Dartmouth comes from behind twice to sweep Rams
A word of caution to the rest of the Ivy League: the Christine Quattrocchi '03 of old is back.
Quattrocchi, who was the league's best pitcher in 2000 before struggling last season, continued her strong 2002 campaign yesterday afternoon, working seven scoreless innings as the Dartmouth softball team came back from a 1-0 deficit to win an 11-inning thriller against Rhode Island. Dartmouth edged the Rams 2-1 in the first half of a doubleheader at Sachem Field.
The extra-inning win spelled the first half of a sweep, as Dartmouth battled back from a 3-0 hole to take a 4-3 final in the nightcap.
"I definitely feel a lot more confident out there," Quattrocchi said after the sweep, which took nearly four hours to complete. "I'm hitting my spots more. A few of my pitches are still a little inconsistent, but they're getting there. With each game, I feel a lot stronger."
Two years ago, Quattrocchi was the toast of the Ivy League, compiling a school-record 22-4 record and a sparkling 1.02 ERA en route to earning Ivy Rookie and Pitcher of the Year honors.
Last year, however, the Albany native stumbled, rarely finding her rookie-year form as she posted an 8-11 mark and unsightly 4.37 ERA. Opponents batted .303 against her.
So far this season, Quattrocchi has been back on her game.
Yesterday, she entered the fifth inning of Game One with Rhode Island leading, 1-0, looking like the ace of old, scattering five hits over seven frames while striking out two and walking two as the Big Green (12-6) scratched out the 2-1 win.
The performance, which lifted Quattrocchi to 3-0, lowered her ERA to a microscopic 1.00. Opposing hitters are batting just .181 against her.
"I'm feeling really good," said Quattrocchi. "I don't even think about last year or freshman year because all that is in the past, and I can't do anything about that. All I can do is just try my hardest this year, and that's what I'm doing. I'm just going out there every game and thinking about that game, that batter, that pitch."
Quattrocchi's strong start has served as a veteran example for a young pitching staff that is expected to be one of the best in the Ivies.
As a staff, Dartmouth's five pitchers have a 2.35 ERA, allowing only 122 hits in 128 innings while striking out 73 and walking 22.
Karin Edwardson '05 earned the win in the second game yesterday, improving to a perfect 6-0 as her ERA fell to 1.50.
"I'm very happy about how all of our pitchers are performing right now," head coach Steffany Bender said. "I think they have the confidence to go out and throw very aggressively because they know that somebody is behind them. If they don't have their best stuff, somebody else comes in. It's a good situation for us."
Yesterday's sweep marked the conclusion of a string of 18 non-league games to start the season. Dartmouth will kick off the Ivy campaign with doubleheaders at Yale and Brown on Saturday and Sunday.
The Big Green's 12-6 mark represents the best 18-game start in the seven-year history of the program. The team now has four consecutive wins, and has emerged victorious in eight of the last nine games.
But yesterday's two wins didn't come easy.
In the opener, URI (11-15) manufactured a run in the fourth inning, but Dartmouth tied it at one with an Adrienne Draper '04 RBI single to centerfield in the sixth.
Each team had its chances in the ensuing frames -- the Rams stranded two runners on base in the seventh, ninth and 10th innings--but the Big Green pulled it out in the 11th, finally beating workhorse right-hander Gwen Rack when third baseman Carly Haggard '03 pulled a 3-2 pitch inside the right field line for an RBI double, plating Kisa Brannen '03 with the winning run.
"I think we're showing a lot of poise and a lot of character when we're stuck in tight games," Bender said. "They got some runners on base in that first game, but we didn't panic. We had some opportunities that we didn't capitalize on, but we never got down. We believed we were going to win the game."
The lengthy opener added a sense of urgency to the nightcap, as the evening hours were rapidly approaching.
The Rams built a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the third inning, but that's when the Big Green went to work on a comeback.
With runners on second and third, Jodee Thompson '05 smacked a single up the middle, scoring Kristin King '02 with the first Dartmouth run and nearly plating Draper with the second. Draper was called out on a close play, however, ending the inning with a 3-1 URI advantage.
The Big Green tied it with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Kerry Conway '05 scored Cherie Comeau '02 with a double to left field, then moved to third on a Sarah Damon '02 single.
Dartmouth was aggressive in getting its third run. With King at the plate, Damon took off for second, forcing Rams catcher Cheryl Barnes to make a good throw. Barnes' throw to the shortstop was high yet catchable, but Nicole Haywood didn't catch it.
Instead, the ball skimmed the top of her glove and bounced into center field, allowing Conway to scamper home with the tying run and giving the Big Green a reward for its aggressiveness.
"That's the only way for us to play this game," Bender said. "We have team speed up and down the lineup. I think we can make things happen in ways that maybe we haven't in the past. This team thrives on that."
In the bottom of the fifth, Comeau put the finishing touches on the sweep, blasting a 3-2 pitch deep into right field, good for a triple as Thompson scored from first base.
The game was called immediately after Comeau's smash due to darkness.
Now, the surging Big Green women can set their sights on the start of the league schedule this weekend. Last year, Dartmouth contended but finished third in the Ivies.
Bender, for one, is hoping her team will adopt a business-as-usual attitude.
"One of the biggest things this team is trying to do is not focus on the Ivies versus nonleague competition," the coach said. "I really think it's important that we not put too much pressure on ourselves when we get to the weekend. We have to play good softball if it's at practice, if it's against URI, if it's against Yale or Brown.
"I really think this whole league will take care of itself as long as we take care of ourselves. That's what we're trying to do."