The softball team is sliding into the NESCAC Championship Tournament this weekend, facing off against Middlebury on Saturday. The Polar Bears (29-11, NESCAC 9-3) finished second in the NESCAC East Conference, while the Panthers (20-10, NESCAC 5-6) finished third in the West.
“We are almost mirror images of each other,” said Head Coach Ryan Sullivan. “So it really is kind of a coin-flip game, which is fun because it will be very competitive.”
Bowdoin has not recently played against Middlebury since the two teams play in different conferences within the NESCAC. Of the teams in the West, Bowdoin has only played Williams (32-6, NESCAC 9-3) this year.
“There is definitely a little bit of unknown. I’m not sure any of my players have played Middlebury,” Sullivan said. “We haven’t seen them in a number of years, so there is a little bit of, ‘We don’t know them; they don’t know us.’ You just go out and play the game.”
The tournament’s format has shifted this year to single elimination, with the top four teams from both the NESCAC East and West conferences. In previous years, the tournament was double elimination with only the top two teams competing.
“With double elimination, you always have the hope that if you have a rough game, you can come back for the second,” said Caroline Rice ’19.
The Polar Bears will enter the tournament after three consecutive double headers earlier in the week.
On Saturday, they split a two-game series against Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The Goats beat the Polar Bears 8-3 in game one, but the Polar Bears clawed back in game two, winning 2-1. Lauren O’Shea ’18 hammered a two-run homer to secure the win.
Bowdoin fell to William in both games the following day.
On Monday, Bowdoin beat UMaine Farmington in a double header. The Polar Bears crushed the Beavers, scoring 17 runs in two games, winning 4-0 and 13-1. Notably, many first years got time on the field. Maddie Rouhana ’21 hit her sixth home run.
“They always give 100 percent, which is fun to watch,” said Rice.
One of the team’s biggest strengths is its pitching.
“We have had really consistent pitching,” Sullivan said. “All of our pitchers have gone through cycles of having great performances and performances that they need to improve upon, but they have worked hard to do that, and right now they are all throwing really well so that’s been fun to see.”
Currently, the team has four pitchers who regularly start. While two of the pitchers do throw more often than the others, Sullivan feels confident about all of his athletes.
“We could literally pull a name out of a hat and go with one of our four and feel the same, which is a nice situation to be in,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan speculated that with the change in the tournament format, all teams think they will have a chance to win.
“This year, all eight teams have a right to be [in the tournament] and all eight teams think they could win it,” he said.
For the upcoming game, members of the team emphasized the necessity to stay mentally aware.
“When we stay in our heads, that’s when we start making little mistakes that add up,” said Natalie Edwards ’18.
The team will travel to Amherst on Saturday to face Middlebury at 9:30 a.m. The winner will then go on to play the winner of the Amherst and Bates matchup at 2:30 p.m.