“We just took a step in playing really sharp ball and having all things come together,” coach Jenny Allard said, “which really gives us a lot of confidence as the team moves ahead into the remainder of the year.”
A team that has often fallen just short in crucial situations delivered in all the clutch moments yesterday, sweeping a rescheduled doubleheader with Columbia (18-17-1, 1-3). After rain left conditions unplayable at Baker Field on Saturday, the Crimson instead opened its Ivy slate at Cornell, but the return to New York City was a happy one for Harvard (13-14, 2-2). The sweep, by scores of 2-1 and 1-0, moves the Crimson to a third-place tie behind league leader Princeton.
“It keeps us in it,” senior Pilar Adams said. “All we need to do is make sure we’re in it every weekend, play our best, and stay in the race until the very end.”
HARVARD 1, COLUMBIA 0
Sophomore pitcher Amanda Watkins only needed one run to secure the win, and she got it in the very first inning.
The Lions had seemingly killed the first Crimson threat, cutting down junior Lauren Brown at the plate on a fielder’s choice for the second out, but it was ultimately the player who hit into the fielder’s choice that would prove Columbia’s undoing.
Junior co-captain Julia Kidder moved to second when senior Rachael Murray walked, and scored the lone run of the game when the very next batter, Adams, drove an offering from Lions starter Jackie Adelfio to right for a single and an RBI.
Adams’ hit was one of just four for Harvard on the day, but Watkins made sure that was more than enough. She surrendered just four hits while striking out three and walking none.
Only twice did Columbia runners reach scoring position, and each time they were left stranded. In the first, the Lions got runners to first and third before Watkins got Valerie Smith to ground out to third. Columbia mounted a last-ditch rally in the seventh, getting a runner to second with two outs, but Watkins again snuffed the Lions by inducing a ground ball to third.
“When you get runners on, you have to do what you always do,” Watkins said. “You go pitch to pitch, you rely on your defense, you throw strikes and you challenge the batters, and you just do what you’re trained to do.”
HARVARD 2, COLUMBIA 1
The day opened with a game that was tight to the wire.
With one out in the top of the seventh and the score knotted at one, senior Rachel Murray blasted a home run to left field that provided the final margin. The round-tripper was Murray’s third of the season.
Sophomore pitcher Shelly Madick pitched a complete game for her team-leading sixth win, giving up only three hits while walking four and striking out five.
Madick stranded eight Lions runners, with the lone exception crossing the plate in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game at one.
“That’s something we’ve been really working on as a team,” Allard said. “Being tougher both defensively and on the mound, and coming right back once somebody gets on base, regardless of how they get on base, and really getting that next out, and we did a lot of that this weekend.”
The Crimson struck first, taking the lead in the top of the fifth when Adams scored on a sacrifice fly by freshman Hayley Bock.
Harvard’s home doubleheader against Boston College, scheduled to be played today, has been postponed. No makeup date has been announced. The Crimson will return to action next Saturday on the road against Brown.
—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at email@example.com.