DOLPHINS SOFTBALL READY FOR TITLE DEFENSE

The City University of New York Athletic Conference Postseason Softball Championship gets underway today, and while the College of Staten Island will sit the first-round out thanks to a bye as the field’s top-seed, the team is more than ready and prepared for a spirited title defense, and will kick off the double elimination portion of the tourney beginning tomorrow at Queens College, the neutral-site host. CSI enters the tournament with an unblemished, 12-0, CUNYAC mark, the first time the team went unscathed through the conference field since 2007.

“We’ve been playing well,” said 12th-year Head Coach Dr. Stella Porto. “We’ve had a great run in CUNYAC, but some of our non-conference games really allowed us to come together and get ourselves focused for the final push to our season. We’re prepped and ready to go. We will see how far we can take it.”

CSI will open up play at Queens College tomorrow morning at 10:30am, against the winner of No. 4 John Jay College and No. 5 Lehman College. Those two sides face off today, as do No. 3 Hunter College and No. 6 Baruch College. The winner of that game will face No. 2 Brooklyn College tomorrow at 12:30pm. The two losing sides meet at 2:30pm for the tournament’s first elimination game, and the two winners will go head-to-head at 4:30pm, with the winner there moving into Saturday’s continuation needing only one more win to secure the Championship, which carries with it an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament. All of Friday’s games will be broadcast live on CSI SportsNet, at www.csidolphins.com/live.

The Dolphins secured their eighth 20-win season in the last 9 years with a doubleheader sweep of NJ City University this past Monday, and have been idle since. The team boasts a healthy 20-15 overall record, guided nicely by their 12-0 CUNYAC mark. CSI has outscored their CUNYAC opponents by a score of 126-19, and have not lost a game to a CUNYAC opponent since April 20 of 2013, a 3-2 regular season loss to Baruch. CSI ripped through the tournament last year with a 3-0 record en route to their 15th title overall CUNYAC Championship.

What’s made this year’s run impressive is the overlying youth of the team, a calling card to the team last year as well. The Dolphins boast just a trio of seniors in Stefanie Solari, Victoria Procopio and Christina DeCarlo. Beyond that the team is littered with underclassman, all of whom stand to damage the record books by career’s end. CSI is batting .337 as a team, and are averaging 10 hits per game over their last 12 games, meaning the bats, like the weather, are starting to warm up.

“At the plate we have reorganized our order so that we have some real strength and power at the top and a lot of speed and contact hitting at the bottom,” Porto commented. “We are doing a good job of protecting our hitters and we try not to give our opponents any outs. Then, once we get on base, we will try to extend and use our speed there.”

Of course, the break in the weather is also paying dividends. Porto contends that the early season frigid temperatures, windy and rainy conditions were factors in the team’s stunted growth at the plate. “We learned that we are not a cold weather team and you can see by our losses early in the year. We played in some brutal weather, and we just zone out and can’t think about softball at those times. It was tough, but you can really start to see how comfortable we are playing now.”

Among those with the most pop at the plate are Jacqueline Cautela and Chyanne Gilliam, who are averaging over .400 this season. Christina Tufano, boasting a .396 average has scattered 11 extra bases, as has Solari, who is batting a robust .336. Ten total Dolphins are batting above .300.

The success has also carried over to the pitcher’s circle. Cautela, a true freshman who is batting .422 with 15 extra bases and 12 stolen bags, is just as dynamic in the circle, sporting a 13-6 record with 14 complete games and a team-best 3.25 ERA. Alexandra Conanan and Procopio have spelled Cautela if needed, but fans can expect to see a lot of the freshman this weekend.

“Jackie brings us a lot of confidence out there and we go from being a very good defensive team to being an outstanding one when she is there pitching,” Porto stated. “We have some options we can use, but we are a young team with a lot of confidence out there and you can see our pitching is getting better and better with each game.”

The overwhelming favorites heading in, CSI will certainly be challenged. The second-seeded Bulldogs fell twice to the Dolphins way back on April 2, but put the biggest regular season scare into the Dolphins, falling 5-4 in the second game of a doubleheader played at Brooklyn. According to Porto, the regular season matters little, as the CUNYAC sides often save their best for last.

“Without a doubt we know that the other schools in the tournament are waiting for us and are anxious to knock off the defending champs,” Porto said. “We always get the best out of our opponents, especially in the CUNY Tournament so we expect nothing less over these next couple of days. We aren’t going to take anyone lightly.”

Tickets to all games of the CUNYAC Tournament are FREE of charge to all spectators but tickets will be needed to access the facility. Fans can obtain tickets by logging on to the CUNYAC Championship website or by simply clicking here.