After a tight loss to conference rival Amherst ended a nonetheless memorable 2016 campaign, the softball team entered the 2017 season eager to build on the previous year’s success. This would be easier said than done: the 2016 squad tallied an impressive 21 victories—the second most in program history—and remained highly competitive in NESCAC play, due in large part to the efforts of stellar pitcher and departing senior Su Pard0 ’16. Pardo left Wesleyan holding a slew of program records, including most career shutouts and strikeouts. The Cards would need to find a way to fill the void left by Pardo and the rest of the 2016 senior class if they wished to match, let alone surpass, last season’s win total.

Determined to prove they could rise to new heights even without their former star, the Cardinals began their 2017 schedule with a weeklong sojourn to Clermont, Fla., where the team faced an astounding 12 opponents over the course of just seven days. The trip began in a rather disappointing fashion, as the Cards dropped back-to-back contests against New England opponents Western Connecticut State University and University of New England. The Cards rallied the following day, defeating Becker College in a thrilling 8-7 game to earn their first victory of the season. A slew of tough losses followed this potential momentum-sparker: The Cards fell 7-5 to UMass Boston, and failed to vanquish 21st-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater two days later. Shaking off the loss against Wisconsin-Whitewater, the team turned their day (and potentially their season) around and trounced Babson College by a score of 6-1.

The win against Babson proved to be the spark the 2017 squad had been waiting for. The team went on to win its next four contests, blowing out the likes of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Union College by more than five runs before a 6-3 loss to Buffalo State University brought them abruptly back down to earth. However, the Cards were able to conclude their trip with a 4-0 shutout of Carleton College.

After returning to New England boasting a modest 6-6 record, the Cardinals tested their mettle against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. In the first game of their double-header, the squad failed to muster enough offense to vanquish the Bears, and fell by a score of 6-3. The second of the two contests demonstrated the Cardinals’ fighting spirit, even though the team came away just shy of victory. Down 16-8 in the bottom half of the sixth inning, the Red and Black mustered five straight runs to get within reach of the Bears entering the eighth inning. Though the team failed to score again, the late rally showcased the Cards’ offensive firepower and fortitude.

Four days later, the Red and Black battled conference rival Williams on home turf, hoping to earn their first NESCAC win of the season. The squad came up short in both legs of the doubleheader, dropping the first game 10-1 and losing the second contest 12-7. Just as they did against Coast Guard, the Cards’ bats did not come alive until late into the second contest, when they managed to drive home three runs in the seventh inning.

With the loss against Williams still fresh in their minds, the team made the short trek to Hartford for another NESCAC matchup, this time against in-state foe Trinity. From the game’s first pitch, it became apparent that the setback against the Ephs had motivated rather than discouraged the Cards. The team dispatched the Bantams 7-4 in game one of the doubleheader, then proceeded to shut out their Route Nine rivals 6-0 in game two. Rachel Kantor ’19 and Julie McDonald ’18 combined for the shutout, allowing just five hits total over the course of seven innings.

In the last of three consecutive conference matchups, Wesleyan faced the Bowdoin Polar Bears at home, hoping to reach a record of .500 for the second time all season. Despite admirable defensive plays from Kantor and Izzy Linzer ’17, the Red and Black fell short in the first game of the doubleheader by a score of 7-3. The second game of the day proved to be even more of a defensive struggle. Up 2-0 early in the contest, the Cardinals were unable to hold the Polar Bears’ offense at bay, and Bowdoin surged to a 3-2 victory.

The team will battle Eastern Connecticut State University today at 3 p.m., hoping to improve its winless record at home. The squad currently sits at 8-12 on the season.

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