Emerson softball dazzles in spring break play, looks ahead to season


The Emerson softball team (courtesy of Claire Overton)

By Jordan Pagkalinawan, Managing Editor

After a promising start to their season in Florida over spring break, the Emerson softball team is looking to build off of their success in the Sunshine State with 26 more games until a potential postseason.

The Lions went 6-2 in their trip to Fort Myers last week, including a dominant 19-3 opening day victory over Rutgers University at Newark on March 13 and a five-game win streak. 

Last season’s team—which went 17-19 overall—saw six seniors and one junior graduate from the program. Head Coach Phil McElroy, who is entering his second decade of coaching the Lions, acknowledged that the lack of seniors on this year’s squad was “certainly a concern.” 

Instead, the senior-less squad relies on two junior captains to lead them: shortstops Claire Overton and Makenzie Killough. Overton said she believes the two are up for the challenge.

“Mak and I had some great leaders before us that we were able to learn from,” she said. “That’s definitely been an important part of us going into that leadership role. We learned from people that were really able to lead a team, and we’re continuing to not only use what we learned from them, but also add our own leadership qualities to the team.”

McElroy added another focus for this year: “trying to [keep] the team drama to a minimum.”

“Anytime you have a team that’s around each other a lot, you have a tendency to be in each other’s business too much,” he said. “Just trying to keep it sane and keep the positive vibes going.”

Overton said that the team’s lack of experience makes for an interesting season.

“Makenzie and I have [only] eight games ahead of the sophomore class [due to COVID],” she said. “We’re all coming out of COVID still. It creates an extra challenge for us, but I think we’re ready to take on that challenge and ready to play this year.”

Another unique aspect of this season’s softball team is its unusually small size. Emerson has 13 players on its roster, a far cry from conference opponents such as Springfield’s team of 21, MIT’s of 20, and Smith, Babson, Wellesley and Wheaton all with 17.

McElroy added that the team’s smaller size will give players more opportunities to get on the field.

“Any single one of them can get on the field at any given time,” he said. “Even though numbers are small, we have some good talent, and hopefully that leads to some wins.”

McElroy said the team’s goals are to take things one game at a time and not stress over standings in the NEWMAC.

“It’s probably the most challenging conference in the New England area,” he said. “Goal-wise, [we will] take it game by game, [and] try to have a little bit better record than we had last year. As always, let’s just try to slide into the playoffs and make some noise.” 

The Lions have another new addition in former Boston College assistant coach John Pandolfo, who joined the Lions after nearly a decade in Chestnut Hill, Mass. McElroy said Pandolfo is bringing offensive expertise to the program at an ideal time.

“We really needed that after last year,” he said. “Last year, I thought we pitched well and played solid defense, but offensively, we just didn’t put enough runs across the board.”

The team’s captains have provided valuable pieces of advice for the younger players, some of whom are getting their first full season under their belts after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just play like you know how,” Overton said. “Becoming a collegiate athlete can be a little intimidating sometimes—getting on the field for the first time, playing for a coach that recruited you and making sure you want to play to the standards you might think he has … Give it 100 percent and you’ll be on the field.”

Overton said students can expect good games from this young and hungry group of Lions.

“The NEWMAC is a very competitive conference, especially for softball,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of time hitting, so I’m hoping we can see some big hits, maybe some home runs at Rotch, and just a good season [overall].”

McElroy noted the uncertainties behind having a young team, but he is expecting some leaps from his returning players and is excited to see the first-year contributions.

“Because we’re so young, I really don’t know [what people can expect],” he said. “If we can stay healthy, we can make a run for the playoffs. I’m hoping that Mak and Claire can build on what they did offensively last year. [I’m] looking for Jess Gomez—who was our #1 pitcher last year as a freshman—looking for her to hopefully build on that. And I’m very interested to see what the freshmen can do.”

“It seems to be hopefully a fun [and] interesting year,” he added. “And we’ll just hope for the best.”

The Lions played a doubleheader on Tuesday at Emmanuel College falling 7-2 and 7-6 (in 8 innings). They face another doubleheader, this time against Suffolk, on March 24 at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.