This year’s softball squad will look to recapture the magic of last year’s record-breaking season, where they made their inaugural appearance in the NESCAC tournament. Last season saw their best record-to-date (21-15 overall, 9-3 in their division) as well as an exciting mid-season 12-game winning streak.
On the subject of the previous season’s successes, co-captains Marcia Whitehead ’08 and Becca Feiden ’08 seemed confident that this season will be no different.
“We have an excitement and a feeling of potential going into this year’s season” Whitehead said. “This sort of confidence and sense of purpose is something that is new and valuable for our program and for success, both this year and in the future.”
The Cardinals began their season in California, playing fourteen games in just seven days of competition. After going 1-9 in their first 10 games, the Cardinals came alive and won their last four games, including an impressive win over Tufts University, last year’s NESCAC champions. Last year the Jumbos helped end the Cardinal’s playoff run, winning 11-2 in the championship semifinals.
Wesleyan started out strong and led 6-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Tufts, who has always been known for their big bats, came back to tie the game, scoring six runs in the next two innings, four of which were unearned. With two on in the top of the seventh, Meaghen Dendy ’10 ripped a three-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 9-6 lead that she then helped secure by finishing the game on the mound.
“It was really exciting to beat Tufts, especially since it wasn’t even our best game — it just shows how high our potential is this year,” said Whitehead. We came into the game with a ton of energy and resilience and it certainly showcased the capabilities of our bats this year.” Overall, for the trip it was great that we ended on such a high note with the 4 wins and it helped us learn a lot for the rest of the season.”
“The first few teams we played were already into their 14th and 15th games so they definitely had an edge on us,” added Feiden. “ What is great about the experience though is that it gets us up to speed a lot faster and helped us see what we needed to strengthen.”
This year, the Cardinals return ten letter-winners who were a big part of last year’s successes. In addition to the returnees, the team welcomes four skilled and versatile newcomers to round out the talent. Of the ten returnees, the Cardinals have a lot to be excited about when it comes to batting as their top three sluggers are returning in Whitehead, Dendy and Molly O’Connell ’09, as well as two more players who hit over .300. In addition to belting an impressive .530 slugging percentage as a rookie, Dendy also silenced opponent bats on the mound, recording an impressive 3.30 ERA.
Joining her on the rubber is veteran Karla Hargrave ’08 who had the most innings pitched (78.1), strikeouts (67), and saves (4) in 2007. This year she is also leading behind the plate, batting an impressive .471. The final hurler will be freshmen Anu Rimal who should add depth to the pitching staff, giving the Cards an upper hand on many of their opponents who often only have two pitchers.
The infield is led by a strong defensive core of upperclassmen with Whitehead at third base, O’Connell at shortstop and Katie Grogan ’09 at second. The position of first base will be filled by Talia Bernstein ’11, as returner Sara Shor ’10 is out with a broken hand. Behind the plate the Cards have sophomore transfer Taylor Zavadsky, who batted .340 and had a solid .981 fielding percentage at Haverford College.
This season, the Cardinal outfield will see a combination of players, returners and rookies led by Feiden in center field. Left and right field will see the likes of Joanna Brownson ’08, Alicia Collen ’08, Julia Chamberlin ’09 and Lily Thalheimer ’11.
“The versatility of our new players is exciting for our lineup because it gives the team a greater ability to maintain the quality on the defensive side of the ball, while always pushing to find the best offensive combinations,” said Whitehead.
The newcomers have already made their presence known as Bernstein and Zavadsky, both having started every game, currently hold the second and third highest batting averages (.417 and .390) on the team. They have also proved solid on the field with the highest fielding percentage among starters (.980 and .976).
The Cardinals will host their first official NESCAC West game this Friday when they face off against Hamilton College. It will be the first game on Wesleyan’s new field which is in the same location but is now rotated 180 degrees from its previous position, leaving the sun on the outfielder’s backs. Hamilton is currently 5-2 but has played no other NESCAC teams. Last year the Cardinals beat them in all three matches and Hamilton finished in last place in NESCAC West with only one win.
“It is a very important game to set the tone for the season and to set us on the right track for conference play and for our journey to the playoffs,” said Feiden.