Emerson softball needed only one more out to advance to the next round of the 2011 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) playoffs. With the GNAC Pitcher of the Year Kelsey Tuthill on the mound facing off against Johnson & Wales, it looked to be a done deal.
But the Wildcats, who finished with a .500 record, rallied in the seventh inning and shocked the top-seeded Emerson with a 5-4 win. The Lions were eliminated from the playoffs and came away from the regular season without any trophies to show for a 22-2 record.
After a long offseason to reflect on the loss, the 2012 team is ready to make amends for its early exit, according to senior captains Tuthill and Kendall Peiguss.
“I think we’re out for blood,” said Peiguss. “We don’t want that to ever happen again. That is the thing that’s kicking our butts all the way through the season.”
As with last season, the Lions have a roster filled with both talent and experience. Four returning players were named to the All-Conference team last year, and pitcher Alex Magistro surrendered the fewest runs in the conference. Tuthill and Peiguss have both played in GNAC Championship games.
Magistro, who started that game against the Wildcats as a freshman, said that she feels more prepared with last year’s playoff games under her belt.
“I don’t think I really realized how badly everyone wanted to beat us until we lost and people were on their phones calling their parents and saying ‘They’re out of the tournament, we’re so happy.’” said the sophomore visual and media arts major.
As freshmen, Tuthill and Peiguss were members of the 2009 championship team. Now, in their final season, the captains said they would like to go out on top.
“I don’t want to have only one time [in the Championship],” said Tuthill, “especially knowing the talent we have on our team. I want all of the underclassmen to get that same feeling, and I’d love to experience it with them.”
Tuthill will have batting in the sophomore class to support her — third baseman Shannon Torosian was fifth in the GNAC in overall batting average at .398, while leadoff hitter Brittany Rochford hit .429 in conference play.
One of the obstacles Emerson faces is its small roster, according to head coach Phil McElroy. The Lions will begin the season with only 14 players. McElroy said this fact may make it difficult for Emerson to be as dominant down the stretch as it was last year.
“Our numbers are not what they’ve been in the past,” said McElroy, who recorded his 300th career win last April. “Only having 14 might hurt us a little bit when it comes to our overall record, just because it might be tough to win so many games in a row.”
Last year, Emerson fielded 17 players.
With Sierra Wood having graduated last spring, McElroy said the team is lacking in experience at the catcher position. Wood was a stalwart defensively behind the plate, starting 32 games in 2011. The Lions will look to sophomore Tatiana Motevalli-Oliner and senior Colleen Casey to fill the void. McElroy said the team will also miss Sara Murray, who pitched 11 games in relief as a senior last season.
Emerson will make the trip down to Florida for preseason exhibition games again this year. McElroy said that, as in the past, the competition will test the team’s mettle for the upcoming season, beginning with a doubleheader against Neumann College and DeSales University March 4.
“I think that every team we’re playing in Florida would be at the top of our league,” McElroy said. “I think we’ll learn right away who can play on that big stage, and hopefully that prepares us for the top teams in our conference.”