Softball looks to reach new heights as season nears

Courtesy+of+Kate+Foultz

Courtesy of Kate Foultz

By Megan Maclaren

The softball team ranked fifth in the NEWMAC conference in 2019. This season, with nine players entering their sophomore season, the team is aiming to not only return to the playoffs but climb higher in the conference rankings.

“Being in the middle of the pack is something to be proud of,” head coach Phil McElroy said in an interview. “We have a goal to be better than that, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves.”

The Lions enter the season looking to fill the void left by catcher Kallista Leonardos, who declared for the American Softball Association draft at the end of the 2019 season. As one of two seniors last season, along with outfielder Marisa DeFranco, Leonardos made an impact both on and off the field as a team captain. Leonardos played in all 40 games in 2019, totaled eight home runs, and recorded a .319 batting average.

McElroy said he will take multiple approaches to fill the spot Leonardos left on the roster.

“She was one of those kids that you don’t often get,” McElroy said. “I think we’ll try it in different ways, try and string a couple more hits together rather than just waiting for Kallista’s bombs.”

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Nine of the 15 players this season are sophomores, with shortstop Micaela Dix as the only senior on the roster this season.

“The sophomore group got to spend a lot of time on the field as freshmen,” McElroy said. “So we’re hoping that they take that experience and run with it.”

For spring break, the Lions will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona, to play in the National Fast Pitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic against other Division III teams. For the players, the games will be a way to prepare for their challenging New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference opponents.

“We’re playing some really good teams in Arizona, so it’s going to be a level of competition that will definitely prepare us, if not be more intense than what the NEWMAC might be,” sophomore outfielder Mallory Shofi said in an interview. “It’s going to be challenging for us, but I think that it is going to teach us to be resilient.”

Junior pitcher Neely Eddleston started in 24 games during the 2019 season and received a spot on the 2019 all-conference second team.

“The teams that we usually play in Florida, some are hard and some are easy,” Eddleston said in an interview. “We need to have a hard time in Arizona and then be ready for the NEWMAC.”

Eddleston, one of four upperclassmen, said she is more confident going into the season and wants to use her position to help the Lions succeed this season.

“We have a lot of talent, but we haven’t figured out how to use it yet,” Eddleston said. “I get to have this upperclassman role and help the underclassmen but also help my team in a bigger way than I have in the past two years.”

The Lions will play their first regular-season games in Massachusetts at Suffolk University in a doubleheader at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on March 20. The first home game for the Lions will be a doubleheader on March 21 against NEWMAC opponent Worcester Polytechnic Institute at 4 p.m and 6 p.m.