Nearly two weeks after the Harvard softball team’s series with Princeton was interrupted because of rain, the Crimson finally closed out the Tigers on Thursday with a pair of victories. With these wins, Harvard (23-11, 9-0 Ivy) halted Princeton’s (14-22, 6-7) three-game win streak and maintained its undefeated record in the Ivy League.
It was certainly a wild couple of days for the Crimson. On Monday, the Ivy League told the team they would not travel to Princeton to make up the games. On Tuesday, the league reversed its decision. But the last-minute scheduling change did not throw off Harvard’s game.
Behind junior ace Laura Ricciardone’s fifth shutout of the season, the Crimson were able to pull off a 1-0 victory over the Tigers in the first game of the day.
The Harvard offense came to life in the second game with two home runs in the fifth inning to propel the Crimson past Princeton, 5-1.
“This team has proven that we are mentally tough in the face of adversity,” Ricciardone said. “Our focus is on controlling the controllables and playing Harvard softball every time we go out on the field.”
HARVARD 1, PRINCETON 0
Left in limbo for two weeks after rain suspended the Crimson’s opening game with the Tigers, the two teams resumed play in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After pitching three scoreless innings to begin the first contest two weeks ago, Ricciardone picked up right where she left off by retiring the first six batters she faced.
“We wanted to go out on defense and have quick three-up, three-down, to let the offense put some runs on the board,” Ricciardone said. “[We] started with an attack mindset pre-game that allowed us to execute.”
With two outs in the sixth inning, junior right fielder Andrea Del Conte and co-captain Kasey Lange advanced to second and third on a double steal. During the next at bat, Del Conte came home on an error by the catcher to score the lone run of the game.
“It was going to come down to one hit or one big play and we had [junior Katherine] Lantz up and we had great speed on the bases,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said.
This misstep was the only one of the night by Princeton sophomore Shanna Christian, who scattered eight hits and picked up eight strikeouts over the course of both parts of the suspended game.
The Tigers threatened in the bottom of the sixth with two runners on, but Ricciardone struck out junior catcher Cara Worden to end the inning. After two quick outs in Princeton’s final inning, the Tigers again rallied to put the tying run on second and the winning run on first.
However, Ricciardone ended Princeton’s hopes in the same fashion as she did the sixth with an inning-ending strikeout to preserve a one-run Crimson lead and complete the shutout.
HARVARD 5, PRINCETON 1
After scoring only two runs through its first 11 innings against the Tigers, the Crimson broke out in the fifth inning with home runs from Lange and Ricciardone to take its first lead of the game.
Ricciardone continued to stifle Princeton’s offense in the second game of the afternoon, recording five strikeouts in four innings of work. However, the senior’s scoreless streak ended in the third inning when the Tigers pushed across a run to take a 1-0 lead.
Harvard immediately responded in the top of the fourth inning. After Ricciardone walked, sophomore pinch runner Zoe Galindo came into the game and stole second to move into scoring position. An RBI single off the bat of freshman left fielder Catherine Callaway scored Galindo to make the game even at one.
Once again, stealing bases proved critical to setting up scoring opportunities for the Crimson.
“We’ve been able to utilize our speed at different times and it’s come through for us,” Allard said.
The Crimson offense switched from small ball to the long ball in the fifth. After a leadoff single by co-captain Shelbi Olson, Lange hit a two-run homer to right. Just two batters later, Riccardione added a home run of her own to give the Crimson a 4-1 lead.
The captain duo Olson and Lange struck again in the seventh. Olson stole second after reaching base on a fielding error by the shortstop, and later scored on a Lange single through the left side. Lange and Olson top the Crimson offense, hitting .375 and .347, good for first and second on the team, respectively. With her three runs batted in on the day, Lange extended her season total to 27, the second-highest in the Ivy League. Olson’s two stolen bases propelled her into the league lead, as she passed Yale senior Tori Balta with her 12th stolen base. Olson leads the team with 41 hits on the year.
Sophomore Morgan Groom and freshman Taylor Cabe held the Tigers offense to no runs through the final three innings to complete Harvard’s sweep and extend the team’s program-record winning streak to 14 games.