Though Harvard baseball has established itself as the “Bad Boys of the Ivy League,” perhaps the most fearsome team in the Ancient Eight is actually Crimson softball. Coach Jenny Allard’s squad (15-12, 8-4 Ivy) posted its second winning weekend in a row with a 2-1 series victory at Columbia (13-16, 6-6).
“This weekend was key because we were neck and neck with Columbia and knew that they would be a tough team to beat,” junior shortstop Rhianna Rich said. “So to come away winning the series really puts us in a good spot. It was also great to keep our momentum going from last weekend and we are really hitting our stride.”
HARVARD 3, COLUMBIA 1
A pair of dominant pitching performances and some clutch home runs late in the game powered Harvard to victory in the rubber match of the weekend series.
This game was initially a pitchers’ duel in which neither team got on the board until the fifth inning. Each team tacked on a run in the fifth, as Crimson co-captain and center fielder Kaitlyn Schiffhauer knocked a sacrifice fly to center field and the Lions followed with a homer off the bat of junior Krystin Wong.
Harvard’s own power display was the key difference, however. In the top of the sixth, junior third baseman Erin Lockhart rocketed a line drive over the wall in left-center, and Rich provided the mirror image of Lockhart’s feat in the next inning, going deep to right-center on a line. Lockhart leads the team in long balls with four, while Rich is now one of five Crimson with two round-trippers.
“We knew what their pitchers were throwing and we knew what adjustments we had to make, so I think what really clicked toward the end of the game was executing those adjustments,” Rich said.
“Working the process enabled both Erin and Rhianna to put bat on ball and get two key monster hits,” junior Katie Duncan added.
Right-hander Sarah Smith rebounded nicely after conceding the home run to Wong. The junior retired nine of the next 10 batters en route to her third win of the season.
Sophomore Olivia Giaquinto earned the start in the circle, hurling 3.2 shutout innings. Smith came on in relief after Giaquinto had allowed two baserunners in a scoreless games in the bottom of the fourth. Smith escaped the jam and continued with three more innings of one-run ball. Combined, the pair of pitchers allowed just four hits and two walks on the afternoon.
COLUMBIA 6, HARVARD 1
Harvard’s lone loss of the weekend broke a four-game winning streak. The Crimson registered just three hits, all singles, in the defeat.
What was initially a close game became a blowout in the bottom of the fifth. Pairs of RBI singles and RBI doubles chased in five runs for Columbia. Harvard was unable to answer in its remaining chances at the plate, falling victim to a double play in the top of the sixth and being set down in order in the final frame.
The Crimson started off well, plating a run in the first inning. The top of the order set the table for senior right fielder Alexa Altchek, who dumped a single into right field to score co-captain and left fielder Maddy Kaplan from second base. The Lions quickly fought back, however, tying the game on a second-inning sacrifice fly before exploding for five runs in the fifth.
Smith impressed in the circle, starting the game and pitching the first three innings while only allowing one run. The junior now leads the pitching staff in ERA with a 2.65 mark.
Junior second baseman Meagan Lantz went two-for-three on stolen bases on the weekend, including a steal in this loss. Lantz is second in the Ivy League with 12 thefts.
HARVARD 5, COLUMBIA 4
While Harvard sandwiched a victory between two losses against Cornell, its reversed its fortunes against its most recent New York foe. And it did so in dramatic fashion.
After squandering a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Crimson faced a 4-2 deficit heading into its last chance at the plate.
“Columbia has some big power hitters so it was no surprise that they were hitting the ball hard and scoring runs,” Rich said. “We knew we had to keep scoring offensively regardless of that inning, but I do think it sparked us offensively to realize that we needed to get those runs back. It gave us a sense of urgency.”
Schiffhauer led off the inning with a two-base error. Back-to-back singles from Rich and Kaplan scored two runs to tie the game at four apiece.
Harvard’s momentum faltered, however, as Columbia pitcher Madison Canby settled down and retired the next two batters. With two outs, Altchek pulled a pitch down the left-field line to score Kaplan from second with the go-ahead run.
Because Harvard was the visitor, it still had to preserve its newfound lead in the bottom of the seventh. Starter Katie Duncan snapped right back from allowing four runs—just one of which was earned—in the previous inning. The junior set down the Lions in order with a groundout, a flyout, and a lineout. The Crimson’s triumph marked Duncan’s 10th win of the season.
“After Columbia got four runs I think we did a good job as a team staying confident and focusing in on each and every play, not trying to do too much and really focusing on what each and every one of us could do in any given situation,” Duncan said.
Kaplan extended her hitting streak to 13 games in the victory. Overall, the senior is hitting .427/.472/.549 with just four strikeouts and a team-leading mark of 23 runs batted in.
—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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