The rabbit and the hare made an appearance in the Harvard softball team’s doubleheader against Rhode Island yesterday.
The Rams (17-23) came out blazing, taking the early lead with four stolen bases in the first inning of play. They soon faltered as the Crimson (23-7, 7-1 Ivy) stormed back with three home runs in the first game including junior Tiffany Whitton’s 11th of the year, breaking Harvard’s single-season home run record with at least eight games remaining.
The walk around the bases continued as the Crimson tallied seven bases on balls in game two. The Rams never held the lead after the first inning of the double header, and dropped both games to the Crimson.
Harvard 10, Rhode Island 2 (6 inn.)
Rhode Island came to Soldier’s Field with hopes of stealing a game from the Crimson in yesterday afternoon’s double header. They were only able to come away with second and third bases.
Thanks to skillful base running, the Rams were able to build an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Rhode Island’s first two hitters reached on singles, but both players stole second and third base to move into scoring position.
Harvard wasted no time in making up for its defensive lapse, putting up a run of its own in the bottom of the first and then tying up the game on freshman Laura Miller’s solo home run in the second.
“We came into the game very confident,” said sophomore shortstop Rachel Goldberg. “We had good team energy and that was why we had such a strong start.”
As Harvard’s defense began to shut down Rhode Island, it’s bats came alive.
Whitton doubled in the winning run, with freshman Beth Sabin bringing in an insurance run on her sacrifice fly to make it 4-2. The Crimson added six runs in the sixth inning, one of which came on Miller’s second home run of the afternoon. The late flurry was enough to enact the mercy rule, giving Harvard the win 10-2.
“We can score,” said Harvard coach Jenny Allard. “We need to work on keeping them from scoring runs by avoiding lapses.”
Harvard sophomore Kara Brotemarkle earned the win, striking out five batters in five innings. She allowed only one earned run, giving up six hits, but keeping Rhode Island out of the game after the first inning.
Harvard 4, Rhode Island 3
The Crimson almost ran out of ammunition in the second game against the Rams. After putting up 13 hits in game one, Harvard was only able to squeeze three hits out of its lineup. Fortunately, it was enough to hold off the Rhode Island, who, despite a late game charge, never held the lead in the contest. Whitton homered in the first to put the Crimson up 1-0 and break Harvard’s single-season mark.
The Rams were able to tie it in the second due to an error by the Crimson shortstop. Harvard was quick to respond. After three consecutive walks by Rhode Island’s Jaime Hughes, freshman Cecily Gordon hit a pinch-hit single to drive in a run. With the bases still loaded, Hughes gave up two more walks to give the Crimson a 4-1 lead.
Highly-touted freshman Lauren Tanner came in to relieve starting pitcher senior Suzanne Guy, and quickly dispensed of the Rams one-two-three in the sixth. The next inning was a bit more exciting. After the Crimson was unable to reach base at the top of the inning, the Rams took advantage by stringing together three quick hits to cut the lead to one. With a runner in scoring position, Tanner built up a 3-2 count with two outs. Rhode Island went down swinging to end the threat and the game.
“We came to play today, and played well,” Allard said. “We still have some defensive mistakes to clean up, but generally we feel strong and confident”
These two wins keep Harvard on track going into Ivy League play this weekend. On the agenda are doubleheaders against Columbia and Cornell. Both teams are part of a four-way tie for third place in the Ivies, and are seeking to gain ground on league-leading Princeton and Harvard. Cornell, a team expected to compete with the Crimson for Ivy dominance, has lost ground to the increased competitiveness of the league. Nevertheless, Harvard shared the Ivy League title with the Big Red last year, who actually earned the league’s bid to the NCAA tournament by sweeping the Crimson in a playoff.
“I feel like this year there are a lot of good teams out there,” said sophomore second baseman Sara Williamson. “So this weekend we are trying to stay calm, play relaxed and play like we know how.”
If they do, the Crimson can take a huge step towards the Ivy League title, and maybe begin a dash towards the NCAA tournament.