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Battling frigid temperatures and strong winds, the Harvard softball team split its doubleheader with Princeton on Friday at Soldiers Field.
With an early scoring outburst, the Crimson (19-11, 5-1 Ivy) cruised past the Tigers (12-16, 3-3), 7-0, in the first game but was unable to hold onto a one-run lead and eventually fell in game two, 3-2.
Sophomore outfielder Stephanie Regan hit her first home run of the season, and junior pitcher Rachel Brown posted another shutout for her 13th win this spring in the first game.
Brown also made a brief appearance in the final inning of game two, increasing her strikeout total to 189 this season but allowing two inherited runners to score.
“I thought we came out very strong in game one,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard said. “But we just kind of coasted for the rest of the day.”
PRINCETON 3, HARVARD 2
Crimson freshman pitcher Laura Ricciardone and the defense put forth a strong showing, but Harvard could not hold onto its slim lead, allowing a three-run Princeton comeback in the final inning.
“Laura pitched a great game,” Allard said. “She deserved to win that game, but we let her down.”
Like the first game, the Crimson struck early with freshman infielder Kasey Lange hitting a home run to right center. But Harvard was unable to capitalize on the early lead, going scoreless until the seventh frame.
Ricciardone delivered a solid performance, striking out five batters while allowing only six hits. She was also helped by a stellar defensive effort, which made timely plays—including a couple of highlights—to help remedy for the stagnant offense.
In the top of the fourth, the Tigers’ offense seemed like it was coming to life, with junior infielder Kelsey VandeBergh singling to reach first, and sophomore Alex Peyton coming up to the plate with one out.
Peyton managed to make good contact, but Lange caught the line drive and zipped it to first for a double play.
But the Crimson continued to struggle with the bat, and Princeton was able to turn it on when it mattered.
As the Tigers’ third batter of the inning, Peyton singled to left field, advancing VandeBergh to third and driving in sophomore outfielder Candace Button to tie the game at one apiece.
Harvard brought Brown back to stem Princeton’s momentum, but with no outs in the inning, the Tigers came out swinging.
“They gained some confidence,” Allard said. “[They] swung their bats harder, and that put some runs on the board.”
Princeton doubled twice off of Brown’s first two pitches and jumped out to a 3-1 lead.
Crimson junior infielder Jane Alexander’s solo home run gave the team hopes for a comeback.
But Harvard was unable to escape from the offensive funk, dropping the second encounter, 3-2.
“We were sitting on one run and it’s always tough to maintain a lead when it’s a slim margin,” Brown said. “Laura was doing a fantastic job, but we didn’t make some plays, and Princeton got things going in its favor.”
HARVARD 7, PRINCETON 0
The Crimson lit up the scoreboard in the first two innings—scoring seven runs in two frames—and played tough defense to shut out the Tigers, 7-0.
Brown put in another outstanding performance, striking out 10 of 26 batters while only allowing two hits.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Brown said. “We were ready to play that game, and it’s a lot easier to pitch when you have a comfortable lead.”
The Tigers’ offense struggled mightily, only managing two hits all game.
Harvard, on the other hand, had no trouble hitting the ball, putting up nine hits, two of which left the yard.
Regan knocked her first home run of the season in the first inning to put Harvard up by one.
Lange also had a strong outing, doubling in the second to bring home Regan and setting up freshman Allison Scott’s three-run homer.
“It took a couple extra rounds of front toss in [our pre-game batting practice],” Lange said. “But I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well.”
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