I always love the first warm day of the year in Boston. I walk outside, take a breath that doesn’t set my asthma afire, and feel the sixth-month chill melt away in a matter of moments. I know that spring is just around the corner. And with the spring comes baseball season, though I know that’s still a few weeks away from mattering.
Still, Fenway’s surrounding streets are starting to smell like sausage again, and with all of my teams out of the NCAA Tournament, I figured Saturday would be a good day to check out some softball: Boston College softball.
The Eagles take on the Dartmouth Big Green (how I’ve managed to cover two Dartmouth games for 52 Games astounds me) at BC’s Shea Field. The field sits in the shadow of Conte Stadium, kiddy corner to the baseball field. The baseball team also has a double-header Saturday … more on that later.
The Eagles send senior Morgan Kidd to the mound for their season opener, and she really only makes one mistake:
Kidd allows a walk following Everett’s home run, but all that does is set up left fielder Lizzy Ploen for the defensive play of the game:
Otherwise, Kidd scatters the occasional hit or walk around strikeout after strikeout after strikeout. Nine in all:
Dartmouth’s Kristen Rumley can’t match Kidd’s power numbers, but she does a much better job keeping the Eagles off the bases early. For an offense that would generate 11 runs in their second game of the doubleheader – and win 11-0 – the Eagles just can’t get anything going through the first half of their first game. Their chatter never ceases, they never stop trying, but they just can’t solve Rumley’s movement.
As I’m watching, I look over at the baseball game nearby. They have two full stands, plus a line of fans along the walkways of the parking lot overlooking the field. Then I look back at the single tiny set of bleachers Shea Field has. It’s half-empty, and it’s only half-empty because the softball team from Dana Hall School in Wellesley is there.
Without Dana Hall, these Eagles’s two game sweep would’ve gone virtually unnoticed while the big bad baseball team split a double-header with Georgia Tech. BC’s baseball team is good, but their softball team deserves better than this.
“It’s not that popular, I don’t think, because there’s kind of a small crowd here,” says Andrea Pessolano, a BC sophomore political science and economics major who’s there to support roommate Chelsea LoBue. “But they’re great athletes, so they should be respected.”
Women’s sports get a bad rap in this country. Whether it’s the WNBA, women’s college hockey or softball, the same cliched, misogynistic criticisms appear over and over again: too slow, too weak, too tame, too small. And because America insists on romanticizing baseball (and football) to such a gross degree, softball takes it in the teeth.
“They treat girls like second-hand citizens sometimes,” says Phil Sassone, a softball coach from Chicago who’s worked with BC assistant coach Erica Hanrahan at Elmwood Park High School.
The WNBA trails the NBA only because its players know the biggest spotlight they’ll ever get already came and went in college. Both leagues are part of one parent organization, ensuring the WNBA always gets at least a little coverage.
College hockey, meanwhile, has so few general-audience fans that comparing the popularity of the men’s and women’s versions would be pointless. But softball has been completely divorced from baseball in a bullshit attempt to keep “America’s game” “pure.”
To ESPN’s credit, they seem to give the College World Series and the Women’s College World Series about equal airtime – around 60 percent of the time allotted to the Little League World Series.
I don’t blame BC for this situation. If anything, BC’s strict academic scrutiny of its athletes creates a more unified campus, which in turn generates more support for traditionally unpopular sports like softball. More support than you’d find at most Div. I schools, at least.
“For the most part, athletes are definitely integrated with the rest of the students,” says Dan LoCoco, a BC freshman. “It definitely gets more people to the games.”
The visual contrast of Saturday’s two simultaneous games just rammed all of these feelings home. More people ought to be into softball, and schools should try harder to bridge the gap in popularity between it and baseball. It’s as enjoyable (or unenjoyable) as baseball, and I can’t help thinking those who don’t like it do so for less-than-sound reasons.
Back to BC. It seems like one bad pitch will cost Kidd the game, until this happens:
Pandolfo not only ties the game, she breaks the trance Rumley had cast over the Eagles hitters through the first four innings. And after Kidd and reliever Nicole D’Argento hold the Big Green scoreless in the top of the sixth, the Eagles put their best inning together.
BC puts its first two on with a walk and a single. After scoring their first run through power hitting, they take the lead through smallball. Rene Delagrammaticas sacrifices the runners to second and third, and CJ Chirichigno executes a flawless suicide squeeze:
The crowd reacts as loudly as they can to BC’s two-inning turnaround, but there just aren’t enough people left to make much noise. BC seems better equipped to cheer themselves on that we do.
D’Argento comes back on to close out the game, and though she lacks Kidd’s power (at least Saturday), she still retires Dartmouth 1-2-3. BC wins, 2-1, with Kidd getting the win and D’Argento the save.
Beyond the lack of fans, the only thing really wrong with this game is that Boston College isn’t in Boston or a college. But I guess “University of Newton” wouldn’t draw nearly the same quality of recruits.
Matt Goisman is going to write about a game each and every week from America’s #1 city for sports: Here. We’re calling it 52 Games, because that’s what we’re going to end up with. Last week, he caught Harvard‘s and Wisconsin‘s exits from the NCAA Tournament. This week, he drove out to Chestnut Hill to watch a BC softball game. Next week: how about some Gaelic football? Keep up with him here.