March 5, 2007

Softball Sweeps Four Games at George Mason Classic

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If this weekend’s results are any indication, the softball team is ready to pick up right where it left off last year and surge forward in its quest for the Ivy title. The Red — which finished one game out of first place in the Ancient Eight the last two years — showed few signs of rust as it swept all four of its games at the George Mason Classic in Fairfax, Va. this past weekend.

“[The weekend] sets a great tone [for this season],” said senior co-captain Lauren Battaglia. “We came out and played really calm like we had already played 20 games.”
[img_assist|nid=21863|title=Gunning in the snow|desc=Senior co-captain Lauren Battaglia and the softball team got off to a hot start this season.|link=none|align=left|width=65|height=100]
The Red began each day of play by beating Niagara, with a 10-2 rout on Saturday and a 3-1 victory yesterday. The team also defeated host George Mason, 9-0, to close out the tournament. The road trip was especially successful compared to last year’s outing at George Mason, when the Red went 2-2.

“We had a small team. We came down and really struggled,” Battaglia said. “This year … we had solid defense, almost no errors. It was completely different.”

The Red, now supported by a standout freshman class, started out the 2007 season with a bang. Facing Central Connecticut State on Saturday, freshman Alyson Intihar hit the team’s first home run of the year.

“I try to hit for power, but I wasn’t thinking [about power] at the plate. I just connected with the ball, and it happened,” Intihar said.

Five freshmen in all saw playing time at first, second, third, short, and catcher. Women’s softball head coach Dick Blood is excited to see the rookies make an impact so early in the season.

“It gives us a little defensive flexibility later in the ball game,” Blood said.

Intihar also hit three doubles on Saturday. The second baseman “played exceptional defense” in addition to her offensive explosion, according to Blood. Junior outfielders Jenna Campagnolo and Ashley Wolf, the reigning Ivy batting champ, also had big hits for the Red.

Strong pitching remains one of the team’s greatest strengths. In their first starts of the season, junior Jen Meunier and sophomore Haley Mirrer performed well, hitting their targets.

“They were ahead of the count on nearly every batter,” Blood said. “So they didn’t have to play catch-up all day.”

Both Battaglia and Blood, however, expressed concern that the chilly field conditions caused some trouble for the pitchers. Ithacans accustomed to snow and sub-freezing temperatures may not view Virginia weather as such a problem, but softball is meant to be played in the spring.

“Cold takes a little spin off the ball,” Blood said. “[But] the kids did a great job of handling breaking balls when they had to.”

This weekend, Blood saw signs of what is to come. One “brilliant play” in particular came en route to a 3-1 victory against Niagara yesterday afternoon.

On a grounder to first, the Red attempted a 3-6-3 double play when Battaglia fired the ball to junior shortstop Samantha Hare covering second, who then threw back to first just short of completing the play. This play is more difficult in women’s fast pitch since the softball infield is smaller, so Blood was very impressed when Battaglia was aggressive enough to go for it.

“It was really tenacious defense [that] set the tone for the day,” Blood said.