Big Green Fail to Sweep Cats'
It's never fun to lose.
But yesterday's doubleheader between the Dartmouth softball team and the University of Vermont at sunny Sachem Field -- which resulted in a split -- gave Big Green skipper Steffany Bender some perfect evidence to back up her coaching claims.
Dartmouth lost the first game, 4-2, to the clawless Catamounts -- they brought a dismal 1-17 record with them down Interstate 89 -- by doing the things that Bender preaches against, like making costly, inning-extending errors and being unselective at the plate.
In Game Two, the Big Green pleased its coach by tapping into its strengths in a 4-0 shutout victory. Pink eye-laden Brittany Copenhaver '04 and fellow sophomore Lisa Caruso pitched well, the fielders played good defense behind them and the hitters displayed improved patience at the plate.
For Bender, the bad and good games in succession proved perfect fodder for the postgame team meeting in left field.
"When Penn comes in here on Saturday, we need to be the team that we were in Game Two, and not fall into the mud the way that we did in Game One," Bender said.
"In the second game, we did the things that we need to do to be a good team," Bender added. "We were solid offensively. We had solid at-bats all game long and we were hitting the ball hard. We had much better defense. And our pitching -- when you're getting ahead of hitters, you're going to have better success and not let people hit the ball as hard against you. I think Brittany and Lisa both did a good job."
Dartmouth (15-9, 2-2 Ivy League) came into the twin-bill looking for something to hang its hat on following a disappointing 2-2 start to the Ivy season last weekend.
While its long-term effects remain to be seen, the Game One loss -- as unsettling as it was -- proved to be a turning point, as the team lived up to its potential in Game Two.
According to some of the players, the defeat made them realize that even though they consider themselves Ivy-title contenders, they won't beat anyone -- even one-win Vermont -- if they don't play smart softball.
"The team had a meeting after the first game today, and we said that we're never going to play like that again," said tri-captain and centerfielder Sarah Damon. "We cannot have a performance like we did in the first game today or in the last game at Brown [a 3-1 loss last Sunday].
"We're on the ups right now," Damon added. "We can't go down anymore. We had an awful loss today and the only way to go is up."
Copenhaver, who started Game Two on the mound, said the loss in the opener gave her and her teammates renewed resolve.
"When I went out there, I kind of felt like we had nothing to lose," the sophomore said. "Given the circumstances, Coach just told us to go out there and give it our best. I felt inspired."
On its face, Game One was anything but inspiring to those partisan to the Green and White.
The Big Green took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Damon scored on a double steal. Dartmouth tallied seven hits after that, but scattered them throughout the remaining six frames, finally managing to plate a second run when there was one out in the seventh.
Vermont (2-18, 0-4 America East), meantime, crafted a four-run rally in the third, mixing four hits among three Dartmouth miscues, including a passed ball, an error and a wild pitch.
On a Megan Long one-out double, Jamie Sawyer scored the winning run for the Catamounts, who doubled their win total.
Christine Quattrocchi '03 (3-2) took the loss for Dartmouth, allowing five hits and four runs --two earned -- while walking one and striking out three in four innings. Danica Giugliano '04 pitched the final three innings, striking out four.
"In the first game, for whatever reason we let one mistake become two mistakes become three mistakes," Bender said, "and then we started pressing at the plate."
The women wasted no time taking control of the nightcap, as the team's first three hitters all came around to score.
Kisa Brannen '03 accrued two RBIs in the inning, sending home Kristin King '02 and Adrienne Draper '04 with a one-out double to right center.
The team batted around in the inning, forcing right-hander Kara Massey to throw 43 pitches, only 20 of which went for strikes. By the end of the second inning, Massey had tossed 70 pitches, which -- according to Damon -- was a result of Dartmouth's improved patience at the plate.
"Everyone was very disciplined at the plate," Damon said. "We haven't had that. We've had very bad pitch selection the past few games. Our performance in the second game gives me and the team hope that we'll do well this weekend."
Dartmouth had at least one hit in every inning of Game Two, finally plating run No. 4 in the fifth when Jill Garcia '04 sent a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield that scored Brannen.
Brannen went 2-for-3 in the second game, while King went 3-for-4.
Damon was Dartmouth's offensive leader on the day, going 5-for-7 with two doubles and a walk in the doubleheader.
"I go in with confidence, thinking I'm going to get a hit every time," Damon said. "That's the way to bat. I don't think you should go in our your toes. I feel very confident in the batter's box."
Vermont never seriously threatened in Game Two, getting a runner as far as third base only twice.
Cophenhaver earned the win, improving to 1-1 as she fought off her pink eye and scattered three hits over three innings.
"I felt good about how I pitched," Copenhaver said, adding that she had no trouble seeing the catcher's signs despite her pink eye. "You're never as good as you want to be, but we won, and that's the most important thing."
Caruso mopped up the final four innings for the Big Green, recording an impressive seven strikeouts.
Next up for Dartmouth is a return to Ivy play. Penn (11-22, 0-6 Ivy) comes to Sachem Field tomorrow, while a tough Princeton squad (19-13, 6-0 Ivy) pays a visit on Sunday.
"All four games are going to be ones where if we make mistakes, bad things will happen," Bender said. "If we don't make a lot of mistakes and we play our kind of softball, good things will happen. We want to come out on the good end."