Softball Looks to Next Season After 4-12 Finish in NEWMACBy Damian Vega
First-year head coach Lisa Naas grabbed the reigns of the MIT softball program this year, set on turning it into a winner. How? The three-year plan.
“We wanted to win more games this year than last,” Naas said. “We accomplished that and actually, we were just hitting our stride towards the end of the season. My goal is to be at about .500 next year.”
“Barring any injuries or unexpected losses, this team should be contenders in 2004,” she said.
After winning only one NEWMAC game in 2001, the Engineers upped that total to four games this year. On the season, MIT finished 4-12 in the conference and 4-20 overall.
“The best part about this season was finally getting respect from other players and coaches in the league,” said shortstop Erin L. Hult ’04, who led the squad with a .306 batting average overall. “It’s nice to scare the other team a little bit, and know they won’t be laughing at you in the locker room.”
“I never thought I would say this about a 4-20 season, but I enjoyed it, and I hate to lose more than anything,” said second baseman Megan C. Daugherty ’03. “This season was a vast improvement over last year.”
After struggling through the first half of the season, the Engineers turned the corner in a doubleheader loss to Springfield (3-0, 8-4).
Despite the loss, Hult said that something clicked for the team in that game. “We started playing like everyone on the team was hoping we could,” she said. “If we had played at that level for the first half of the season I think we could easily have doubled our wins.”
Second half turnaround for MIT
Even with the slow start, MIT still provided the opposition with several anxious moments in the second half of the year.
With a 2-1 win over Clark -- who finished second in the standings -- MIT was gaining confidence headed into a showdown with league-leading Wheaton (ranked fourth nationally). Trailing 1-0 entering the top of the sixth, the Engineers exploded for two runs.
Freshman Carly Saylor ’05 and senior Amy C. Lin ’02 both walked to lead off the inning. With one out, Hult grounded into a fielder’s choice to advance the runners. Daugherty then came through on a 1-2 count with a single up the middle to plate Saylor and Lin to make it 2-1 MIT.
After senior captain Kristine L. Goldrick walked to start off the seventh, Brittany S. Adamson ’05 was hit by a pitch. Saylor, however, was able to drive in Goldrick with a single to make it 3-1. Wheaton, though, answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 4-3 win.
“With the exception of the last inning, that was my favorite game of the year,” Daugherty said. “We earned a lot of respect in that game.”
Engineers top WPI twice in a row
The Engineers continued to build up respect around the league with a pair of five-inning mercy rule games against winless WPI. Last year, MIT split the doubleheader, but this time around the team showed just how far they have come.
Junior pitcher Darcy Kelly, who was voted the team MVP and Academic All-Conference, picked up her third win of the year in a 9-1 win in the first game, while Saylor notched her first collegiate victory by virtue of a 10-2 decision.
“Darcy’s pitching came on strong toward the end of the year,” Daugherty said. “[Catcher] Nicole Paul is doing a great job behind the plate and our hitting finally started to come around.”
Still, after staying within striking distance, 2-0, against Wheaton in the NEWMAC tournament, the Engineers dropped the first round contest 8-0. Nevertheless, an optimistic outlook remains.
“I am really looking forward to next year,” Daugherty said. “We have two good pitchers and that is a huge part of being successful. The best part of this season was that it made us believe and it gives us something to look forward to. It’s a great group of people and I can see more wins coming.”