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Steven Hemphill | | May 23, 2015

Just a streak

2015 DIII Softball Championship Recap: Day Two

SALEM, Va. -- Tufts’ record winning streak turned gold on Friday night at the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament.

Already a DIII record for a while, the Jumbos won their 50th consecutive game by a score of 3-0 against Salisbury -- the school that last beat Tufts, and represented win No. 1 of this current run. There was really no special fanfare at the James I. Moyer Complex to celebrate this accomplishment. And apparently, getting there was not exactly an anticipated moment for the team.

“I’m going to be completely honest,” said first baseman Cassie Ruscz, who hit a two-run homer in Tufts’ three-run third inning against Salisbury. “I didn’t even know we were at 50. It kind of speaks to what our coach has been saying -- we’re always looking toward the next game.”

And if that sounds a bit underwhelming, well, coach Cheryl Milligan even managed to undercut that.

“We think we’re better than that,” she said. “We want to play better than that.”

While Milligan made sure those who needed to be acknowledged for strong games in win No. 49 of the streak on Thursday, and No. 50 on Friday, were given that credit. At the top of her list was pitcher Allyson Fournier. In the first win of this streak, Tufts topped Salisbury 6-0 in a game that lasted 14 innings. Fournier threw 287 pitches in that game.

On Friday, she polished off the Sea Gulls in just 97 pitches.

But the coach did not shy away from talking about what hasn’t gone well in the Jumbos’ first two wins.

“We’re still trying to get our bats going,” she said. “We’ve talked about our approach at the plate after we score a few runs, sort of pile more on.”

Maybe that feeling that there’s always room to improve has led to Tufts’ current run.

Milligan pointed out that in the Jumbos’ two wins -- both by the score of 3-0 -- the offense has not been overwhelmingly better than their opponents. Tufts and Alma had five hits apiece in the first round. The Jumbos outhit Salisbury 5-3.

And the coaches’ tendency to never be completely satisfied with what she’s getting out of team has rubbed off on her roster, she said.

“What’s been great about this team is that I don’t know if we’ve celebrated that much yet,” Milligan said. “… Postgame, they’ve been great about taking feedback. … After every game, all we talk about is how we can get better. They’ve been great about doing that.”

While the team has stayed grounded, there are fans and college officials who have been willing to do a little celebrating here and there. Tufts finally got to host a regional on its own campus this year thanks to the construction of a new softball facility. Milligan said the previous field did not meet NCAA standards for a regional site, so the Jumbos had to take to the road for the postseason regardless if they were a top seed or not.

“[The winning streak], it’s fantastic, there’s no doubt about it,” Milligan said. “I think of a couple of things: First, the president pushed a new field through for us, and it would be great to bring him back an undefeated season. … That would be just a small token thank you.

“But if we don’t come out of this where we want to come out, we’re not going to be happy just because we won 50 games.”

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