On April 13, the MCLA softball team fell to 6-14 after losing the second game of a doubleheader to Framingham State. Three weeks later, the Trailblazers are the No. 2 seed in the MASCAC Tournament.
"I'm very confident. I feel like we have the team to beat," MCLA coach Mike Ameen said. "I told them today, we should not be intimidated by anybody. We are the intimidators."
The Trailblazers will begin play on Friday, one day after the tournament begins. The question of the day is where will they play.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the softball field at the Zavattaro Complex was, in Ameen's words, under water. He said the quarterfinal home game could be played at a neutral site. Williams College is unavailable because the Ephs are hosting the NESCAC Tournament this weekend. Ameen said they could play at Westfield or at the Doyle Complex in Pittsfield. Ameen also said the entire tournament could be played at Bridgewater State.
Whatever happens, it will be determined by conference officials.
MCLA will play the winner of Thursday's game between third-seeded Worcester State and No. 6 Fitchburg State. The game will be played in Worcester. The other side of the bracket features fifth-seeded Framingham at No. 4 Salem State. The winner plays Friday at top-seeded Bridgewater State.
"It doesn't matter what field we're going to play on," said MCLA pitcher Rachel Quackenbush. "We have to go out and get the win."
"At this point, we're used to not playing on our home field," said MCLA's Michaela DiNicola. "We just want to get the game in."
On Wednesday, it was announced that Quackenbush and DiNicola were both named to the All-MASCAC softball team. Quackenbush was named to the first team and DiNicola earned second-team honors.
Salem State outfielder Cara Crowley was named the MASCAC player of the year, Amber White of Bridgewater State was named pitcher of the year, Tiffanie Marsh of Framingham is the rookie of the year and Bridgewater coach Chrissy Semier is the coach of the year.
Three weeks ago, the Trailblazers were 4-12 after suffering a pair of mercy rule losses to Amherst.
"I think Amherst kind of showed us what a team really is," said Quackenbush after Wednesday's indoor practice. "That showed us how to come together as a team."
Ameen said that coming together as a team was critical, because the 11-3 and 12-0 losses to the Jeffs could have sent the Trailblazers spiraling down.
"We hit rock bottom when we played Amherst," he said. "It wasn't so much the scores, it was the way [the losses] happened."
The Trailblazers split doubleheaders with Skidmore and Framingham State. But like a boulder rolling down a hill, MCLA picked up a lot of momentum and after losing to Framingham in the second game of an April 13 doubleheader, the Trailblazers lost only one of their final eight games.
Statistically, Quackenbush has been a standout during that 7-1 stretch. She went 2-1 with a pair of saves, struck out 39 batters in 26 innings and had a nearly-microscopic 0.35 earned-run average in those eight games.
The veteran coach said that while Quackenbush and DiNicola deserved their conference honors and have been critical to the team's success, so has Amanda Meczywor.
The senior is like a Swiss Army knife for Ameen. She is second on the team in batting average, led the Trailblazers in runs batted in and had three wins in the circle. Ameen has moved her from the circle to second base and even to first base this year.
"[Meczywor] is one of the top five players in the league," he said. ‘She pitches, she plays second base. She goes anywhere I want. She's a mainstay of my lineup."
The Trailblazers are seeking their first MASCAC championship since 1995, when Quackenbush was two years old.
"We definitely talk about it," she said. "As we get closer to the tournament, we sit down and discuss what needs to be done to get better."
"We're pretty confident," said DiNicola. "We have the ability to beat any team in the MASCAC."
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