Softball team looks ahead to promising season

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Softball players stand by the dugout during practice at Bell Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Feb. 15, 2018. Sam Pess/The Occidental

Occidental’s softball team is off to a strong start this spring season, boasting a 5–4–1 overall record as they come out of their first round of Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) games. The Tigers went 1–1 in their Saturday doubleheader against Redlands, winning a close second game after 10 innings. Head coach Alison Haehnel said that she is confident that the team is going to have a successful season.

Haehnel, who is now in her sixth year as head coach, was named SCIAC Softball Coach of the Year in 2017. In 2017, Occidental posted their best conference record to date since the program began in 1987, going 13–25 in the overall season and 11–17 in SCIAC. This season, the team has their eyes set on the SCIAC conference tournament, which the top four of nine teams compete in. While the team did not make it to the conference tournament last year, Haehnel said that the Tigers have what it takes to qualify this year.

Ariana Granda (first year) runs home during a practice at Bell Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Feb. 15, 2018. Sam Pess/The Occidental

“We’re planning to go to the conference tournament for the first time,” Haehnel said. “We’ve been working towards this for several years and been recruiting athletes that we know have the talent to get us there.”

Haehnel also cited the team’s strong batting performance as a good sign of the season to come in addition to applauding the leadership of senior players who have seen the program grow.

“We’ve been hitting well right off the bat,” Haehnel said. “I think that’s going to help us most in our conference performances.”

The Tigers lost their first game against Redlands in Saturday’s doubleheader 0–2 but came back to win the second game 4–3. Dallas Boyce (senior) pitched all 10 innings in the second game, giving up only six hits. Boyce said that the team is in for a good season.

“We are stronger than we’ve ever been,” Boyce said. “With all of our strengths coming together, we’re looking to do really well in our conference this year.”

Boyce also praised the growth and improvement of the softball program at Occidental since joining the team as a first year.

“When I came here we were just building a foundation and every year we have just been slowly building on top of that foundation,” Boyce said. “This is the first year where we can say we’re really gonna compete and hopefully reach our goal of going to SCIACs after the progression we have had.”

Team captain Mackensie Priley (senior) is confident the team has what it takes to dominate their conference.

“I am so excited,” Priley said. “This is honestly the strongest group we’ve had in my four years being here and even in the first few games that we’ve had, it’s shown. I think we’re definitely gonna earn a lot of respect this year and go out there and beat a lot of teams.”

Priley said that the team’s unity and work as a team is one of their strong suits.

“Every person on our team contributes, and that’s the best part,” Priley said. “This team wins and everyone makes an impact with it.”

The Tigers’ next home game is Saturday, Feb. 24 against Pomona-Pitzer.