After sweeping Yale in last weekend’s four-game series, the Harvard softball team holds an 11-1 record in conference play, the best in the Ancient Eight. The squad needs to win just three of its next eight conference contests in order to clinch its third-consecutive North Division title.
Originally, the earliest possible date that the Crimson would be able to secure the title was this Sunday, as it was set to play two doubleheaders against Brown this weekend, split between Saturday and Sunday.
But now, due to forecasts predicting nasty weather towards the end of the week, Harvard’s schedule has been rearranged, and the team will have a chance at clinching as early as Saturday.
By postponing Thursday’s game against Boston College, the Crimson was able to move the doubleheader initially slated for Sunday to Friday, in order to avoid the projected bad weather.
Last season, Harvard won all four of the contests it played against the Bears, scoring a total of 35 runs while holding the Brown offense to just four. Crimson hurlers Rachel Brown and Laura Ricciardone threw back-to-back shutouts to open the four-game series, both of which finished in six innings due to mercy rule.
This time around, the Harvard defense is going to have to perform just as well if it intends to earn the three victories needed to lock in the North Division title. Though the Bears are only 5-7 in conference play, the squad’s offensive lineup boasts a .269 batting average and a .418 slugging percentage, ranked second in the Ivy League.
Leading the Brown offense is junior Stephanie Thompson, who leads the Ancient Eight in slugging percentage, batting average, and on base percentage. Thompson’s current batting average of .494 is second highest in the NCAA and she leads the Bears in every offensive category except for doubles.
So far this season, Thompson has struck out just twice, so things are bound to get interesting this weekend when she faces off against the KO queen, Rachel Brown. Having struck out 177 batters, Brown, who is also this week’s Ivy League Pitcher of the Week, ranks first in the Ivies in strikeouts.
Last year, Thompson came up to the plate four times against Brown and finished with two walks, one strikeout, and one hit. The hit was a solo homerun.
But even against Thompson and the tough Brown offensive attack, the Crimson appear ready to try for a repeat of last season’s performance, having won nine of its last 11 contests and leading the Ancient Eight in overall team fielding percentage, batting average, and ERA.
“This weekend’s games are important for us to continue to get better as a team,” senior shortstop Jane Alexander said. “A huge reason for this team’s continued success is that we’re never satisfied and have continued to improve. These games are also huge for us to host the Championship series, which is a significant goal of ours as well.”
—Staff writer Marlee Melendy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org