Freshman pitcher Lexi Bach winds up for a pitch during a game against Agnes Scott College (Ga). on March 17. (Justin Whitening/Staff Photographer)

The Emory University softball team opened up University Athletic Association (UAA) play for the 2024 season against Carnegie Mellon University (Penn.). The Eagles battled the Carnegie Mellon Tartans in a four-game series from March 29 to 31, ending in a 2-2 tie.

Emory had a 14-6 record heading into the opening conference series. During the first game, sophomore pitcher Mackenzie Duford held the Tartans scoreless in the first inning, but runs by the Tartans in the second and fourth innings gave Carnegie Mellon a 2-0 lead.

The Eagles got on the board in the sixth inning. Freshman shortstop Sonia Klein, sophomore infielder Ella Hoyle and junior infielder Kayla Lang loaded the bases, and senior pitcher Natalie Swift hit a sacrifice fly to send Klein home. The Tartans added one more run in the seventh inning, ending the opening game of the series in a 3-1 loss for Emory.

The Tartans also had an early lead in the first game of the double header on March 30, scoring three runs in the first two innings to establish a 3-2 lead. Hoyle hit a solo home run in the third inning to tie the game at 3-3, but by the top of the sixth inning, the Tartans broke away from the Eagles and surged ahead 8-3. However, sophomore outfielder Ashley Chu said the team never felt like they were losing by a large margin.

“We were there to just compete,” Chu said. “We had seen the pitcher more than once, so we learned what she threw and maybe the pattern she would throw and we got used to her speed. I feel like the second and third time through the lineup, we started finding our bats more and getting the job done.”

The Eagles rallied in the bottom of the sixth to claw their way back into the game. Swift notched a run thanks to a throwing error, and Hoyle hit a single with the bases loaded to bring the score to 8-6. Additional hits from Klein and Lang helped the Eagles tie the score at 8-8. 

In the seventh inning, Hoyle broke the deadlock with a walk-off single, allowing senior outfielder Page Nellis to score the winning run of the game. Nellis attributed the comebacks to team discussions about trust and staying relaxed.

“We’ve been talking a lot this season as a team about trusting in our team and the practice we put in that we can come back at any point in the game,” Nellis said.  

Having trailed early in the first two games of the series, Emory got off to a fast start in the third matchup, leading 2-0 after the first inning. However, the Tartans responded in the top of the second with a surge of hits, scoring seven runs to take a 7-2 lead. The Eagles cut the large deficit quickly though, scoring four runs of their own in the bottom of the second. 

The Eagles were losing 10-8 heading into the sixth inning, but for the second time in one day, they mounted a comeback. Emory scored 10 runs on eight hits in the bottom of the sixth, with Hoyle and Klein accounting for three of those hits, securing an 18-10 win.

Hoyle had 10 runs batted in (RBIs) across both games of the double header. Her 6 RBIs in the second matchup that day rank ninth in program history for the most in a single game. Hoyle said she was not really expecting to earn these hitting stats this season.

“My hitting style is more extra-base hits instead of a lot of base hits,” Hoyle said. “Ashley on our team gets a hit every game basically and that’s her goal. Her goal is just to get on base and then my goal is to hit her into home.”

The Eagles fell in the final game of the series on March 31. Emory led the game 1-0 until the top of the fifth when the Tartans hit three singles to bring the score to 3-1. Both teams added a run in the sixth inning, and the game ended 4-2.

Throughout the series, Chu maintained her impressive 28-game hitting streak. She is one game away from tying the UAA record of 29.

Chu is optimistic for the remaining games, and she noted how the large class of skillful freshman players have contributed this season. The Eagles now maintain a 16-8 record.

“We’ve grown and become super solid and everybody has each other’s backs,” Chu said. “Everybody knows their role on the field and at the plate, so I feel happy with our team and I feel like it’s only gonna go up from here as we build chemistry.”

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Madeline Shapiro (she/her) (26C) is from Stamford, Connecticut and is planning on majoring in creative writing and classic civilizations. She enjoys playing low-stakes games of soccer and spending time outdoors, as well as watching as many Premier League games as possible.

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Sasha Melamud (she/her, 27C) is from Clearwater, Florida, planning on majoring in creative writing and spanish. In her free time, Melamud enjoys being out in the fresh air, fitness, and hanging out with friends.