Harvard Still Ivy Champ Form

A good softball team needs three things: pitching, hitting, and fielding.

Check. Check. And check.

When the Harvard women’s softball team opens its 2008 campaign this weekend at the San Diego Classic it will do so with most of the players that were on the Ivy championship team last spring. Have no doubt about it, those players are ready to defend their title.

“We want to repeat this year,” captain Shelly Madick said.

Madick, the 2007 Ivy Pitcher of the Year, will headline the pitching rotation for the Crimson. In a 2007 season that was filled with memorable performances, Madick turned in perhaps her best outing in the first game of the Ivy Championship Series where she threw a no-hitter against Penn. To top it off, Madick returned in the second and final game of the series to record the last seven outs in a 4-2 win that gave Harvard the title.

Madick is not the only strong arm on the Harvard roster. Other returning pitchers include senior Amanda Watkins and sophomore Dana Roberts, ranked eighth and ninth in the Ivy League last season with ERA’s of 2.54 and 2.60, respectively.

Leading the way for the Crimson at the plate—and sometimes behind it—is the 2007 Ivy Rookie of the Year Lauren Murphy. Murphy made herself known throughout the League last year when she set a new Ivy record for most homeruns in a season with 18. She also set records for most long balls in a single game (3) and most bases in a game (15), during a come-from-behind win over Boston College. Murphy led the team with a .350 batting average and finished the year ranked third in the nation in homeruns per game (.390).

The graduation of captain Julia Kidder at shortstop and second-basemen Lauren Brown left a gap in the middle infield that may be the only chink in Harvard’s experienced armor. Or, maybe not.

“Lauren Brown and Julia Kidder are fantastic leaders…and they can’t be replaced immediately,” Madick said. “But we’ve done a lot of work on our defense this year…I think we look really solid defensively, in every position…including the infield. I’m feeling really good about our defense.”

Defensively the Crimson will be led by senior Danielle Kerper, who started all 46 games last year at first, and sophomore Melissa Schellberg who returns after an All-Ivy honorable mention season at third. Schellberg, who batted .311 in her freshman season, contributes solid hitting in addition to a quick glove.

There should be no doubt that Harvard has the talent to be playing in the championship tournaments late in the spring. But what will it do early?

Rain and snow have made outdoor practice a rare event for the Crimson. Despite indoor facilities in the bubble, without the chance to get much outdoor practice, the expected early season kinks may be a bit tougher to ameliorate.

“We’re all really, really excited to start out this weekend,” Madick said. “We’re ready to see some sunshine and get on a real field.”

Harvard will start off its five-game weekend Friday taking on Oregon (9-7) and San Diego State (11-4). Saturday brings back-to-back clashes against host San Diego (3-7) followed by Fresno State (10-3). The Crimson wraps up the weekend on Sunday evening against CSU Bakersfield (6-6).

Harvard is the only East Coast team in the tournament and the only one that will be starting its season this weekend. The other four teams have been playing in tournaments every weekend since Feb. 8 and are likely to be in mid-season form.

“They’re going to be really good, they’re going to be really tough, and they’re going to be polished,” Madick said. “We are excited to see what we can do.”

If the opening game jitters do take a while to come out, luckily March games have not proven to be much of an indicator for how the season will turn out. Last year the Crimson went 4-5 in its first two tournaments—the Northern Invitational and the Eller Media Stadium Classic—before going 27-10 the rest of the way and being crowned the Ancient Eight champion in May.

—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at jrsenior@fas.harvard.edu.

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