The softball coaching staff revamped the team’s roster from last season and added nine new players in hopes of making a second consecutive conference playoff appearance.
Last year, the softball team finished with a 20-14 overall record after starting with a seven-game winning streak. The Lions qualified for the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference playoffs as the sixth-seeded team but lost to third-seeded Babson College and fifth-seeded United States Coast Guard Academy in double elimination games.
Sophomore outfielder Maddie Tomich said she wants the team to qualify for the playoffs again.
“I think this season we definitely have the goal of making it back to the playoffs,” Tomich said. “It was very exciting to do that last year and so getting back would be a huge achievement.”
This year’s team features nine freshmen and seven returning players from last season. Seniors Alena Jones and Kallista Leonardos will captain the team this year.
Sophomore pitcher Neely Eddleston said she hopes the freshmen can learn quickly and adapt to the team better than she did in her freshman year.
“It’s going to be a huge learning curve for all of us. I’m hoping the freshmen can adapt better and quicker than I did because there are a lot of them and we’ll be counting on them a lot this year,” Eddleston said. “It’s a whole new team and we have a whole new mindset coming into this year and we have to learn to play as one team.”
Head coach Phil McElroy said the biggest challenge about having new players is communication.
“That’s one thing we’ve been trying to work on in preseason. It’s a matter of trying to communicate as best as we can on the field,” McElroy said. “Last year, we had the luxury of having a lot of seniors that had played with each other for quite a long time and I do think that some of these freshmen are just as talented, but communication is probably the biggest challenge.”
Tomich said the new players need to play like they have something to prove, especially given Emerson’s reputation as an underdog in athletics.
“I want [the freshmen] to play like we’re still the underdogs,” Tomich said. “Our freshmen just need to understand that we haven’t always been a higher ranked team and that we have to fight every second we’re on the field.”
Last season, the team recorded a .294 batting average and tallied 19 home runs—the second most in the conference. The Lions will have to fill the void left by Jacqueline DeF
rusco, who graduated last year and led the team in batting average at .422 with five home runs and 24 runs batted in.
On the pitching side, the team’s 3.89 earned runs average ranked sixth in the conference. As a team, they struck out a total of 94 batters with 70 of those strikeouts coming from Eddleston. McElroy said he hopes one of the team’s biggest strengths this year will come from its pitching rotation.
“I think we have good pitching and I think that pitching can win you a lot of games or keep you in a lot of games,” McElroy said. “I do think our pitching staff is a strength. We have six pitchers and that’s a lot. Our pitchers can pitch every day if needed.”
The Lions traveled to Plant City, Florida over spring break to play Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, Hood College, College of Saint Benedict, and Heidelberg University.
Tomich—from Lithia, Florida—said she is thrilled about the upcoming season and watching the team play in her home state during break. Tomich is currently sidelined with an arm injury and is unable to play for an extended period of time.
“I’m excited for Florida coming up. We had a great trip last year and I’m playing 30 minutes from my hometown this year,” Tomich said. “It will be our first time playing outdoors so it will be great to just see how the team does.”
The NEWMAC preseason coaches poll placed the Lions fifth among 10 softball teams. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs.
Eddleston said the team is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“I’m very excited to see what we can do—there’s a lot of high hopes going into the season,” Eddleston said. “We’re a fairly new team and we have a lot of underclassmen, so I really just want to be at the same level and compete with the same teams we did last year and maybe even do a little better than we did last year.”
The Lions will play a doubleheader on Friday, March 15 at home against Simmons University. The first game will start at 3 p.m. and the second game will start at 5 p.m.