Yale pitcher Chelsey Dunham could be forgiven if she was a little nervous in the first inning of game two of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Harvard softball team. Two batters into the game, her team had already committed an error, allowing a Crimson runner into scoring position—and Harvard sophomore third baseman Kasey Lange was stepping into the batter’s box. Lange had already recorded eight hits off Bulldogs pitchers in the weekend’s previous three games, including two off of Dunham in the first three innings of Saturday’s first contest.
And as Lange demonstrated with a double to right center, there was good reason to worry. The extra-base hit scored the first run of what would be a 9-2 victory, which secured a four-game sweep for the Crimson over their arch rivals.
The double capped a prolific weekend at the plate for Lange, in which she went a combined 10-of-14 with four doubles and nine RBI, helping the Crimson outscore the Bulldogs, 49-6, over the course of the four-game set, which included three run-rule shortened victories.
Lange’s big weekend was the encore to a week in which she batted .615 and slugged .923, earning Ivy Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. Her ten-game hitting streak was snapped in a loss at Rhode Island on April 10, but Lange has now hit safely in 14 of her last 15 contests.
Though she has been in particularly fine form lately, Lange has terrorized opposing pitchers all season. She currently ranks in the top five in the Ivy League in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage, and leads the conference in RBI.
“I’m seeing the ball well and just in the zone,” Lange said. “As long as we all can collectively stay in a good spot, we will be in good shape for the rest of the season and the Ivy Championships.”
While Lange’s success this season hasn’t been a surprise given her strong freshman campaign, in which she garnered Ivy League and ECAC Rookie of the Year honors, coach Jenny Allard said that Lange’s approach to hitting has matured, as she is now more patient at the plate.
“People know she’s a strong hitter, so they are being careful,” Allard said. “Early in the season, mid-season, she was starting to reach and swing at pitches out of the zone. Now she’s become more patient and waiting for pitches to get in her zone. She’s taking more walks, and we have Stephanie Regan behind her, so we’ve got a clutch hitter behind her if they walk her.”
Lange attributed some of her success to the overall strength of the Crimson offense, which, as a team, leads the Ivy League in batting average (by a sizable 32 points), on base percentage, hits, and runs scored. In conference play, Harvard has outscored its opponents by an average of 6.3 runs per game.
“If I end up getting on base through a walk, whoever is up behind me will step up and get the job done,” Lange said. “I don’t feel the pressure to have to be the one because there is someone behind me who can do the job. We definitely try to pass the bat and keep the hits coming one hit after the other.”
That offense has been the catalyst to Harvard’s success all season. With a record of 24-10, including a league-best 11-1 against Ancient Eight competition, the Crimson has been the class of the Ivy League.
“This weekend, it felt like nobody could stop us from scoring and [Lange] was a big part of that,” captain Rachel Brown said. “Two years ago, there were games where we couldn’t buy a run. This year, especially this weekend, it feels like we are able to score on command, and she’s a huge factor in that ability.”
Scoring on command certainly seems like a good description of Harvard’s offense in conference play, as the Crimson has been held to no fewer than four runs against Ivy opponents. And with help from Lange’s big bat, Harvard has positioned itself for a run at its second consecutive Ivy League Championship, making a few more pitchers anxious in the process.
“I think that every team sees her as a threat,” Brown said. “If she’s up with runners on, sometimes you can see the pitchers are pitching very carefully to her because they’d rather walk her than take the risk. And frankly, sometimes that is the better option.”