Lions aim for playoff spot after hot start

Softball looks to qualify for playoffs after last place ranking in preseason coaches' poll

Emerson softball is poised to make the playoffs for the first time since joining the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference in 2014.

The Lions, 15-9 (3-7 NEWMAC), were picked to finish in last place in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll. However, with six games left in NEWMAC play the team is within one spot of a postseason bid. All the team needs now is to win the majority of their final six conference games.

“We can make the playoffs, and we will make the playoffs so long as we keep playing our game,” senior infielder Jillian Gearin said. “We need people to just kind of figure out what we do. All of us have been playing softball for almost 12 years at least. We know the fundamentals.”

The Lions split their first three outings—all of which were doubleheaders—with teams picked to finish multiple standing slots above them: Mar. 24 vs. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (W 9-6, L 9-5), Mar. 30 vs. Wellesley College (L 9-5, W 7-4), and Mar. 31 Springfield College (W 2-1, L 6-1).

Coach Phil McElroy said getting picked to finish last by his colleagues invigorated his squad.  

“I think we took it as a little bit of an insult, a little bit of a shot at what may be the respect that used to be there,” McElroy said. “Maybe we had to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, maybe they’re looking at us as a team that is not competitive.’”

The Lions—who boast a team batting average of .440—struggled last weekend, as they were outscored 21-4 in four straight NEWMAC losses.  

“This weekend was a little bit of a struggle, but I think it also is a little bit of a wakeup call,” Gearin said. “I pulled the returners together after the game and said, ‘Make sure you remember this isn’t last season.’”

Gearin said that in past seasons off-the-field commitments hurt the team, but that this year has been different.

“The past three years have been very difficult for all the seniors, and last year we decided to make a change,” Gearin said. “We said, we need to make sure people are lifting three to four times a week, and that people are putting softball first aside from academics.”

McElroy said he is satisfied with the team’s efforts.

“Overall, I think it has been a pleasant surprise the way we’ve played,” McElroy said.

Emerson next hosts Smith College for the second annual Sexual Assault Awareness Game. The doubleheader starts at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 13, and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council is providing Shake Shack catering for the event.  

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