Softball team opens season, shares hopes to reclaim Ivy title

by Samantha Hussey | 2/27/17 2:15am

With spring quickly approaching, Dartmouth softball is out in full force, seeking its third league championship in four years. Last season, the Big Green finished with a 27-15 overall record and a 15-5 record in conference play. While Dartmouth was a favorite to win the league crown, the women lost 8-5 against Harvard University in a winner-take-all Game 2 in the Ivy League’s North Division. Harvard later lost to Princeton University in a best-of-three series.

For the players, this was heartbreaking, especially for the upperclassmen who were still riding the high of their back-to-back league championships in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons.

“Well, honestly, it sucked,” catcher and outfielder Karen Chaw ’17 said. “But, in the end, it was a wake-up call [for] our team that to compete we were going to have to work even harder, because none of us want to experience that feeling again.”

The team hopes to enter the new year with lessons from these losses. Pitcher Breanna Ethridge ’18 said the team realized how competitive the Ivy League is becoming, noting how the women must give each game an equal amount of effort.

“This season, I think we will be looking at all the other Ivy League teams differently,” Ethridge said. “After we won two straight titles, it was easy to think of ourselves [as] the [best] of the Ivies, but after coming up short last year, we have learned never to take anyone else for granted.”

One downside for the Big Green this upcoming season is the loss of Katie McEachern ’16, who holds the school’s all-time records in home runs with 40, RBIs with 129, runs with 128 and hits with 203. McEachern also closed the season batting an average of 0.380, the best career average by any player at Dartmouth.

While McEachern was a crucial part of the team, Ethridge is confident in the team’s ability to step up in her absence.

“We have a strong group of returning players this year with much experience,” Ethridge said.

This season, Dartmouth will see the return of four All-Ivy selections to its team, including Chaw, Morgan Martinelli ’19, Maddie Damore ’17 and Ethridge.

“The returners on this team have the goal of continuing to set the standards for the program and defining what it means to be part of Dartmouth softball,” first base and utility player Damore said. “We know where we want this team to go, and it’s our responsibility to lead the team there.”

The Big Green also added eight new faces to their roster — Jade Bravo ’20, Sophia Ausmus ’20, Micah Schroder ’20, Loghan Thomas ’20, Morgan Ebow ’20, Calista Almer ’20, Tessa Grossman ’20 and Tatyanah Castillo ’20.

“The recruiting classes get better and better each year, and this year’s [freshman] group is extremely talented,” Ethridge said. “They are extremely athletic and encompass all aspects of the game: speed, power, mechanics.”

Damore agreed, emphasizing the young team will lead to a very different team dynamic.

“For this year to be successful we are going to need every single person on the team to step up and make plays when they are called upon,” Damore said. “It is going to be a total group effort this season, which is super exciting.”

Despite the inexperience, the team is confident that it can succeed.

“We have numbers at every position and have a strong knowledge for the game,” Ethridge said.

She also pointed out that in practices, their coaches have focused on the little things, such as plays on defense and approach at the plate, which Ethridge believes will help the team improve in its ability to produce more runs and win more games.

Despite the team’s high expectations and recent success, it has failed to live up to them this past weekend, starting 0-4-1. In the Mardi Gras Classic in Louisiana, the team lost to Drake University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Bradley University and Mississippi Valley State University, and tied against Maryland University.

This weekend, the softball team will hope to improve its record in the Kennesaw State Tournament against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Kennesaw State University and Akron University.