For the first time since May 2019 the Tufts University softball team will take the field on Saturday as the Jumbos open their 2021 season with a pair of games at Middlebury College.
Prior to the 2020 season being canceled due to COVID, the 2019 Jumbos won the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESAC) Championship and hosted an NCAA Regional at Spicer Field. Nine players from that 32-10 squad are on the 2021 roster to lead head coach Lauren Ebstein's Jumbos.
(Photos from 2019 and 2018 seasons)
Senior pitchers Kristina Haghdan and Kristi Van Meter were both New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) All-Conference selections in 2019 and will lead the Jumbos in the circle. Van Meter, the NESCAC Pitcher of the Year that season, finished 13-3 with a 1.54 earned run average. Haghdan, whose 20 starts were the most for Tufts that year, was 13-4 with a 2.07 mark. Tufts led NESCAC with a 1.91 era and 11 shutouts in 2019.
Senior Cassie Cancemi, junior Nicole Russo and freshman Sophia DiCocco will also see innings this spring in an area that will be a strength for the Jumbos.
The return of starting infielders Casey Maggiore at first, senior Emma Della Volpe at second and senior Mia Steinberg at short is another plus on Tufts’ side. Maggiore, who is using an extra year of eligibility after losing last season, was All-Conference and a National Fast-pitch Coaches Association All-Region choice in 2019. She hit .353 with 15 doubles, two home runs and 29 runs batted in that year. Della Volpe is the table-setter for the Jumbos, scoring 28 runs with a team-high 20 walks, 10 doubles and three triples out of the lead-off spot in ‘19. She fielded 152 of her 160 chances for a solid .950 percentage. Steinberg showed pop in 2019 with six doubles, three triples and three home runs while scoring a team-best 32 runs. The six double plays she helped turn were one of the top marks in NESCAC for middle infielders.
The third base job is open with sophomore Rachel Moore and freshman Lexi Grein competing for the role. Moore could also fill in at second or short, while Grein can back-up at first.
Tufts’ outfield will have a new look with only senior Reegan Coleman seeing significant time there previously. Slated for right field, she saw action in 26 games during the NESCAC championship season scoring 10 runs and driving in seven. Sophomores Michelle Adelman and Kat Yuzefpolsky will get a chance to make a strong impression, with the pair expected to rotate in center field early on. Junior Vanessa Venkataraman and freshman Keila McCabe also ready to step in.
The Jumbos will be young behind the plate as well where sophomores Josie Steinberg and Emma Jacobson will share starts.