With a demanding conference schedule approaching, the softball team prepped with a slew of games in sunny Clermont, Fla. and Winter Garden, Fla. over the past two weeks. During this span, the Cards went 10-4 on the strength of top-notch pitching and reliable hitting.

Highlighting the trip for the Redbirds were blowout wins over Austin College, Emmanuel College, Arcadia University, and Becker College.

“It has been a very exciting couple of weeks for us,” said Izzy Linzer ’17. “We came out of spring training with a 10-4 record, which was a huge motivator going into our regular season and certainly set the bar high for what we hope to accomplish in the coming weeks.”

Julie McDonald ’18 blanked Emmanuel, and Susan Pardo ’16 followed by posting a bagel against Arcadia in identical 6-0 results. McDonald only allowed two hits and with the offense supplying three runs in both the first and fourth innings, the Cardinals gave their pitcher more than enough support. Throwing against the Knights, Pardo received help from an RBI single off the bat of McDonald and from three runs off two at-bats from Rielly Wieners ’17.

The players had a knack for the dramatics with one-run wins over Bethany College, The College of New Jersey, The University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and Macalester College. Wes also recorded two-run triumphs over Framingham State College and Plattsburgh State College. The four losses, coming against Concordia University, Ursinus College, Emerson College, and The University of New England, totaled a difference of just eight runs, indicating the competitiveness of each game.

“The best part of Florida was seeing real payoff from all the hard work we put in during preseason,” Linzer said. “Our wins, and even our losses, were all competitive games. We were already playing at a high level after only three weeks of practice.”

Down 9-7 against The University of Wisconsin-River Falls with only three outs remaining, the Cardinals put together four consecutive hits, driving in three runs. The game-winning run would come on a Wieners’ double that drove in Amanda Roosa ’16.

The Cardinals earned another hard-fought 10-9 victory over Macalester in which the Scots jumped out to a 7-0 lead after the first inning. Trailing 9-7 again heading into the fourth inning, the Cardinals scored three runs to take the lead on a bases-loaded walk, a fielder’s choice, and a groundout.

“Every win has been a true team win,” Linzer said. “Our lineup is strong top to bottom. There aren’t just one or two people who come through in clutch situations and that’s absolutely key to being consistently successful.”

Although early in the season, the Cardinals have eight hitters who own batting averages north of .300, including McDonald at .457, Pardo at .400, and Linzer at .367. McDonald and Jamie Hom ’17 lead the team in on-base percentage at .510 and .435., respectively. Pardo and Annalie Walsh-Costello ’17 have already knocked in at least 10 runs apiece, and defensively, the whole team has only recorded 19 errors in 14 games, as opposed to its opponents, who have made 30 errors. After being near the bottom of the conference in fielding percentage one season ago, the Cardinals are now positioned in the upper echelon of the NESCAC.

“I can’t put enough emphasis on how important good communication is to having a successful defense.” Linzer said. “We’ve worked hard on that foundation and at this point we all have confidence in each other on the field, which allows us to push ourselves to play better.”

For striking out 29 batters and surrendering just 29 hits in the Sunshine State, Pardo was named NESCAC Pitcher of the Week. In the opener against Austin, Pardo broke the school record for most career strikeouts, passing the 397 tallied by Molly Gaebe ’07.

The Cardinals continued their success this past weekend after opening the home schedule with a double header sweep over Trinity. Since baseball and softball are the two NESCAC sports that divide the conference in half, the matchups versus the Bantams do not have any postseason implications.

Once again, pitching steered Wes in the right direction with victories of 4-3 and 1-0. In the first game, Pardo put away 13 batters and only allowed three runs in 6 innings of action.

With six outs left and needing two runs to tie the game, Hom led off the bottom of the fifth with a double, and Pardo brought her home with a two-run dinger. Just two batters later, Rachel Kantor ’19 smacked one past the fences, and a McDonald RBI single gave the Cards an extra insurance run at a 4-2 advantage. The additional RBI proved to be the difference as the Bantams could only push one more across the plate on a double from Meghan Race, Trinity’s sixth hitter.

In the second game of the day, the pitchers stole the show as only one run was scored in seven innings of play. The tally came late in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Roosa smacked a leadoff single and subsequently advanced to third base after a throwing error. Only 60 feet away from the win, Olivia Gorman ’19 knocked in Roosa to claim the 1-0 win for the Cardinals.

On the hill, Pardo’s earned run average currently stands at an impressive 2.07, and she is 6-0 with one save on a young season in just seven appearances. McDonald is no slouch on the mound either, posting a 5-0 record and throwing a complete game in three of those wins.

The Redbirds are an impressive 7-1 when leading after four innings and have two victories when trailing with two frames remaining. This shows their ability to hang tough in tight contests and find a way to pull out the victory. The team failed to jack one past the fences on its trip to Florida, but after belting two home runs against Trinity, the long ball has now been spotted in Middletown and players are firing on all cylinders.

The whole team is starting to hit its stride, with ten returning players and six new first-years already contributing to the roster. Wesleyan has already improved on its spring break trip from 2015, where it went 6-6. The Cardinals will hope to better a 4-8 mark in NESCAC West play this season, and with a deadly 1-2 pitching combo in Pardo and McDonald, the team has a chance to post some great accomplishments.

Cardinal softball returns to the field on Wednesday, March 30 to take on The U.S. Coast Guard Academy in a double header away from home. Wes will commence NESCAC West play in Middletown this weekend with a three-game series against Hamilton. In 2015, the Cards took two out of three from the Continentals and will look for similar, if not better results this time around.

“Hamilton is our first opponent from our half of the NESCAC, which obviously makes it an important series, but I think that going into the weekend we need to forget who we’re playing [and] just focus on each game individually.” Linzer said. “The goal is to incorporate what we’ve working on in practice and to play every game better than the last. If we do that instead of thinking about what these games mean for the overall season, we’ll be successful.”

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