Softball Faces Powerhouse Cornell

It might not be a Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, but it's going down to the wire nevertheless.

The Ivy League softball title will be decided in the final weekend of the conference season when defending champion Harvard (15-17, 7-1 Ivy) hosts first-place Cornell (30-6, 8-0) tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. on Soldiers Field.

The Crimson and the Big Red will play a doubleheader, and a sweep by either team will essentially secure the Ivy title.

Harvard and Cornell will square off as the two best teams in the Ancient Eight, but they enter the weekend with vastly different recent histories.

The Crimson has lost six of its last nine games and had its 25-game Ivy win streak halted last Sunday in a 1-0 loss at Princeton. That defeat was a microcosm of Harvard's troubles of late--offensive inconsistency and an inability to produce runs.

The Crimson's lack of scoring was reflected yesterday when Rutgers swept a pair of games from Harvard in New Jersey by scores of 8-1 and 8-7. The Scarlet Knights actually surrendered 12 hits to the Crimson in the first game, but Harvard could muster only one run.

Despite its recent woes at the plate, Harvard has plenty of big sticks in the lineup, and the Crimson can explode for an offensive onslaught at anytime. Co-captains Terri Teller and Deborah Abeles have led the way for Harvard much of the season, but several other players have been swinging the bat well lately.

Senior second baseman Tara LaSovage might be the Crimson's hottest hitter. The defending Ivy League Player of the Year went 6-for-7 yesterday against Rutgers and has batted leadoff for Harvard all year.

Sophomore catcher Mairead McKendry, junior first baseman Ghia Godfree and freshman right fielder Sarah Koppel have also shown good pop at the plate. Freshman utility player Cherry Fu has just recovered from a separated shoulder and had a 2-for-4, two-RBI showing yesterday.

If Harvard's hitters are to come through tomorrow, however, they will have to do so against two of the league's best pitchers.

Cornell senior Julie Westbrock (15-4) and sophomore Nicole Zitarelli (15-2) have split the Big Red's 30 victories this season. Westbrock received First Team All-Ivy honors last year, and Zitarelli is coming off a one-hit, shutout over St. Bonaventure last Wednesday.

Led by its dynamic pitching duo, Cornell has won 15 games in a row. Although the Big Red has never won an Ivy League title, this is its third consecutive 30-win season and it appears poised to take the conference crown from the Crimson.

But Harvard has a hurler of its own who might not want to relinquish her team's status as the best of the Ancient Eight. Sophomore Chelsea Thoke (9-9) has been a workhorse on the mound for the Crimson all season long and earned Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honors two weeks ago for her dominant weekend against Yale and Brown.

Harvard might feel a bit more pressure than Cornell will. The Crimson currently trails the Big Red by one game in the standings, and a split in the twin bill will leave Cornell in control as it heads to lowly Dartmouth on Sunday for its final Ivy games.

Should Cornell sweep Harvard, the Big Red would clinch the title tomorrow. However, if the Crimson can sweep two from the Big Red, Harvard would be one game ahead and need only to win one of its final two conference games, both against Dartmouth on Thursday.

Harvard heads to Vermont on Sunday afternoon for a doubleheader against the Catamounts.

Recommended Articles