Garnet Look to Build on Impressive Start

Riding a 6-2 record from eight games during spring break, one could understand if the softball team needed a bit of a rest.  But that will come later.  For now, the Garnet have picked up where they left off, playing another six games in just five days in doubleheaders against Rutgers-Newark, PSU-Berks, and Muhlenberg.  Swarthmore won half of those games to stay four games above .500, with a record of 9-5.

Against Rutgers-Newark, Melissa O’Connor ’14 continued her blazing start to the season on the mound, earning the win in both games, first in relief and then in a complete-game effort.  She allowed just one run off six hits in the 2-1 victory to lower her ERA to a miniscule 1.20.

Sam Bennett ’13 said pitching has been a strength of the Garnet so far this year, and that “We’re expecting pitching to continue to be a strong-suit.”  She added, “Melissa O’Connor was a force to be reckoned with in Myrtle Beach, and we are expecting great things from her in the next few weeks. Suness Jones ’16, Christen Boas-Hayes ’16, and Chelsea Matzko ’15 have all been doing a great job as well, forcing ground-outs and getting us out of high-pressure situations.”

Bennett added that the Garnet have been hitting well, in addition to “doing all of the little things correctly.”  While big innings have been possible thanks to, for example, Nicole Aaron ’14’s three-run home run in a win against PSU-Berks, Bennett pointed out that that was not the only aspect of the Swarthmore offense: “Our baserunning has been the difference-maker in many of our games.” This means that overall, “We have the perfect combination of power and short-game in our lineup, and everyone is contributing.”

O’Connor thought the recent games provided a good test before the Centennial Conference opener, although she pointed out that since the goal is to win, perhaps non-conference games aren’t too different from conference ones. “This past weekend we faced some really good competition that will prepare us for our conference opponents. I don’t think there’s much difference between conference and nonconference games—we are always striving to win and challenge all of our opponents to make every game competitive.”

Bennett was impressed with how the team has responded in tight games, considering it a huge improvement over recent years. “Several times this year, we have come back from rather large deficits to win it. These are games we would’ve lost last year, especially in conference play. When the pressure was on, we collapsed. But I think our attitudes have changed, and we have more confidence in ourselves to get the job done.”

Unfortunately, comebacks can’t happen in every game, and it showed in the Garnet’s Centennial opener against Muhlenberg.  Despite striking first with runs in the first inning of each game, the Mules slowly erased the early leads and pulled away, defeating Swarthmore 9-2 and 9-3.  In both games, the Garnet rallied late in the game to threaten the Mules before falling.

Despite playing so many games in such a short span, Bennett said last week’s games were actually a bit of rest, and did not require much of an adjustment. “Especially down in Myrtle Beach, we played a lot of games in a very short period of time (and very early in the morning). Although people were aching, everyone stepped it up and gave 100% of their effort 100% of the time. With games being a little more spread apart than they were down there, I don’t think we will have trouble adjusting.”

O’Connor agreed, adding that “We worked very hard in preseason to prepare ourselves, and made the most of every practice and lifting session.”  Above all, Bennett pointed out that games are fun: “We love playing games and testing the skills we practice.”

It’s good that the team feels they are prepared for so many games, as the schedule will not clear up until the end of the season.  The Garnet play in a doubleheader roughly every other day between now and April 27.

The grind continues this afternoon as the Garnet host Cairn in a doubleheader at Clothier Field, with a first pitch scheduled for 3:00.  The Centennial schedule picks up again on Saturday, when Swarthmore plays host to Gettysburg.

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