Emerson softball continued its hot start to the season against Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a Saturday afternoon conference doubleheader at home. The Lions took the first game, 9-8, before falling to the Engineers 9-5 in the second.
Starting off, the odds were not in the Lions’ favor in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference after they were voted to finish last out of the 10 teams in the preseason coaches poll.
Junior Kallista Leonardos—one of the top offensive threats on the team since she stepped foot on campus with a .353/.414/.668 slash line and 22 home runs over her career—stressed that they cannot let up and must continue their hot start to 2018.
“I think that our split with WPI was essential to keeping our momentum going,” Leonardos said. “With the way the team played in Florida, it’s easy to stay complacent, but our mindset going into conference play was to stay hot and be humble.”
The Lions started the season with an impressive 7-1 record during their trip to Orlando, thanks to freshman Neely Eddleston and senior Casey Tsamis. Both pitchers ranked in the top-5 in ERA after the successful week, and Eddleston led the NEWMAC in wins, as she went 5-0.
The first game against WPI turned into a shootout, as both teams kept exchanging runs en route to six lead changes.
After a 1-1 tie through the first frame, senior Molly Goldstein stroked a double into the left-center gap to score sophomore Micaela Dix. Goldstein later scored on a wild pitch to give the Lions a 3-1 lead.
WPI took the lead right back from Emerson in the top half of the third with four runs of their own. The Lions earned one run back in the bottom half to make the score 5-4.
Leonardos gave the Lions the lead in the fourth inning with a two-run single. Another run would come home on a wild pitch to give the Lions a 7-5 lead.
However, WPI came back again in the fifth inning on three runs, as the Lions failed to tie it up in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Tsamis—who was able to keep the Lions in the game long enough to win—pitched a scoreless sixth inning to give Emerson a chance to answer WPI in the bottom half. With the bases full of Lions and two outs in the sixth inning, junior Alena Jones worked a walk to score the game-tying run.
Eddleston replaced Tsamis in the seventh inning and sent the Engineers down in order without allowing a runner to reach base, which set up for a thrilling finish to the first game of NEWMAC play.
After a leadoff walk to senior Jill Gearin and a wild pitch, Caroline Fortuna found room between the second baseman and right fielder as she dropped in a single to set the Lions up to win the game. Sophomore Marisa DeFranco then perfected a swinging bunt, scoring Gearin from third to win the game.
Eddleston picked up her NEWMAC-leading sixth win on the season, before dropping her first game of the season in the second game.
The Lions were unable to match the Engineers bats in the second game of the doubleheader, as they lost 9-5. Despite going 1-1 on the day, Goldstein was thrilled to start conference play on a good note and prove that their success down south wasn’t a fluke.
“Coming off of going 7-1 in Florida, many people still doubted us,” Goldstein said. “It was nice to come out and show them that we’re different than what they might’ve seen in the past couple years.”
Even with low expectations from NEWMAC, Leonardos stressed they shouldn’t change the way they play.
“We have a lot stacked against us, but we are going to play the game we know which is going to be the key to our success,” Leonardos said.
With a record of 8-2 through their first 10 games, Goldstein said she believes their conference foes shouldn’t overlook the Lions.
“We’re here to compete, and we’re going to compete with a lot of teams that just view us as an easy win,” Goldstein said.
The Lions will continue their 2018 campaign with a non-conference doubleheader against Lesley University on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. at Rotch Field.