The last time the Harvard softball team hosted a game at Soldiers Field, it was the second contest of the 2011 Ivy League Championship against Cornell, and the Crimson came away with a 4-0 win that earned the team the title of Ivy Champs.
It was the ultimate redemption for Harvard, who had been defeated by the Big Red in the final round of the 2010 championships.
But on Tuesday night, the Crimson (12-7) was unable to redeem itself or make use of its home field advantage, falling, 15-6, in its home opener against Bryant University (6-14). The defeat marks Harvard’s second consecutive loss against Bryant and ties the squads’ all-time series at four games apiece.
The first four innings of the game looked promising for the Crimson, as the team entered the top of the fifth with a 3-1 lead. But the Bulldogs responded with a nine-run rally in the frame, and almost immediately, any hope of Harvard retribution for last year’s 6-3 loss to the Bulldogs vanished.
“We had a tough day today,” senior shortstop Jane Alexander said. “But it’s great incentive for us going into Ivies this weekend. [We need] to turn it around in practice tomorrow and work hard to show Harvard softball on Saturday, because we didn’t show how strong of a team we are today.”
Don’t let the high score fool you—neither squad’s offense had a particularly stellar day. Rather, it was the unusually meager performance of both team’s infield that led to such a high number of runs coming in.
Though Bryant finished with seven hits, only one more than the Crimson, it won the contest by nine runs, thanks in large part to 13 walked batters to Harvard’s four.
In the fifth inning alone, the Bulldogs earned three runs because batters were walked with the bases loaded.
Wild pitches also played a prominent role in Bryant’s victory. In the first inning, the Bulldogs’ designated hitter Lauren Guy was able to nab the team a one-run lead after advancing two bases on two wild pitches. In total, though both squads stole just one base each, the Bryant offense advanced an extra thirteen bases on eight wild pitches, while the Crimson took an additional three bases.
Harvard was able to capitalize on Bryant infield errors in the third inning, gaining a 2-1 advantage on the Bulldogs as Alexander and rookie center fielder Camilla Gibson scored on two throwing errors.
The Crimson extended its lead to 3-1 in the fourth frame, when freshman second baseman Katherine Lantz reached first on fielder’s choice, and sophomore right fielder Shelbi Olson beat the throw to home plate.
But this would be the last time Harvard would have the lead, as Bryant went on to plate nine runs at the top of the fifth inning. Despite ripping only two hits, the squad grabbed a 10-3 advantage over the Crimson due to a combination of five walks, two errors, one wild pitch, and one batter hit by a pitch.
During this inning, Harvard switched pitchers twice, first putting in rookie Gabrielle Ruiz for co-captain Rachel Brown, and then after six batters, replacing Ruiz with junior Jessica Ferri, who would go on to pitch the final two innings of the contest.
In the sixth inning, the Bulldogs dug the Crimson into an even deeper hole, extending their lead to 13-3.
Harvard tried to climb out of this ten-run hole with a three-run rally at the bottom of the inning, but Bryant quickly put an end to any possibility of a Crimson comeback, plating two more at the top of the seventh.
The Harvard offense was unable to bring any players home while up for its last licks, and the game ended in a 15-6 victory for the Bulldogs.
Despite the loss, the Crimson still tops the Ancient Eight in strikeouts, ERA, fielding percentage, and opposing batting average.
“We were facing some adversity,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said. “We need to work through some things, and we just need to get stronger and work harder the next few days. I know the girls can do it.”
—Staff writer Marlee Melendy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.