Last year, Rachel Brown took Ivy League softball by storm, breaking the Crimson single-season strikeout record and taking home Ivy Rookie of the Year honors in her first season at Harvard.
This year, Brown didn’t surprise anybody. She just got better.
The sophomore hurler sparkled in her second season in a Crimson uniform, leading her squad to a 17-3 regular-season Ivy record and a berth in the Ivy League Championship Series.
But along the way, Brown crossed off a few more career accomplishments as well.
On Apr. 2, Brown took the mound in Harvard’s Ivy opener at Princeton and immediately established herself and her team as the ones to chase in the Ivy League North.
The sophomore pitched her first career no-hitter—a game that would have been perfect had it not been for a sixth-inning fielding error behind her.
Never one to be satisfied, Brown repeated the feat eight days later at home against Columbia, once again allowing no hits and no walks while striking out 12 in the 3-0 win.
“The no-hitters...those are exciting,” she admitted. “I’m still hoping by the time I graduate to throw a perfect game.”
The no-no against the Lions came as part of a 71.1-inning stretch where the sophomore allowed just one earned run—good for a 0.10 ERA between Apr. 6 and May 1.
Unsurprisingly, that run coincided with the Crimson’s 11-game conference win streak to close the regular season. Brown collected wins in six of those contests.
“She had another outstanding year,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said. “As a freshman, she came in and needed to take off a lot of the [pressure] of [being] a freshman pitcher, and she did a good job. And this year she was even stronger...She was consistent and she developed more of her pitches.”
Brown’s bottom line—she went 17-6 with a 1.37 ERA, 233 strikeouts, and a .178 opponent average while pitching nearly half of the team’s innings—speaks for itself. She set new Crimson season benchmarks in opponent average and strikeouts and is currently the career leader in opponent average (.182) and strikeouts per seven innings pitched (10.08).
Unsurprisingly, Brown was unanimously selected to the All-Ivy First Team, her second straight nod. But for the sophomore, these personal accomplishments aren’t enough.
Though she led the Ivy League in ERA, opponent average, and strikeouts, Brown didn’t come away with the two prizes that have as of now eluded her—Ivy Pitcher of the Year honors and the Ancient Eight crown. Both of those went to Cornell’s Elizabeth Dalrymple, who pitched every inning of the ILCS to outduel Brown for both titles.
“Kind of like how the team played, I’m disappointed with the end of my season,” Brown said. “I’m always pushing myself to get better, and I’m just trying to do what I can for the team. The team’s great, and I really hope that the next two years, we can get Ivy League rings.”
With her goals in mind, expect Brown to keep getting better. After all, she could be the best Harvard has ever seen.
—Staff writer Kate Leist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.