Some softball games can be characterized as pitchers’ duels, where neither offense can make anything happen against dominant performances in the circle. Others are slugfests, where neither side can seem to stop scoring runs. Still others fall in the middle, average games that are not very remarkable.
This midweek matchup between Harvard (15-16, 6-6 Ivy) and Providence (13-22, 3-9 Big East) was a bit of everything. Though the contest began as a classic pitchers’ duel, the floodgates eventually broke open in the fifth inning. When dust settled, the Friars had dispatched of the Crimson, 8-3.
“Even though the score didn’t end up in our favor, I think we learned a lot of things today,” said co-captain and second baseman Giana Panariello. “We worked hard, got to swing our bats a little bit, made some adjustments at the plate, and really learned what it was like to stick to the process.”
Before the fifth inning, this contest was a battle between Crimson freshman righthander Olivia Giaquinto and Providence junior hurler Christina Ramirez. Through two full innings, Giaquinto had racked up four strikeouts and had only allowed two bloop singles into right field. Ramirez matched Giaquinto’s strong start, walking one and striking out two.
“We had a lot of hard-hit ground balls right to people, and then we started to get behind the ball a little more and put some runs on the board,” head coach Jenny Allard said. “We just needed to do that earlier.”
When the fourth inning ended however, a switch flipped for both offenses, but more so for the Friars.
Giaquinto’s control faltered slightly in the top of the fifth, as she walked the leadoff batter and put another on via free pass two batters later. She recovered and struck out sophomore third baseman Vanessa Portillo for the second out of the inning.
However, a wild pitch to the following batter meant that once again Giaquinto faced a high-pressure situation with runners on second and third, two outs, and a 3-2 count.
This time the freshman was unable to escape unscathed. Junior shortstop Paige Mulry poked a single over the head of second baseman Melissa Lacro to plate two. Providence continued to pile on the runs in the top of the fifth, as a single and a double into left field scored two more.
“[Giaquinto] had her curve working well,” Allard said. “Her rise ball was jumping, and she had that changeup. And then she started just to lose some pitches. She walked a couple of batters, hung a few pitches, they got some key hits, and that was it.”
Harvard’s offense figured out Ramirez as soon as the Friars figured out Giaquinto. In the home half of the fifth, singles by Lacro and pinch hitter Jillian Leslie and a subsequent sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third for sophomore shortstop Rhianna Rich. Rich delivered by lacing an opposite-field double to plate two, and she later scored on an error by Mulry to cut Providence’s lead to 4-3.
“For us, I saw the kids that came up in the fifth inning really swinging harder through the ball,” Allard said. “Before we were getting to the ball, and we weren’t getting through the ball hard enough.”
Responding immediately to the Crimson’s sudden offensive outburst, the Friars matched their four-run output from the previous inning. Senior catcher Nicole Lundstrom launched a towering two-run home run that clanged off the scoreboard to widen Providence’s lead to 6-3. Two straight singles into left field and a Portillo triple into the right-center gap chased around two more.
Harvard made a comeback bid in the bottom of the seventh, but it was unable to mount enough momentum to put runs on the board. Leading off the inning, pinch hitter Isabelle Haugh was hit by the first pitch she saw. Two singles from Rich and third baseman Erin Lockhart loaded the bases, but a fielder’s choice and a double play quickly curtailed the Crimson’s comeback effort.
Ramirez recorded a complete game win after escaping the seventh untouched. The Providence junior allowed two earned runs and struck out five.
Early on in the game, Giaquinto showed composure in the circle to work out of a difficult jam. After a walk put runners on every base, the freshman righthander battled against Portillo in a long at bat. The Providence third baseman popped a ball up just past first base, and it looked as though it would fall in to allow the Friars to break the early stalemate. Though junior right fielder Maddy Kaplan’s diving bid came up just short, the ball was ruled foul, and Giaquinto eventually ended the threat with a swinging strikeout on a slow changeup.“After coming off such a long weekend where all our pitchers were worn down, her included, to come out today, to shut them out for a few innings, I think she did a great job on the mound,” Panariello said. “She did a great job coming back, being a leader on the mound, on the field in general, and I’m really proud of her performance today.
–Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at email@example.com.
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