Softball Searching for NESCAC Crown
Issue   |   Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:37

It would be difficult for the Lady Jeffs to experience more regular-season success in 2013 than they had in 2012.

To give some idea of the extent of the squad’s early-season dominance, the Jeffs won their first 22 games of 2012 while relinquishing more than three runs in only three of those contests.

After a rare loss to Keene State, the Jeffs didn’t seem to be fazed: they went on to win 12 of their next 13 and looked to be in position to coast to a NESCAC Championship.

That, however, was not to be. Bowdoin, the same program that proved to be the Jeffs’ playoff nemesis on the baseball field, was just as stingy on the smaller field, downing the Amherst squad, 6-5, in a dramatic eight-inning game.

The deflation of this loss seemed to mire the Jeffs in an offensive funk; they would go on to lose to Tufts, 1-0, and to Middlebury, 2-1, and were promptly eliminated from contention on their home turf.

Inexplicably, with the league title on the line, the Jeffs had lost three straight for the first time all year. But even this could not negate the Jeffs’ early excellence, which earned them an at-large berth in the NCAA Div. III Tournament.

Once again playing on their home field throughout, the Jeffs went 2-2; their season ended on May 13 after a 4-1 loss to Cortland.

The Lady Jeffs may have won the Little Three title, made the NCAA tournament and recorded the 10th-best single-season turnaround in Div. III history, but, undoubtedly, they will not forget the abruptness with which their NESCAC season came to a halt.

Without speculating as to whether the Jeffs’ early success led to complacency later on, one can assume that the squad will be tweaking its formula somewhat in 2013.

As always, the focus on staying “hungry” will start at the top with the coaching staff. In this area, the Jeffs will be starting anew: longtime Coach Sue Everden stepped down following last spring in order to focus on her responsibilities with the volleyball team. In her place, Whitney Mollica Goldstein, Everden’s assistant of two years, was promoted to interim head coach.

Mollica Goldstein will lead a squad that features 11 returning players, which bodes well for the Jeffs’ chances to go the distance this time around.

As she was a year ago, senior Theresa Kelley will be the Jeffs’ unquestioned ace on the mound. In 2012, she compiled an astonishing 19-3 record to go along with a miniscule 1.16 ERA.

Joining her from the class of 2013 will be infielder Reilly Horan, a leader by example and, with a .345 average and 33 RBI’s in 2012, a key cog in the Jeffs’ lineup.

With only two seniors, the Jeffs will have a young team. That said, there is no shortage of talent among the squad’s returning sophomores and juniors. Quite the opposite: Donna Leet ’15 will be back in the middle of the Jeffs’ order after tearing up the league to the tune of a .408 average in 2012.

Fellow outfielder Kaitlin Silkowitz ’14 was nearly as fearsome last year, hitting at a .379 clip. Catcher Kelsey Ayers ’15 will also be invaluable to her team both for her offense and her quickly developing game-calling skills behind the plate.

Idalia Friedson ’15 and Carolyn Miller ’14, the Jeffs’ leading home run hitters a year ago, round out the returners.

Last year, the Jeffs got off to a great start by going undefeated over their spring trip to Clermont, Fla.

Ideally, the Jeffs would like to begin with the same kind of success this year; with 12 scheduled games over the week of spring break, the squad will have plenty of tune-up opportunities for its regular-season schedule. After returning north, the Jeffs will kick off league play on March 29 with a road series against Middlebury.

The squad will host Hamilton over the weekend of April 5-6 before a much-anticipated home-and-home with Williams over the weekend of April 12.

After playing Wesleyan and Keene State, the Jeffs will enter the NESCAC Championship on Friday, May 3, with — they hope — a seed as high as last year’s.

The Jeffs would like there to be one major difference, however: this time, they hope to end their NESCAC season with a victory.