In the Palmer Dixon varsity weight room there is a white board labeled “Softball” and on it, scribbled in brown erasable marker, is one line that says: “We’re going to the ’ship!” After playing 45 regular season games the Harvard softball team, who won the Ivy North Division, is indeed headed to the Ivy League Championship Series (ILCS).
The Crimson, who is the defending Ivy champion, will travel to Princeton to take on the Tigers in the best-of-three series tomorrow and Sunday if necessary. The series winner will be crowned the Ivy Champion and will earn the right to represent the Ivies in the NCAA tournament in two weeks. “It’s going to be a tough, competitive game,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said of the series. “The teams are well-matched, they both had successes in their division, and it’s going to be a good match-up.’
Princeton locked up home field advantage by going 18-2 in Ivy play compared to Harvard’s 14-6. The Tigers 18 wins are the most in Ivy softball history.
The home run hitting trio comprised of Kelsey Quist, Jamie Lettire, and Kathryn Welch leads Princeton at the plate. The Tigers three biggest offensive threats each have 13 home runs this season and the team’s 51 long balls in 2008 are a Princeton single season record.
What is even more dangerous is that the three bashers don’t just hit a lot of balls out of the park, but that they do it in clutch situations. Take last weekend’s series against Cornell as an example. In a must win second game on Sunday Princeton trailed 5-4 in the seventh inning. Welch led off with a homerun to tie the game and then Lettire smashed a walk off home run that propelled the Tigers into the ILCS.
Though Harvard may not boast the same home run numbers, its depth makes the line up more than capable. Every Crimson batter is hitting at a clip above .250 while five players, Lauren Murphy (.361), Ellen Macadam (.348), Emily Henderson (.341), Jess Pledger (.315), and Jen Francis (.313) are all above .300.
In addition, speedy freshmen Henderson (28) and Macadam (16) have combined for 44 stolen bases. In comparison, Princeton’s entire team has only 13 stolen bases this year.
On the mound Princeton’s ace is senior Kristen Schaus (4.21ERA) who has pitched 148 innings this season with 173 strikeouts. Against Harvard though, back on March 30, the hurler went just 3 1/3 innings giving up five hits and two runs. The Tigers use two other pitchers, Michelle Tolfa (3. 64) and Lettire (3.25). As a staff the Princeton pitchers have a 3.83 ERA.
Harvard divides the pitching responsibilities up among five pitchers that have worked for a combined 1.96 ERA. Captain Shelly Madick is the reliable veteran and is the most likely candidate to get the ball in game one. In last year’s ILCS Madick threw a perfect game against Penn in game one. The Crimson has many other options though. Sophomore Dana Roberts has worked 66 innings with a dominant 1.88 ERA. In addition sophomore Margaux Black (2.53), junior Bailey Vertovez (5.04), and senior Amanda Watkins (7.71) are all likely to see innings in the circle.
The only time the teams have met this year was back on March 30 in New Jersey in Harvard’s Ivy season opener. The Tigers swept the double header, beating the Crimson by one run-5-4 and 3-2, in back-to-back games. In that series Harvard was crippled by its inability to get timely hits, if the Crimson is going to defend its title that is something it will have to change this weekend.
“I feel like we are a much better team at this point in the year, they are too so we just need to learn to make necessary adjustments at the plate,” Allard said.
The 45 games that are in the books now were all preparation for this weekend. With everything on the line this weekend the Crimson is ready to redeem its earlier loses and keep the Ivy trophy in Cambridge for another year.
“I think just staying focused, staying ready, staying rested, staying hydrated, I think those things are really important,” Madick said. “We played them twice this year, and lost two close games that could have gone either way. I think we’re ready to win the next games now.”
—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.