The Harvard softball team enters 2017 with a chip on its shoulder after coming within one game of winning an Ivy League championship and advancing to the NCAA Regional tournament in 2016.
A season ago, the Crimson got off to an uneven start, at one point losing five games in a row between the Loyola Marymount Tournament and the San Diego State Classic.
However, the team regrouped after the tournaments, rattling off two separate winning streaks of eight games to finish the season 29-17. Harvard also went 16-4 in Ivy League play, good for the best record in the conference.
This barrage of wins set up a best-of-three showdown between the Crimson and the Princeton Tigers in the Ivy League Championship Series. Princeton prevailed in three games on Harvard’s home turf, however, sending the Tigers to the NCAA Regionals and putting an abrupt end to the Crimson’s season.
Harvard has won six Ivy titles since the league’s inception in 1980. This mark is second only to Princeton, which added its 17th title after its triumph over Harvard last year.
“Our goal all the time is to win an Ivy championship,” co-captain Savannah Bradley said. “We’ve been working toward that these past few years, and we got the closest that we have been in a while last year.”
The Crimson did lose several key pieces to graduation after its Ivy League championship bid, but improvement from returning players coupled with contributions from incoming freshmen should put Harvard back in contention for another title this season.
The Crimson likely will continue to be an offensive force in the Ivy League in 2017. The team returns many of its top contributors this season, with the only significant losses being 2016 co-captain and outfielder Zoe Galindo and utility infielder Haley Davis.
Junior Maddy Kaplan and sophomores Rhianna Rich and Meagan Lantz will once again be counted on to do damage at the plate.
Kaplan seemed to be on base all the time last season, raking her way to a .472 average and a 1.163 OPS. The Santa Monica, Calif. native anchored the offense, playing both left field and designated hitter.
Rich, the starting shortstop, contributed a .381 average to go along with a .971 OPS out of the leadoff spot in 2016. She essentially took the reigns from the outset of the season, playing a full slate of 46 games.
Lantz provided much of Harvard’s power, leading the team with seven home runs and 37 RBI, the second-most runs batted in among all Ivy League players. Lantz also swiped 10 bases and played solid defense at the hot corner.
The incoming freshman class can produce all over the diamond and will be depended on to fill any gaps in production both offensively and defensively.