For the entirety of the 2017 Ivy League softball season, Princeton towered above all other competitors. Breezing through the schedule with a 15-5 conference record, the Tigers only faced significant resistance from Dartmouth, which swept Princeton in a two-game set.
On the other hand, Harvard battled back from a sluggish start to its Ivy slate to ultimately earn a spot in the championship series with a 13-7 league record. Unlike the Tigers, the Crimson had no problem with the Big Green, which it swept in four games to win the North Division.
Though Harvard (22-19, 13-7 Ivy) only trailed Princeton (25-18, 15-5) by two games heading into the weekend of the Ancient Eight championship, the teams’ records did not tell the entire story. In their two meetings in the regular season, the Tigers beat the Crimson by a combined score of 16-4.
Harvard suffered a similar fate on its playoff trip down to Princeton, exiting the Ivy League Championship Series as quickly as it had leapfrogged in over North Division rival Dartmouth.
“I think we had a really good last stretch of games in order to finish where we did,” sophomore third baseman Erin Lockhart said. “We battled through a lot of injuries and other things, but we finished strong at the end of the season even if it wasn't the outcome we wanted.”
PRINCETON 13, HARVARD 4
The Crimson dropped the second game on Saturday to close out its season. In the series finale, the Tigers demonstrated the same dominance they did back in early April when they visited Harvard and left with two victories.
“We're all sad and disappointed with our season ending, but this is just going to provide us with that much more motivation to improve ourselves for next season,” sophomore shortstop Rhianna Rich said. “I think we know what we need to do collectively to win the championship after these past two years of making it and coming up short.”
This contest was not nearly as much of a battle as the first game, as Princeton jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning. Doubles fueled the Tigers’ early offensive attack. In Princeton’s first trip to the plate, first baseman Kaylee Grant doubled down the left field line to drive in two. In the top of the fourth, the Tigers tacked three runs on the board with a pair of RBI doubles.
The Crimson made a comeback bid beginning in the home half of the fourth, and by the end of the fifth Harvard had pulled within two, making it a 6-4 game.
The Crimson’s comeback was led by its two power threats, first baseman Olivia Giaquinto and Lockhart. In the fourth, Giaquinto knocked a solo homer over the center field wall to score Harvard’s first run of the weekend.
Harvard continued to keep the pressure on in the fifth. Junior right fielder Maddy Kaplan drove in junior left fielder Dallas Hogan with a sacrifice fly. With co-captain Giana Panariello on base, Lockhart smoked a two-run homerun to left field. The homers for Giaquinto and Lockhart were the seventh of the season for each player.
“It's great to have Erin and Olivia in the lineup because they've come up clutch with home runs and extra base hits, especially these past two weekends,” Rich said.
However, the Crimson did not maintain the momentum it had gained in the middle innings. Princeton’s offense erupted for seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings, and Tigers reliever Riley Wilkinson shut down Harvard in her two innings of work. Wilkinson struck out two and allowed one walk and no hits.
“They just out hit us and capitalized on their opportunities,” Lockhart said.