For the second straight year, the Harvard softball team won the Ivy North Division and advanced to the Ivy League Championship Series (ILCS). This time around, the defending conference champions didn’t have quite enough firepower to repeat.
In the ILCS, the Crimson faced South Division winner Princeton for a best-of-three series in New Jersey, but the Tigers only needed two games to defeat the Crimson. Leaning on its pitching staff, Princeton surrendered just three runs on nine hits in the series to wrestle the Ivy title back from the defending champs.
“On the whole, it was a good year. We definitely overachieved,” head coach Jenny Allard said. “To end the season at the Ivy Championships, that’s a successful season in my book.”
While Harvard’s season ended in New Jersey on May 3, it began over two months before on February 29 in San Diego. The Crimson started its 2008 campaign playing in several warm-weather tournaments, including the San Diego Classic, the Blue & Gold Felsberg Mermorial in Miami, and finally the Mercer Easter Classic in Macon, Ga. In the first two tournaments, Harvard went a combined 1-9 playing against high-caliber teams.
“I haven’t had a schedule like this for several years, because I haven’t had a team that I thought could handle it—going up against big teams, [that] could dig deep, [that] could fight and be okay with maybe not coming up with a win,” Allard said in March. “This team, I feel, can handle it.”
The strategy seemed to pay off at the final early season tournament, the Mercer Classic, where the Crimson went 3-1 and finished second to the host Bears.
After a challenging preseason, the squad stumbled a bit in the first Ivy weekend. Harvard dropped two heartbreaking games to Princeton, 5-4 and 3-2.
“We have been trying to work on our timely hitting. If we’d had more timely hits, we would have won the game by one run instead of losing by one run,” Allard said after the game. “We need to be at our best when our best is needed.”
The Crimson lost its third straight Ivy game, an 8-5 defeat against Cornell, before finally notching an Ivy win later that day. The success quickly spread, as Harvard proceeded to reel off nine more wins. The Crimson used the 10-game winning streak to jump-start a 17-5 record over its final 22 regular season games, an impressive stretch that included sweeps of Columbia, Penn, Holy Cross, and Yale.
Harvard hit a collective .297, good enough for second in the Ivy League. Leading the way for the Crimson was freshman Ellen Macadam, who hit at a .371 clip. The rookie also found success on the base paths. Macadam stole 18 bases, better than everyone in the Ivy League except for classmate Emily Henderson, who ran her way to 28 stolen bases. Henderson was named to the All-Ivy First Team.
Harvard was also the League’s top defensive team. Its collective 49 errors were the fewest of any team in the Ancient Eight. And while one of the Crimson’s fielders, first baseman Danielle Kerper, is graduating, the rest of the Ivy League’s best defense will be back next season.
Also donning a cap and gown today are two of Harvard’s pitchers, captain Shelly Madick and Amanda Watkins. Madick pitched over 122 innings, just under 50 more than sophomore Dana Roberts, who threw the second most.
The captain was named to ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District Second Team in addition to the Ivy League Second Team. Madick wrote herself into the Harvard record books for most saves in a single season (5), most career saves (7), and opponent batting average (.220). Madick’s strikeout-per-seven-innings ratio of 6.82 is good enough for second best in Crimson history. Her 42 wins and 439 strikeouts are the third best in program history.
—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at email@example.com.