Softball to take on Penn in pursuit of back-to-back Ivy titles
This weekend, the Big Green softball team (23-16, 16-4 Ivy) will face the University of Pennsylvania (22-18, 13-7 Ivy) in the Ivy League Championship Series for the third consecutive year. The three-year tug-of-war between the Big Green and the Quakers began in Philadelphia in 2013, where Penn defeated Dartmouth in a 2-1 series, winning their second championship since the Ivy League softball program began in 1980. Dartmouth managed to exact revenge the following year as the team won the school’s first championship in program history by taking down the Quakers in another 2-1 series in Hanover. Now, after two championship series that have gone the distance, Dartmouth is hosting Penn with a chance to solidify the Big Green’s claim as the premier program in the Ivy League.
Of the 18 players on the team, 12 have already experienced what it is like to win a championship. Seven of those know what it is like to be on the losing end as well.
The team’s increased confidence will be key to its performance in the championship series, star pitcher Kristen Rumley ’15 said.
“Two years ago we just wanted to make it to the Ivy Championships. We had no expectations for winning or losing,” she said.
Once in the title game, the Big Green was caught off-guard by nerves, Rumley said.
“Last year we got there and we were all ready to compete, it wasn’t our first time being there and we were ready to go,” Rumley said.
The team’s six freshmen will be called upon to deliver on the championship stage for the first time this weekend, something for which the team feels confident that they will be prepared.
“They’ve made some huge strides since they came in day one of their freshman year. After being here only a year, they’re ready. As long as they have the confidence in that, they’re going to do what they’ve always done,” Rumley said.
During the regular season, Dartmouth and of Penn have only been matched up twice. The doubleheader during the final week of March was split as the Big Green won the first game with a score of 3-2, but lost the second game 5-4. Penn, Harvard University and Brown University were the only schools in the Ivy League that managed to defeat Dartmouth this season.
Much like Dartmouth, Penn has a very productive offense. Quaker batters Jurie Joyner, Vanessa Weaver, Lauren Li and Sydney Turchin each have a batting average of over .300 and an on-base percentage of over .400 while ace pitcher Alexis Borden holds a 3.09 ERA with 140 strikeouts this season.
“You know [Borden] is going to throw you strikes since she’s a strikeout pitcher, so we’re going to go at her early and stay on her and get some hits,” Katie McEachern ’16 said.
During the two games that the teams played against each other, McEachern went 5-6, scored three times, drew a walk, collected two RBIs and hit a home run. On the mound, Rumley pitched 5.1 innings and struck out four batters in the first game and was relieved by Morgan McCalmon ’16, who earned the save.
In the second game, McCalmon was called on to start and pitched five solid innings. Rumley came on in relief to pitch the sixth inning. In the sixth, the defense committed three errors that led to two unearned runs, one of which was the tie-breaking run. The loss would be the last the team would see in quite some time as they proceeded to run off an 11-game win streak.
“I think our team has since then really worked on our hitting and as a team we’ve gotten a lot better and more aggressive,” McEachern said. “I think this time around we’re definitely going to be hitting the ball better than we were the first time, since it was our first weekend out.”
McCalmon credited the team’s preparation for its success and expected that preparation to continue to pay off in the title series.
“Penn is a great team and we can’t take them lightly at all, but if we play the way we’ve prepared throughout the entire season and even starting back in the fall, we’ve set ourselves up pretty well to achieve success,” McCalmon said. “If we go in and approach the game as if it’s another day to play softball and just perform the way we’ve been performing [all season], I think we should be just fine.”
Softball Park will host the Ivy League Championship series with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and, if necessary, a third game on Sunday at 1 p.m.