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Yesterday’s heartbreaking loss to BC—the Harvard softball team squandered a 2-0 lead to fall 5-2 in 13 innings—paralleled the Crimson’s freshly completed 2004 season.
This year’s squad finished 22-20-1, a significant improvement on last year’s 15-26 effort. In the Ivy League, Harvard finished in third place with a record of 9-5—up from 7-7 last year—just one game away from tying with league winners Cornell and Brown, who both finished 10-4 in Ivy play. But it fell short of its title goals, losing crucial Ivy games on the road to Cornell, Columbia and Brown.
After traveling to the Midwest, the South and the Southwest in its preseason, Harvard returned home for its Ivy opener sitting just below .500 at 10-12-1.
It vaulted to the top of the league with a dominant opening doubleheader against Penn and the near-legendary marathon 20-inning game against Princeton. The Crimson’s slashing of the Tigers took the reigning champs out of title contention despite Princeton’s return of both the Ivy Player and Rookie of the Year. It was out of the gate with a 4-0 league record.
That was the hot start.
The next weekend was the stutter-step.
In Ithaca, Harvard first faltered as it split with Cornell. A disappointing pair of losses to Columbia the next day almost took the Crimson out of contention for good.
With a sweep of Yale, however, and some shuffling in the league, Harvard showed up at Brown with a chance to win the coveted rings.
Enter the devastating blow.
The Crimson gave up its lead in not one, but two games in Providence and was eliminated from the title race for good.
After the pressure was off, it came back with a successful doubleheader against Dartmouth and wound up third in the league.
There might have been a lot of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” situations for Harvard this year, but there were no regrets after yesterday’s season ending game.
“This has been the most enjoyable of my four seasons,” co-captain second baseman Sara Williamson said.
Co-captain pitcher Kara Brotemarkle echoed the same sentiment.
“This year was great,” she said. “I think of my four years, I had the most fun playing on this team.”
And junior first baseman Cecily Gordon repeated a comment heard a lot this season, praising Williamson and Brotemarkle for a job well done.
“The leadership was amazing this year,” she said.
Looking back, two major forces guided this year’s team: the tried and true seniors and the up and coming freshmen.
Anchoring the pitching staff, lining the middle of the infield, and offering the best cheers from the outfield, the class of ’04 came a long way from last year’s turmoil and frustration. Brotemarkle, Williamson, shortstop Rachel Goldberg and outfielder Monica Montijo donned their Crimson uniforms for the last time yesterday for a team that proved to be scrappy, determined and united.
“They [the seniors] have really brought this program back to a good spot and left Harvard softball with a really good reputation,” freshman outfielder Lauren Brown said.
Speaking of freshmen, the Crimson relied on them heavily. Third baseman Virginia Fritsch and infielder/outfielder Julia Kidder finished with identical batting averages, .306, tying for second on the team. Fritsch pulled down Rookie of the Week honors twice while leading the team in home runs (five) and RBI (26). Becky Voaklander finished seven games on the mound, accumulating 11 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.47.
“The freshmen came in and were just willing to put everything on the line,” Gordon said.
With the veterans, the novices and the sophomores and juniors sandwiched between, Crimson softball made great strides this year. It might not have won the Ivy title this time around, but the crew has high hopes for next year. Its moves in the offseason hope to round out any holes that may have been exposed this season.
“Our biggest goal will be the developing of the pitching,” Allard. “We have a lot of refining and growing and just gaining experience to do.”
Two recruited pitchers in next year’s freshmen class and sophomore Michele McAteer, who is expected to return to the mound next spring, combine with returning pitchers Voaklander and junior Lauren Bettinelli to complete the new pitching staff and fill the loss of Brotemarkle.
But for now, Harvard softball is remembering the incredible improvement of this season for feelings of pride and the missed opportunities for future motivation.
“Sometimes you play your hearts out,” Gordon said, “and the ball falls just fair when you want it to go foul....I don’t think we regret anything.”
—Staff writer Carrie H. Petri can be reached at email@example.com.
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