While the rest of the Harvard student body slept away their spring breaks, junior pitcher Rachel Brown and the Crimson softball team were busy touring California for the University of California Riverside Tournament, Marina International Hotel Showcase, and the San Diego Classic II.
Harvard (8-8) racked up four wins and two losses in the UCR tournament, went 1-1 at the Marina Showcase at Loyola Marymount, and lost four times before a much-needed win to end the roadtrip. From the mound, Brown anchored the team throughout.
“Rachel pitched outstandingly throughout California,” junior infielder Whitney Shaw said. “There was tough competition, tough batters, and tough losses, but Rachel had the mentality that she was going to mow down every single batter no matter what. Nothing brought her down.”
Brown played eight of the 11 games in California, winning seven and losing four. In her 46.2 innings of play, Brown struck out 76—an average of 9.5 per game, or 1.65 strikeouts each inning.
Regardless of the result of each game, Brown maintained her composure, consistently providing strong performances for the Crimson.
“I thought Rachel was a leader in the circle for us this week,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said. “She kept us in all the games, even those we lost. Our offense sort of needs to step up and score runs to support her.”
While throughout the week Brown pitched impressively, the California native bested herself in the final game of the week against San Diego. The Crimson came into the last match of the week coming off a four-game team losing streak in the San Diego Classic II.
“It was a big game for us. One of the preseason goals we had set was to come out of preseason with a record of .500 or better, so we had to win this game,” Shaw said. “Also, this game set the tone for the long stretch of games coming up.”
“Another element was that it was San Diego, Rachel’s hometown,” she added.
Brown pitched a seven-inning shutout silencing the Toreros’ offense with a dominant pitching performance. In the 1-0 victory, the Crimson starter managed 15 strikeouts, and San Diego’s only hit was an infield single. The Toreros only came to the plate 22 times in seven innings, meaning Brown allowed just one over the minimum.
Brown’s pitching performance against San Diego marks a season high in strikeouts and her second shutout this year. She leads the Crimson with 104 strikeouts so far this season.
“Rachel is in a really good place right now. This is the strongest she’s looked in the preseason,” Allard said. “She just needs to keep working game-to-game and pitch-to-pitch. Rachel is physically stronger and mentally more experienced, so this is bound to be a great season for her.”
But Brown set the bar incredibly high her sophomore season: she set Harvard records for opponent batting average in a season, strikeouts in a season, strikeouts per game, and shutouts. Additionally Brown led the Ivy league in opponent batting average, strikeouts in the season, shutouts, appearances, and earned-run average, earning her a spot on the All-Ivy League first-team.
Still, Brown appears to be well on her way to breaking her records from last season, and continues to play a vital role on the Crimson, earning the decision in seven of the eight Harvard victories this season.
“Her presence on the mound is one of confidence. She definitely comes off as cool, calm, and collected,” Shaw said. “She just goes out there and gets the job done. She is never ostentatious, just strong.”
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