Softball beats Penn twice to take second straight Ivy title

by Daniel Lee | 5/3/15 6:01pm

Softball (25-16, 16-4 Ivy) won its second consecutive Ivy League championship title this past Saturday against the University of Pennsylvania (22-20, 13-7 Ivy), sweeping the first two games of a best-of-three series. Though the team won both games, the victories were by no means easy to clench, as stellar pitching on both ends made it difficult for either team to showcase impressive offense.

The Big Green’s Kristen Rumley ’15 and the Quakers’ Alexis Borden took the mound early Saturday afternoon to begin the first game of the series. A solo home run by Penn’s designated hitter Alexis Sargent in the top of the second inning put the Quakers on the board first, and the 1-0 score would hold until the bottom of the fifth.

The Big Green loaded the bases with no outs to begin the fifth inning, looking likely to break the game wide open. After an infield fly by Katie McEachern ’16, Madison Smith ’18 entered the game to pinch hit for Alyssa Jorgensen ’17.

Smith flew out to left field, but her sacrifice fly was deep enough to bring Kelsey Miller ’16 to home plate. Catcher Karen Chaw ’17 popped up to second base, and the game went to the final two innings with the score tied at one.

The sixth and the top of the seventh passed without either team posting another run as the Big Green came to bat in the bottom half of the game’s final frame with a chance to jump ahead in the series. Lourlin Lara ’18 and McEachern opened the inning with back-to-back singles off of a tiring Borden, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position with no one out.

After being pinch hit for in her last plate appearance, Jorgensen was allowed to bat in the final inning. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Jorgensen smacked a walk-off double to left field, scoring Lara and giving the Big Green the series lead.

“The weirdest thing about that was that nothing was going through my mind,” Jorgensen said. “I just reacted and [Borden] gave me a pitch that was pretty high and it worked out really well, especially since [Lara} and [McEachern] did an amazing job of getting on [base] early and putting themselves in scoring position.”

The second game was yet another pitching duel, but this time with Morgan McCalmon ’16 on the mound for Dartmouth, squaring off against Borden yet again. In this game, the Big Green would strike early.

McEachern led off the game with a hit-by-pitch and advanced to second after Jorgensen drew a walk. The Big Green seemed to be in the catbird seat with two runners on and no outs, but Borden would battle back. Madeline Damore ’17 and Chaw could not get the ball out of the infield, and McEachern and Jorgenson remained perched on their bases. With two on and two out, the Big Green’s star pitcher and this game’s designated hitter, Rumley, stepped into the batter’s box. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Rumley cracked a single, scoring McEachern and giving the Big Green a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the second, the team managed to load the bases with no outs to strike fear back into the Quakers’ hearts. Borden battled back from this jam by inducing a fielder’s choice and then a double play to escape the inning without any further damage.

McCalmon pitched a spectacular game for the Big Green, walking just one batter and allowing no hits in the first three innings. She allowed four hits and struck out eight Quakers though seven shutout innings.

The Big Green maintained the 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, but the fragile margin would be tested by the Quakers. With one out in the inning, Penn’s designated hitter Jurie Joyner hit a towering double to left field. The tying run stood on second base with two outs left for McCalmon to nail down.

Vera Barnwell of Penn pinch ran for Joyner to give the Quakers hope of scoring on any base hit to the outfield.

First to try for the tie was Penn’s right fielder Leah Allen, whose cut on the first pitch generated a foul out to third base. With two outs and the Quakers’ season on the line, Penn’s catcher Korinne Raby stepped into the batter’s box. Raby batted .276 on the season and needed to drive home Barnwell for the tie. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Raby came out swinging and popped up to shortstop, giving the Big Green its second consecutive win in the series and the team’s second-straight Ivy title.

“On the bottom of the seventh, my adrenaline was going crazy, but just trusting what we’ve done as a program this entire year, I was able to settle in and trust my defense even though [Jurie Joyner] hit a double,” McCalmon said. “I had no doubt that we were going to close it out and come through.”

Dartmouth’s pitching was nothing less than spectacular as Rumley and McCalmon, arguably the deadliest 1-2 punch in the Ivy Leagues, allowed only one run through 14 innings.

“I have to credit our coach because she calls the pitches. We had them down pretty well and it’s being consistent and trusting my preparation and trusting our team’s preparation,” McCalmon said. “Our defense was spectacular and our offense is always on point, and it’s really easy to pitch with an offense and defense that strong.”

Head coach Shannon Doepking smiled during the celebration as she held the Ivy League Championship trophy.

“We came into the season with goals and our [ultimate] goal wasn’t to win the Ivy Championship, it was to go to regionals and compete and we haven’t done that yet,” Doepking said. “We’re going to enjoy the moment and this is very, very exciting for us, but we’re going to get right back at it and we’re going to work our tails off so that when we go to regionals, we’re going to compete.”

The team will find out their opponents for the first round of the NCAA tournament when their competitor is announced on Sunday, May 10.