This weekend, Harvard plays a pair of home-and-home doubleheaders with Dartmouth in a weekend that will likely decide the Ivy League title. In a rematch of last year’s penultimate weekend, the Crimson (27-11, 13-0 Ivy) comes in one game ahead of the Big Green (26-14, 15-1) in the loss column.
Because of scheduling complications due to inclement weather, this weekend will not be the final weekend of the Ancient Eight season for the Crimson. They still have two games remaining against Cornell, which have been rescheduled twice. They also had a game versus Penn postponed at a tie in the sixth.
“It has been really frustrating, and we haven’t really been successful getting them in in the scheduled time,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said.
That said, either the Crimson or the Big Green could clinch the North Division title this weekend. If a team goes 3-1, it will claim a spot in the Ivy League tournament. If the teams split, Harvard’s results against the Big Red will determine the final standings.
Harvard finds itself in a better position this year going into Dartmouth weekend than it did last year. In 2013, the Crimson came into the series a game behind the Big Green and needed three wins on the weekend to over take the title. The squad eventually lost three after winning the first to cede the division.
Before last year, the Crimson had won the Ivy League title in two consecutive campaigns, including reaching the regional final of the 2012 NCAA tournament.
Since the beginning of Ivy League play, Harvard has been on an absolute tear. After a poor performance in California over spring break, the Crimson has gone on to win 18 in a row.
“We’ve done a remarkable job staying focused game,” said Allard. “They’ve done a phenomenal job of not working ahead or behind. We’ve really had a focus on the process of playing great softball.”
The consistency can be attributed to the balance and the depth of the team. There are six Crimson hitters with double-digit RBIs for the season. Some, such as captain Kasey Lange, have produced highly, as expected. Others, such as freshman Catherine Callaway, have come in and shown that inexperience is not a hindrance. Callaway leads the freshman class with 13 RBIs on the season.
“Everyone has stepped up at different times,” said Allard. “As of late, [junior Emily] Gusse had a huge weekend for us with some key hits. She came out with a huge home run. Laura has been really strong on the mound. She has been able to keep us in a ton of games. Our pitching staff has been doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”
While the hitting has been varied and consistent, the pitching has been keeping the team on point. Every Crimson pitcher has an ERA under 3.00, or top 10 in the Ivy League. Junior Laura Ricciardone leads the entire league by almost a half run per game with a 1.48 ERA and 17 wins. Freshman Taylor Cabe has also posted nearly 90 innings for the Crimson.
Dartmouth also started the Ivy League season strong, going undefeated over its first 15 games. However, on Sunday, it dropped the second game of a double header to Brown, 3-1. The Big Green was undone by errors, which led to two crucial runs.
“Initially, we were very much behind Dartmouth in number of games, so although both teams were sweeping and winning, they looked to be leading us because they were ahead so many games [in conference play],” Laura Ricciardone said.
While Harvard leads the Ancient Eight in pitching, Dartmouth is the cream of the crop at the plate. As a team, the Big Green collectively bats just south of .300 while putting up 4.6 runs per game.
Dartmouth has also been balanced offensively, with eight players who have double-digit RBIs and five with at least 20.
The winner will likely move on to the Ivy League championship on May 3rd and 4th. Since both teams have better conference records than anyone in the South Division, the games would be hosted by the North Divisional winner.
“It is neck and neck between Dartmouth and us,” said Ricciardone. “We really love the position that we are in—we control the destiny we are in. This team is incredibly motivated. We really put in the work in the preseason.”
—Staff writer Jacob W. Lynch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.