SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- The Bryant University softball team has had a great start offensively to its conference season. The team sits at 3-3 and are tied for the lead in home runs in conference games, 7, sharing the top of the list with Saint Francis U and LIU Brooklyn. One of the big parts of the Bulldog offense this season has been junior Kaleigh Goulart (Marion, Mass.).
The junior has played primarily second base for the Bulldogs this season and has a batting average of .275 -- a career best -- with two home runs and 14 RBI. Through just 28 games, the junior has set a new career high in runs scored (16) and stolen bases (5), and is nearing career-bests in home runs, RBI, doubles, and hits.
"We were introduced to this new pitching app and you see Jenny Finch and four other USA players and each pitcher has a different kind of pitch," Goulart said. "I can recognize ball and strikes better than I have been able to in the past. We don't worry about strikeouts or hitting that long ball. You see that pitch you want and you just go after it."
Going after it is an understatement. Bryant has 18 home runs through 31 games in 2018, already eight more than in all of last season (48 games). The team has matched its doubles total, is hitting for a higher average, and is just 17 runs away from tying last season's run total.
It's even more impressive when put into perspective: The Bulldogs have played three teams currently in the NFCA Top 15, including top-ranked Washington, and the number three team, Oregon. Add in games against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams such as Fordham and Montana and the Bulldogs schedule has been one of the toughest in the Northeast Conference.
"It prepares us big time," Goulart said. "After playing Washington, we did not come out with a win but in our eyes, we did … They only scored in two innings, we shut them out otherwise and we went a full 7 innings."
The tough swing through the Pac-12 toughened the Bullogs up for conference schedule that has so far seen the likes of Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, and Wagner. The Bulldogs split in each of the doubleheaders against those schools and have put up some big offensive numbers in NEC play. In the second game against FDU, Bryant rattled off six runs on seven hits in the eighth inning to leave Teaneck with a win. Goulart went 3-for-5 from the plate in that game, doubling twice, homering and driving in four runs.
"I just stayed relaxed in the box and waited for the pitch I wanted," Goulart said. "Luckily, those pitches came in situations that we needed it. If it weren't for my teammates getting on base, then those doubles and that home run would not have really mattered."
The unity that the team has shown in 2018 is noticeable. The bench is on its feet from first pitch to the final out. There's the iconic softball chanting throughout the duration of the game, and excitement when walkout songs introduce the next Bulldog batter.
"What is huge coming into conference play is the trust we have in each other," Goulart said. "I know that if I am going to get pinch hit for, I can trust the person behind me because I know that they will do their job."
The Bulldogs, at 3-3 in NEC play, are primed to make some noise in the conference tournament. For Goulart, that's something that's in the mind of everyone on the team.
"We want that ring very badly and everyone on our team knows it," the junior said. We have gone over it several times with our coaches and they ask us if it's something we really want.
"Without hesitation we all reply, 'absolutely.'"