BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Dartmouth softball team started its season today at the Florida Atlantic University Strike Out Cancer Tournament and fell to Tulsa 8-0 this morning and Illinois-Chicago 4-0 this afternoon.
Dartmouth opens the year 0-2 while the Golden Hurricanes move to 4-6 and the Flames improve to 3-2.
“It was nice to finally be outside and play on a field,” said head coach Shannon Doepking. “We got a chance to see a bunch of our freshman play a little bit and see what they can do. I thought there were a lot of bright spots, and definitely areas we can learn from and get better. I thought all and all our pitchers did a really nice job.”
Dartmouth vs. Tulsa
Playing as the away team against the Golden Hurricanes, senior Breanna Ethridge earned the starting job and pitched four innings, allowing four hits and three runs with four strikeouts. Tulsa got on the board early, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first when Morgan Neal scored on a single from Shelby Estocado, and Estocado scored immediately after on a double from Haley Meinen.
Dartmouth didn’t make it to first base again until the top of the fourth, trailing 3-0, when sophomore Loghan Thomas was hit by a pitch. Freshman McKenna Gray reached first on a fielder’s choice, but Thomas was tagged out at second. With one out left and the opportunity to cut the lead, freshman Schae Nelson walked and Gray advanced, but senior Claire Bird hit a line drive to first base and took the third out.
Freshman Heather Turner made her first collegiate appearance on the mound in the fifth inning, before the Tulsa bats caught fire in the bottom of the sixth, scoring five runs.
“In the first game, we got some bad breaks of a couple balls just falling in no man’s land over the infield’s head, but I didn’t feel that our pitchers gave up any hard hits today,” Doepking said.
Dartmouth vs. Illinois-Chicago
The Big Green returned for afternoon action against the University of Illinois-Chicago, playing as the home team and the Flames did not take long to get on the board, similar to the morning game. UIC’s Lexi Watts was walked in the first at-bat for the Flames and proceeded to steal second base. Watts advanced to third while her teammate Taylor Cairns grounded out and scored on the following single hit by Skylee James. Watts’ aggressive scoring set the tone for the rest of the game as UIC scored two more runs in the second on errors and stolen bases.
The closest Dartmouth would get to scoring against the Flames was in the bottom of the third when Thomas reached second on a wild pitch with two outs left, before Nelson's hit was caught out at center field. The Flames ended the game scoring one more run in the top of the seventh to seal the win.
Freshman Shelby Wilkison got the pitching start for the afternoon game, her first collegiate game and start, and fellow freshman Turner returned to sub in for Wilkison in the final two innings.
“Offensively we made a nice adjustment being more aggressive in the second game, but I still think we can continue to work on that,” Doepking said. “Defensively, we need to get better. We had a lot of balls mishandled that we are more than capable of fielding cleanly. We are never happy with a loss, but we will learn from these two and get better because of them.”
Dartmouth returns to the field tomorrow afternoon, taking on Texas State at 3:45 p.m. and facing host FAU at 6 p.m.