The Harvard softball team (18-16, 9-6 Ivy) stayed in contention for an Ivy League Championship Series bid as it tripped up to Providence, R.I., and swept Brown (13-27, 3-12) in a three-game weekend series, putting the Crimson second in the Ivy North Division behind only Dartmouth (11-24-1, 10-6).
The three victories extended Harvard’s Ivy win streak to five consecutive games. The Crimson’s away record improved to 7-5 as well.
“We stuck to our process and had faith in ourselves and each other to get the job done,” sophomore Nicki Nishizawa said.
HARVARD 5, BROWN 2
In the final game in Rhode Island, Harvard continued its winning streak with a 5-2 win against the Bears.
The second game of the day was not as smooth as the earlier game, as the Crimson and Brown were stuck in a 2-2 tie going into the sixth inning. Sophomore catcher Elizabeth Shively led off the top of the sixth with a double. A sacrifice bunt moved her over to third, but she was unable to score on a subsequent groundout, the second out of the frame.
Bears pitcher Meghan Wimmer’s control faltered after the groundout, as she hit sophomore center fielder Kaitlyn Schiffhauer and allowed a free pass to sophomore shortstop Rhianna Rich. Junior right fielder Maddy Kaplan capitalized on the bases-loaded opportunity, driving a double to center field to give Harvard a 5-2 advantage.
“The biggest thing that made us successful today was definitely clutch hitting,” Shively said. “We really stuck with the process today and battled every at-bat.”
The Crimson would hold the score with a strong performance by sophomore pitcher Kathleen Duncan, who struck out seven batters to defend the Harvard lead. The Crimson benefitted from two more strikeouts from freshman starter Olivia Giaquinto. The pair of arms only allowed eight hits, one base on ball, and two earned runs in seven innings.
Earlier in the game, the Crimson opened the scoring for the second time this weekend with two runs in the second inning. Singles by Schiffhauer and Rich allowed Harvard to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Brown fought back in the third inning to level the game at 2-2, and coach Jenny Allard opted to bring Duncan in to evade the scoring threat. The sophomore tossed 4.1 scoreless innings to improve her record to 7-6.
“We kept our energy up in the dugout and on the field,” Shively said. “We were really cheering for one another the whole time, and it was like we had 23 other girls behind us the whole game.”
HARVARD 4, BROWN 0
In the first game on Sunday, the Crimson rolled comfortably past the Bears with impressive performances from all players.
Rich took a walk to open the first inning before Giaquinto, playing first base, hit a single to plate the El Segundo, Calif. native. The strong play continued as Nishizawa hit an infield single to allow Harvard to establish to a 2-0 lead. Giaquinto and Nishizawa led the team offensively, driving in three and one runs, respectively.
As the second inning began, the Crimson scored its final pair of runs on the day after Giaquinto hit a two-run RBI single with the bases loaded and two outs. Harvard ran the bases expertly in the opening game against Brown, with Rich, Kaplan, junior left fielder Dallas Hogan, and sophomore third baseman Erin Lockhart all stealing bases.
“We had some people really step up in big situations,” Shively said. “But it wouldn’t have been possible if our pitchers and defense hadn’t done such a good job of keeping them off the bases.”
Harvard didn’t score for the other innings but held its lead for the rest of the game with a standout performance by senior pitcher Taylor Cabe.
The Boiling Springs, S.C. native pitched a two-hit shutout, allowed only two hits, and struck out five batters. In the first six innings, Cabe only allowed two baserunners. The senior wrapped up her phenomenal game by stranding two runners in the bottom of the seventh.
HARVARD 7, BROWN 4
The Crimson rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh inning to post a come-from-behind win in the opening game of the three-part series, starting the trend of positive play on the weekend.
Trailing 4-2 at the start of the seventh, Harvard erupted for four hits and benefited from two errors to put five runs on the board. Kaplan got the inning started by drawing a rare catcher’s interference, and she later scored on a squeeze bunt from Shively. Schiffhauer singled in Lockhart to tie the game, and Nishizawa tacked on two more with a double into the gap in right-center. Later, Hogan reached home on a throwing error, and Schiffhauer crossed the plate to put the Crimson on top, 7-4.
Nishizawa had a breakout game, going 3-for-4 at the plate and driving in four of Harvard’s seven runs. Schiffhauer and Giaquinto added two hits each.
The Crimson was aggressive on the basepaths against Bears catcher Julia Schoenewald. Kaplan, Hogan, and co-captain Giana Panariello each had a stolen base.
Duncan put together a solid start in the circle, throwing five innings and giving up two earned runs. Cabe entered in the sixth and held Brown scoreless in the final two frames.
—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.