Give the Harvard softball team credit--it definitely knows how to spice up a ballgame.
The Crimson (27-17-1, 6-4 Ivy) swept a doubleheader from Central Connecticut (3-33-1) yesterday, winning by scores of 3-2 and 5-4. The final scores, though, could have been much more favorable for Harvard.
Maybe the players wanted to add some drama to the last home games of the season.
Maybe they wanted the seniors to have exciting memories of the final home games of their careers.
Whatever the reason, the Crimson allowed the overmatched Blue Devils to keep both games close. The outcome of each game, however, was never really in doubt.
"I thought we were hitting the ball well, but we were hitting it right at people," said senior right fielder Melissa Kreuder. "We had a little bit of bad luck."
In the first game of the twin billing, Harvard wasted no time jumping ahead. Co-captain Katina Lee led off the bottom of the first by getting hit on the foot by a pitch.
She quickly made Central Connecticut pay for its disrespect, taking second on a passed ball and then scoring the game's first run on a throwing error after a bunt single by junior Jenny Franzese. Later in the inning sophomore catcher Terri Teller scored the Crimson's second run on an RBI-single up the middle by Kreuder.
Harvard had chances to tack on more runs in the first, but freshman Deborah Abeles was pegged at home trying to score on Kreuder's hit, and later in the inning with the bases loaded freshman Ghia Godfree grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.
That was the way it went for the Crimson all day. Just when it appeared ready to break the game wide open with an offensive explosion, the bats would go cold. Harvard left a total of 14 runners on base in the two games.
"[Stranding runners] is a problem we've had all year," said Kreuder. "We have the potential to score a lot more runs."
In the very next inning the Blue Devils put a scare into the Crimson by tying the game at 2-2. However, Harvard avoided falling behind when junior second baseman Mandy Wills snagged a grounder, tagged the runner and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
Harvard squandered scoring chances in the second and third innings, but got the one run it needed in the fourth. With one out Lee ripped a line drive right at the Central Connecticut second baseman who had no chance to handle it.
Lee then stole second, and Teller drove her in on a single to right field. The Crimson defense did the rest.
Sophomore Kathleen Brown got the start and her fourth win of the season behind a solid performance on the mound. She struck out two and gave up only three hits in five innings of work.
In the sixth inning, junior Tasha Cupp came on in relief of Brown and did what she does best--mowed down the opposing hitters. Looking impressive, to say the least, Cupp struck out the side in the sixth and added a fourth K in the seventh.
Twenty minutes later she started the second game just where she had left off in the first. She threw three innings of no-hit ball, striking out five along the way, and improved her record to 17-8. For the day, Cupp worked five innings, struck out nine batters and gave up no hits.
"Tasha Cupp has amazing presence on the mound," Franzese said. "She is always able to come in and get the job done. Everyone has tremendous faith in her."
The play of the day, however, went to freshman center fielder Jamie Stark. With Harvard leading 5-2 in the top of the sixth, Central Connecticut's leadoff hitter sent a fly ball deep into center field.
Stark turned and started toward the fence. As the ball sailed high over her right shoulder, Stark lunged up and out to make an impressive leaping grab and rob the Blue Devil hitter of a certain extra-base hit.
Harvard's offense remained aggressive in game two, again scoring a pair of runs in the first inning. Lee led off with a double, and Franzese followed with a single. Abeles, named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for her outstanding performances against Penn and Cornell this weekend, drove in Lee, and Kreuder plated Franzese.
In the next inning, Cupp, forced to hit because of an error on the scorecard, helped her own cause. She ripped a double deep into right field to score Wills, who had singled and stolen second.
The Crimson added two more in the third. Kreuder led off with a towering double down the left field line that came just a few feet short of clearing the fence. Co-captain Melissa Reyen and sophomore Karen Rice both followed with hard liners which were caught by the Central Connecticut second baseman.
With two outs Wills blooped a single into shallow left field, and a misplay by the left fielder allowed Kreuder to score. Cupp then recorded her second RBI of the game with a single into right plating Wills.
Again, Harvard allowed Central Connecticut to creep its way back into the game. The Blue Devils scored twice in the fourth, once in the sixth and once more in the seventh before junior pitcher Heather Brown got the final batter to ground out to second.
"We're playing well right now," Kreuder said. "We've gotten back to playing ball the way we know we can."
Harvard is indeed getting the job done. The team has won six games in a row and eight of its last nine. A weekend sweep of Dartmouth this Saturday would give the Crimson a share of second place in the Ivy League and increase its chances to make the ECAC Tournament.