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Rocketing to the Cal State-Hayward Tournament championship, the soft-ball team (14-9, 0-0 Ivy) climaxed its spring break by defeating Portland State, 4-3, in the tournament final last Saturday.
"We bore down and made the plays when we needed to," junior Tasha Cupp said. "We played good defense against Portland State; they had a lot of runners on base".
Harvard escaped bases-loaded jams in the first two innings, and posted a 4-0 lead after five. Senior Katina Lee said that "one bad inning" tightened the score.
Earlier that day, Harvard defeated the University of California-Davis in the semifinal, 4-1. The Crimson avenged last year's loss to U.C.-Davis in the same tournament.
"We came out on the field and knew we could win," sophomore Tara LaSovage said. "We took control from the beginning. It was a great win; they had been beating everybody up."
Cupp improved to 9-4 with the win and made the all-tournament team.
Harvard went 6-1 in the tournament, winning its last four games after a 4-1 loss to Humboldt.
"That loss woke us up," LaSovage said. "We were a little bit flat in that game. We were a different team after-wards."
The team scored a season-high 13 runs to defeat Santa Clara later that day.
"The Humboldt game got the trip going back on the right track," LaSovage said. "The best part is that we've continued to get better."
The team steadily improved over spring break. In the Sacramento State Tournament on March 20-23, Harvard finished 1-2 in pool pays. A 4-1 loss to San Jose State in the first game of the consolation round eliminated the Crimson.
Harvard's first two losses were to Top 20 members Pacific (2-1) and sixth-ranked Iowa (13-6). "We played some really tough teams," freshman Deborah Abeles said.
However, the six Harvard runs were the most that any team in the tournament scored against Iowa, the eventual champion. The Crimson even led 2-0 in the first inning.
"Our pitching was not every effective in that game," Lee said. "It happened to be an off day. After the first few innings, they started timing our pitches and cranking it."
Lee said that the breakaway shallow fences, between 190-200 feet away, hurt the Crimson.
Lee and Cupp said that the final score did not reflect the actual game. "We played with them," Lee said.
The team stepped up in subsequent doubleheaders against St. Mary's--a Harvard sweep--and Wisconsin--a split.
"We were not very impressive [in the Sacramento State Tournament], but we did much better in the two doubleheaders," Lee said. "We played really well in the Hayward tournament. The level of play in that tournament was not as high as it was in the Sacramento State tournament, but it was still pretty competitive."
Cupp went 6-3 over spring break, winning her last three decisions. "Tasha can definitely dominate teams," Abeles said. "She was very good against U.C.-Davis. She is a good riseball pitcher, and she has a good changeup. She can definitely be a strikeout pitcher"
Freshman Jessie Amberg currently leads the team in batting with a .360 average. In the Hayward semifinal and championship. Amberg filled in for junior Jenny Franzese, who was side-lined with chronic back pains.
Abeles, who takes over at shortstop for Amy Reinhard'96, has also seemed very comfortable, Cupp said.
"[Abeles] is taking charge, she's a leader out on the field," LaSovage said. Currently third on the team in batting at .338, Abeles leads Harvard in hits, RBIs, assists, slugging average and triples.
"My biggest adjustment has been to college hitting; there's an extra three feet," Abeles said.
While not a fast team overall, Harvard has speed in Lee, Franzese, and LaSovage. LaSovage leads the team in stolen bases, with six.
This year's team is also very deep.
"The bench can pinch-hit and get hits," Lee said. "We have players who can be good, heads-up baserunners. It's a lot different than last year's team."
Harvard is scheduled to face Hartford tomorrow and Maine on Saturday. Yesterday's game at URI was canceled.
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