Last year, after five games, the softball team was 2-3 and had already allowed 28 runs. But this year already feels different, said co-captain Julia Schoenewald ’17.
“This year, we’ve got a great team chemistry, and we have this fire,” she said. “We want to win, and we’re not going to settle for anything less.”
The Bears (4-1) entered their first contests of the season at the Winthrop Invitational in Rock Hill, South Carolina, looking to start the season off on the right note. With Katie Orona ’18 — who led the Bears in ERA last season — on the mound against Canisius (2-10), the Bears quickly took control of their opener. Orona did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, and the Bears cruised to a 5-1 victory.
Bruno then lost to tournament host Winthrop (7-7) but quickly regained its strong form. The team defeated Appalachian State (2-13) 4-1 on another complete game from Orona, then beat Wagner (2-2) 3-2 on a complete game from Leah Nakashima ’17. A three-run home run from Yeram Park ’18 in the sixth inning powered the Bears’ offense. Closing out the weekend, the Bears defeated Rider (0-5) 20-2, as the mercy rule ended the game after five innings.
“We had a really great first weekend,” Schoenewald said. “All the bats were pretty hot, and it’s only our first weekend out, so we can all get better.”
For her part, Schoenewald has already proven herself a key contributor. After batting .186 last year, she was 7-12 with three doubles and a home run in the Bears’ first four games, good for a 1.250 slugging percentage.
“I’m just trying to be confident at the plate,” she said. “I’ve got my teammates behind me, and I’ve been working really hard.”
But the bulk of the Bears’ offensive success over the weekend came from three other players. Co-captain Janet Leung ’16 batted .333 to open the season, while Park went 6-11 with a double and two home runs, driving in six. Outfielder Ashli Lotz ’19 also contributed, batting .563 and stealing three bases.
“The whole lineup was hitting,” Schoenewald said. “Pinch-hitters came in and got some big hits. Everyone was really contributing.”
Meanwhile, a few sources of offense for the Bears in past years have not yet hit their stride. Both Lauren Hanna ’17, who batted .306 last year, and infielder Christina Andrews ’17, who missed most of last season due to injury but batted .288 in 2014, had just one hit in the team’s opening games. If the two can find their offensive rhythms while the rest of the lineup continues to hit, the Bears will be a formidable opponent.
“We have so many strong players on this team, you never really know from one day to the next who’s going to be on,” Schoenewald said. “We have enough depth this year that everyone can really contribute to the offense. That’s something we haven’t had before.”
Bruno’s pitching staff is also off to a promising start. Behind Orona, who is quickly becoming the team’s ace, the Bears have the depth to compete no matter who takes the mound, Schoenewald said.
The Bears are off until Friday, when they travel to North Carolina for the annual Spartan Classic tournament at UNC Greensboro for five games in three days. The road ahead is grueling: The squad will play 24 consecutive games on the road before its first home game April 9 against Cornell, and 18 of the games will be played in March.
But after their hot start, the Bears are prepared to take on the season ahead.
“With each game, our team focuses on having quality at-bats on offense and always working hard to get on base and score runs,” Leung wrote in an email to the Herald. “On the defensive side of things, we focus on being aggressive and playing good defense behind our pitcher. In the end our goal is to be in that final playoff game and win the Ivy League Championship.”
But the team is not yet preoccupied with its upcoming schedule and plans to take the season one game at a time, starting next weekend against Rutgers.
“It was a great way to start our season, being able to play outside in the warm weather,” Leung wrote. “With that being said, there are still things we will take back to Brown and work on and improve for the upcoming weekend.”