After splitting five straight series against NESCAC opponents, including against Bates College (10–8; 4–4 NESCAC) last Friday, the softball team (16–12; 7–5 NESCAC) won both games in its series against Trinity College (7–9; 2–2 NESCAC) this past Saturday to secure its first series sweep against conference opponents this season. The Trinity sweep was followed by strong back-to-back wins in a doubleheader against the University of New England (6–18) on Wednesday.
With a third of their season left and only six NESCAC games remaining, the Polar Bears have already achieved the most wins in a season since before the pandemic and are looking to continue their four game win streak tomorrow against Wesleyan University (10–14; 0–6 NESCAC) to secure a playoff spot.
“It’s hard to see how we stand in comparison to everyone [in the NESCAC] because we’ve played every team except for three of them, while other teams have only played two teams,” shortstop Lilly Armstrong ’23 said. “Just being able to [win a series] and get above .500, and that—hopefully if we can stay there—will be really helpful with guaranteeing a playoff spot.”
Despite a blistering 5–1 start, the Polar Bears cooled down and dropped to 7–7 upon their return from spring training in Clermont, Fla. Since then, the team has primarily faced NESCAC opponents in doubleheaders, and it has struggled to win both games and sweep a series. Instead, as Head Coach Ryan Sullivan noted, they’d been splitting series. Sweeping Trinity this weekend was key to gaining confidence.
“We had all those [series] splits leading up to [the series against Trinity] and it brings into question ‘can you win two games in a day?’” Sullivan said. “Whether that’s real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. It’s there. And so we’re fighting that a little bit.… It was nice to have a day where you win both games and you’re not leaving the field, saying ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda.’”
As the playoffs approach, Armstrong noted that the team is focusing on addressing its issues with consistency.
“In these last few NESCAC games and heading towards playoffs, our biggest focus is staying consistent through two games that we play against each team,” Armstrong said. “I think some games we’ve been playing our best and we look like we could crush every team that we play.”
Splitting series hasn’t been much of an issue for the Polar Bears in the past. Before this year, NESCAC softball was structured differently. There was an eastern division and a western division, meaning that the Polar Bears only played four other schools and had three game series over two days, instead of the doubleheaders against all other NESCAC teams this year.
“It’s a different field with the doubleheaders, and we really won’t know any [playoff positioning] until we get to the first of May, and [then] we have one week left and it’s like, okay, this is kinda where everybody shakes out,” Sullivan said. “But, you know, I think [sweeping Trinity] was nice. Getting three out of four this weekend in conference play, build some confidence, hopefully build some momentum.”
With playoffs around the corner, the team is hoping to capitalize on its remaining series against Wesleyan, Colby College (14–8; 3–3 NESCAC) and Tufts University (22–2; 6–0 NESCAC). The biggest challenge: Tufts.
“Playing Tufts at the end [of the season] is perfect because that’s [the] time we can give it our all and hopefully we’re as developed as we’re gonna get this season,” third baseman Angelina Mayers ’23 said. “We have a fighting chance, and I think that’s what we’re working up to: those wins.”
However, as Armstrong noted, even the games against Wesleyan and Colby won’t be easy wins.
“Every NESCAC team is very good. If you look at the standings, like they’re all tight,” Armstrong said. “Tufts … is the real show. The way it’s looking, if you can beat Tufts, you’re going to be a real competitor [for NESCAC champion].”
Despite the challenge these final series pose, pitcher Maddie Current ’23 is confident in her team’s potential to bring home the wins.
“We have a team of really complete players,” Current said. “I think that we don’t have holes in our lineup really. We have innings where we’ll score the majority of our runs with the bottom half of our lineup, and I think that’s really great.”
The Polar Bears take on Wesleyan this Sunday in Middletown, Conn. at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.