The softball team entered spring break having lost five of its last six after a promising start. But with a strong showing over the recess, which saw Bruno’s (13-10, 2-2 Ivy) first Ivy League games against Penn and Columbia, the team set a good tone for the rest of its season, notching five comeback wins.
Perhaps Bruno’s most impressive victory came against the Lions (7-19, 2-2) at the end of the eight-game slate.
After struggling at bat and dropping the first matchup by a 4-1 decision, the Bears looked to split the doubleheader as well as their conference record in game two. For most of the game, their effort looked to be for naught. Leah Nakashima ’17 allowed three runs in the bottom of the third. The Bears managed runs in the fourth and fifth, but the Lions continued scoring as well.
Then, the tides changed for Bruno in the seventh.
“We all had confidence; we knew something was going to happen,” said pitcher Katie Orona ’18. “We knew we were going to score. It was a matter of how many we were going to score.”
Entering the inning, the Bears trailed 6-2, but they began to close the gap with three consecutive singles to load the bases. Infielder Christina Andrews ’17 then drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. Sofia Venegas ’19 walked to load the bases again, bringing Annie Scarangella ’19 to the plate as the go-ahead run with two outs.
“Everyone always has confidence in her,” Orona said. “She’s been in these situations before.”
The go-ahead run is exactly what she proved to be: Scarangella’s blast over the left-field wall cleared the bases and gave Bruno a 7-6 lead. After the Bears were retired, Gina Chieffallo ’17 took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and set down the side in order, giving the Bears an unexpected series split and an even Ivy League record.
“Coming away with the split really sends a message to everyone that we can play in the latter innings,” Orona said. “If you’re up even five against us, we can come back, and we can still win it. It really shows how tough we are, and I’m very proud of (Scarangella) and everyone else.”
But the Lions were not the first team to blow a lead against the Bears. Before Ivy play began, the Bears first took on Mount St. Mary’s (6-21) in a doubleheader Tuesday, but from the outset, they did not look primed for a victory. Bruno was held scoreless through five innings, but fortunately for the Bears, Orona remained in control on the mound. The ace allowed only five hits and one run.
“It was kind of tough,” Orona said. “We had a long travel schedule, and then our games were canceled, so we were sitting for a day. We expected a slow start offensively.”
But the Bears broke through in the sixth, as a walk, a hit-by-pitch and an RBI single from Yeram Park ’18 tied the game. In the seventh, Scarangella singled up the middle, chasing home Emily Springfield ’18 and giving the Bears a 2-1 lead. Orona retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh, giving the Bears a comeback win.
“Obviously it was a huge deal to get off to a good start,” Orona said. “It really showed a lot of character from the team.”
In the nightcap, the Bears once again found themselves down early, but two runs in the second and one in the fifth allowed them to take a 3-1 lead. Bruno put the game out of reach in the sixth with six runs, and the Bears came away with a 13-2 win to sweep the doubleheader.
“Our bats just started warming up — everyone got comfortable,” Orona said. “A trend that the team has is the second game we really get comfortable. Hopefully we can start hitting a little bit earlier.”
The Bears took on UMBC (16-20) the following day in the last series before Ivy play commenced and found themselves victimized by errors. Despite a sterling effort from Orona, who posted six innings and two earned runs, and a home run from co-captain Janet Leung ’16, the Retrievers scored three unearned runs, which proved the difference in a 5-3 loss.
“The purpose of the games prior to Ivy League play is to smooth out the wrinkles, get more comfortable,” Orona said of the Bears’ errors. “Overall, I’m glad we got the mistakes out of the way then, and moving forward, we can see our mistakes and correct them.”
But the Bears once again rallied in the nightcap. A five-run onslaught in the first from the combined efforts of co-captain Julia Schoenewald ’17 and Andrews was all the Bears would need, as Nakashima allowed only one unearned run.
Ivy League competition began with a doubleheader against Penn (13-11, 2-2). Orona took the mound in game one and was brilliant once again, going eight innings and not allowing an earned run. The Quakers scored an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and send it to extras, but a three-run homer from Andrews in the eighth — her first of the season — and three Orona outs later, the Bears had a 5-1 victory.
“A couple of lucky things happened for them, but there wasn’t a panic on the team, which we’ve had in previous years as well as in the early part of this season,” Orona said.
But the Bears could not manage a win in the nightcap, getting shut out 2-0 despite a solid performance from Nakashima who moved to 3-4, despite a 3.55 ERA. Bruno’s bats went silent, as it recorded five hits but could not score a run.
After playing URI Tuesday, the Bears will enter a long stretch of Ivy play, with games against Princeton, Cornell and Dartmouth. The conference standings are tightly packed, with five different teams at 2-2. With a strong showing in their next 10 games, the Bears have a chance to stake out a position ahead of the pack.
“Those first-Ivy weekend jitters are out of the way, and we’ll play less nervous and hopefully come away with some bigger wins,” Orona said. Obviously, the goal every game is to come out and play our best game, and I think we will.”