Entering Friday’s contest against Suffolk University, freshman catcher Tatianna Motevalli-Oliner had only played in nine of the softball team’s 29 games.
But by the middle of the afternoon Saturday, the marketing communication major found herself behind the plate for the Lions, calling the pitches for her team.
Normally head coach Phil McElroy is the one to call the pitches from the dugout for his starting senior catcher Sierra Wood. But this time around, McElroy put faith in his freshman catcher and let her loose.
The move was part of a shake-up by McElroy to get his starters more rest before the playoffs, which begin this Tuesday, and also to let his bench see playing time against a struggling Suffolk squad, according to McElroy.
In some cases, going to the bench can cost a team victories because of the inexperience among reserves. But this was not the case for the Lions.
In a double-header against the Rams (3-11, 8-22), the Lions (16-2, 20-10) utilized the depth of their bench to cruise to 12-0 and 8-0 victories.
“We don’t look at any of [our players] as bench players,” McElroy said. “We are just trying to find the squad that fits together. We try to make sure that we’re gelling.”
Suffolk has struggled this season, with only one win in 10 conference games. The Lions took advantage of poor pitching, scoring early and often, offering the Rams little respite.
McElroy said the big cushion allowed him to tool with his lineup. Bianca Buono moved to third base, Shannon Torosian shifted to shortstop, and Kendal Peiguss (the starting shortstop) went to center field.
Buono played well, making several strong throws across the diamond, including a double play where she caught a line drive and picked a runner off first base.
The starting duo, Kelsey Tuthill and Alex Magistro, shut down the Rams. Then Alicia Daniele and Sara Murray went in to finish up the first and second games, respectively.
There were times in the first game when the Rams’ pitching showed signs of life. In the fourth and fifth innings, Suffolk retired the first two batters without a hitch, but the Lions’ batters were undaunted and battled back.
But when the Lions were up to bat, a favorite cheer in the dugout was “bat around!”, a feat the team accomplished on more than one occasion.
McElroy said that despite the heavy use of reserve players, there were very few weak spots in the Lions’ lineup.
“We did a good job of being patient today,” said McElroy, who recently recorded his 300th win at Emerson. “We were a little more selective. I’ve been trying to get [the batters] to get the ball up. They did, and we hit the ball a lot higher.”
With two outs and two runners on base, Kelsey Tuthill helped her own cause and belted a two-run triple. Lissa Pappas drove in Tuthill before Peiguss followed with an RBI double off the left field wall. The Lions added a total of four runs before Suffolk finally recorded the third out.
“We try to look at two outs as a positive situation,” said Buono, a freshman broadcast journalism major. “The game is all about putting the pressure on, and we have a lot of players who are good under pressure.”