the Colby-Trinity game while playing its own.

“Those are the types of things that you can’t really predict,” she said. “But I think it was important for us to not even worry about what was going on in the other series and really focus on us. Each inning, each at-bat, just trying our best to play our game and then when we did our job, other things just fell for us as well and that’s how we ended up where we are right now.”

Going into the NESCAC tournament this weekend, the team is looking forward to hosting, especially after only having five home games this season. Playing at home will give the Polar Bears a distinct edge when they face Amherst tomorrow, compared to when the teams first met in Florida after a 36-hour bus ride from campus—and hopefully will yield a different result than the 9-8 loss Bowdoin suffered in March.

“We were coming off a bus trip to Florida with two hours of sleep and it was a very windy day, kind of a crazy day,” Sullivan said. “So in a lot of respects, that game against them really doesn’t matter or mean anything because there’s very little you can kind of pull from it and say,  ‘Oh, we knew a lot about Amherst because of that game.’”

In addition to minimal travel time, hosting also offers the benefit of a large home crowd.

“Playing on your home field, you can get more fans, more of your friends can come, it’s easy for your family to get there,” O’Toole said. “Also, I think just knowing that you’re hosting feels good, it feels successful in and of itself so I think that gives you a little bit of extra confidence going into the weekend.”

In addition to having home-field advantage all weekend, O’Toole is confident in her team’s ability to play well and win.

“We’re most successful when we are just playing our game and focusing on us and trying to set the tempo,” she said. “We have seen [Amherst] already and we know that we can hit the ball. We scored eight runs, and for the majority of the game we were very much in control. We know that we can beat them. Now we just got to go out and do it.”

Weather permitting, the tournament’s first round will take place at home today as Williams (28-10, 11-1 NESCAC) faces Trinity at noon, followed by Bowdoin against Amherst at 2 p.m.

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