The Harvard softball team (21-11, 7-0 Ivy) is playing in a league of its own right now. The Crimson has won 12 straight contests and is playing with the utmost confidence.
What has been the secret to Harvard’s recent success? Look no further than junior pitcher Laura Ricciardone.
Named to the second team All-Ivy in her sophomore campaign, Ricciardone has pitched at an even higher level in 2014. The Slidel, La., native is 11-5 in the circle this year and has posted a team best 1.90 ERA.
Ricciardone has the fourth-lowest ERA in the Ivy League, has totaled the second-most wins, and ranks fourth in total strikeouts. She has been named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week three times already, the most recent of which followed wins over Boston College and Penn.
“Laura is strong for us,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said. “She comes in and attacks batters, has command of all her pitches, and really stepped up to win those games.”
This past week, Ricciardone continued her dominance.
Facing Columbia in the first contest of a double-header, Ricciardone pitched a complete game and allowed no earned runs. In seven innings, Ricciardone gave up only six hits, while striking out seven batters to help Harvard remain unbeaten in the Ancient Eight.
“It was a strong outing for our team and the conclusion of our southern division tour,” Ricciardone said. “We really wanted to come away with two wins, and [it was] important that we didn’t drop any games in that division. We wanted to finish our pseudo-opening weekend with two wins, and we were able to go out and do that.”
Ricciardone then faced the University of Rhode Island in a mid-week matchup, albeit limiting her innings due to the heavy pitching load.
“We wanted to get the whole staff pitching time,” Ricciardone said. “Our offense produced enough runs so that we could do that, and defense was solid.”
Nonetheless, the junior did not let the limited numbers of batters she would face deter her from putting on another clinic. In the three frames she pitched, Ricciardone gave up only two hits, struck out two batters, and allowed zero runs.
But that wasn’t even the biggest highlight from the junior’s outing. In the top of the second, with the game scoreless, Ricciardone belted a two-run home run, the first of her career, to help secure the 5-1 win over the Rams.
“I didn’t practice hitting at the beginning of the season, but [I] picked it up at the end of our California trip,” Ricciardone said. “I had been not hitting to focus on the pitching, but now that I am healthy, I am happy to have it back as part of my game.”
Allard’s decision to rest Ricciardone was certainly a prudent one. Only two days later, Ricciardone pitched 11 innings in less than 48 hours.
In the first of four games against Brown, Ricciardone pitched a complete game. In seven innings, she gave up only one run on four hits while striking out six batters to earn the 4-1 win.