Softball Goes 2-2 Against Ivy Foes, Rich Wins Athlete of the Week

Striking it Rich
This week’s Athlete of the Week Rhianna Rich takes a hack against Princeton. She totaled nine hits in four games.

­Just as Harvard softball returned to Cambridge, so too did New England’s spring weather. As the cold slowly began to dissipate, Harvard slowly heated up, improving from last weekend’s 1-3 showing to go 2-2 in two doubleheaders.

It was a tale of two opponents for Harvard (11-14, 3-5 Ivy) this weekend. The Crimson dominated Cornell (6-17, 1-7) in the Saturday doubleheader, piling on 17 combined runs and holding the Big Red to eight. However, Harvard was no match for defending Ivy champion Princeton (13-13, 6-2) on Sunday, as the Tigers’ powerful pitching and hitting were both on display in the Sunday doubleheader.

Despite the ups and downs of the weekend, one constant was sophomore shortstop Rhianna Rich, who was named Athlete of the Week. The El Segundo, Calif. native had nine hits in 14 at bats, including two triples.

She scored four runs and drove in three more, and she also extended her errorless streak to 25 games to start the season.

Rich currently leads the Ivy League in batting average with a .437 mark, and she stands at seventh in stolen bases with seven.

“She’s just been steady for us,” head coach Jenny Allard said. “She makes big plays, she comes up clutch hitting, she has a lot of fight in her, she’s real competitive. She was one of the few that really stepped up this weekend.”

PRINCETON 6, HARVARD 2

In the final game of the weekend, the Crimson fought tooth and nail with Princeton until the top of the sixth, when the Tigers rallied for three runs to put the game out of reach for the host team.

Down 3-1 in the top of the fourth, Harvard appeared poised to erase its deficit. Princeton senior Erica Nori allowed a leadoff walk to sophomore catcher Elizabeth Shively. With one gone, sophomore third baseman Erin Lockhart roped a double to straightaway center, putting runners on second and third. A single off the bat of senior designated hitter Catherine Callaway chased in freshman pinch runner Chanel Varney to bring the Crimson within one.

However, Nori slammed the door on Harvard in the fourth, getting the final two outs of her day via groundout and flyout to strand two runners in scoring position.

Any hopes the Crimson had of building on its fourth inning momentum were dashed by Tiger sophomore righthander Riley Wilkinson. Coming on in relief for Nori, Wilkinson coasted through three scoreless innings to pick up her first save of the season.

Princeton rallied for three runs on four hits in the top of the sixth to extend its lead to 6-2. For the second time in two games, Harvard was unable to surpass two runs scored.

“I think every game from here moving forward is going to be a learning process,” co-captain Giana Panariello said. “We’re going to have to fight to win games. It’s a tough conference this year.”

Rich added her ninth hit of the weekend in the back half of Sunday’s twinbill, and she also contributed a sacrifice bunt.

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