Softball opens 2015 season with upset over No. 16 Auburn

by Kourtney Kawano | 2/25/15 6:01pm

Softball opened its season in Tampa, Florida, this past weekend with a 1-4 start.
by Jin Lee / The Dartmouth

After winning its first Ivy League Championship in 20 years and welcoming new head coach Shannon Doepking last year, the softball team opened what looks to be another exciting season for the program at the University of South Florida’s Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, Florida, this past weekend.

The Big Green opened the tournament with a 4-2 upset over No. 16 Auburn University, but lost its next four games for a 1-4 record on the weekend.

The first weekend, Doepking said, was a good indicator of where the team is and what areas need improvement.

“All in all I was really impressed on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively,” Doepking said. “I liked what we showed and what we brought.”

In Friday’s doubleheader, the Big Green defeated Auburn University (17-1, 0-0) 4-2 but lost to Marshall University 9-0 in six innings, kicking off the first of its 27 non-conference games this season.

Dartmouth struck first in the top of the opening inning against Auburn with a score by Katie McEachern ’16, who earned a walk to first and made it home off of hits by Karen Chaw ’17 and Maddie Damore ’17.

In the second inning, Chloe Madill ’17 added another run for the Big Green. After hitting a double to right field, Madill advanced to third off an errant pitch by Auburn’s Marcy Harper, and Alyssa Jorgensen ’17 sent Madill home with a single RBI. Auburn answered in the bottom of the second with a two-run homer to tie the game at 2-2.

Those were the only runs Dartmouth’s defense allowed for the remainder of the game. In a pivotal fourth inning, the Big Green scored two runs, another by Madill and one by Kathy Dzienkowski ’16.

With Madill at first base off a walk, Dzienkowski hit a single to left field before Jorgensen earned a walk to load the bases. Madill scored after an illegal pitch by the Tigers’ relief pitcher Lexi Davis, and Dzienkowski followed after Davis’ next pitch hit McEachern.

Dartmouth’s solid defense combined with Kristen Rumley’s ’15 tough pitching limited the Tigers to three hits and six players left on base in the remaining innings. Auburn came close to scoring in the bottom of the seventh inning after the Tigers loaded the bases with only one out.

The Big Green buckled down and managed to tag the lead runner at home before Damore ended the game by tagging out a runner at first base.

The seventh inning, Doepking said, was nerve-racking.

“I was super happy for the kids,” Doepking said. “It was a great win, and they deserve all the credit in being as poised as they were.”

The upset win, McEachern said, shows the amount of potential in the team’s skills.

“I’m proud of the team,” McEachern said. “I think we performed extremely well.”

Later that day, the Big Green challenged the Thundering Herd (11-3, 0-0), who took an early lead with two runs in the first inning. Though Dartmouth played aggressively in the bottom of the first, Marshall’s starting pitcher Jordan Dixon struck out Jorgensen, McEachern and Chaw.

In the second inning, Marshall extended its lead to 4-0 with another pair of runs. Damore almost scored in the bottom of the second after walking to first and stealing second but got tagged trying to steal third, closing the inning at zero hits and runs for the Big Green.

Dartmouth struggled to provide a response to Marshall’s pitching. Damore earned the lone hit of the game for the Big Green in the fourth inning, but it was not enough to get Dartmouth on the scoreboard.

Marshall, however, struck again in the fourth and sixth innings, with three and two runs, respectively, resulting in the enforcement of the NCAA mercy rule to end the game after the sixth inning. The Thundering Herd led the Big Green in hits, 10-1.

Being more aggressive with strikes, McEachern said, is something Doepking told the girls to remember going in to the tournament’s remaining games.

“She reminded us to stick with our approach and what we do well,” McEachern said. “She emphasized how we needed to attack the zone.”

On the second day of the tournament, Dartmouth lost to host team South Florida 5-0, and fell in its rematch against Auburn 6-3.

Florida (8-7, 0-0) scored big in the opening inning with a three-run homer for a 3-0 lead. In the third inning, Jorgensen and Megan Averitt ’15 hit singles.

McEachern was hit by a pitch to load up the bases, but the Big Green couldn’t convert the situation into a score. The Bulls extended their lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, and neither team managed to score again for the remainder of the game.

Later that day, the Big Green was set to face off again Auburn — who eventually won the tournament — and opened with another strong showing in the first inning.

After Jorgensen reached first base on a fielding error, McEachern hit her first home run of the season to give Dartmouth an early lead over the Tigers, 2-0. Chaw added another run in the first with a walk and advancements off a single by Damore and walks by Morgan McCalmon ’16 and Madill.

Auburn fought back and gained the lead with consecutive two-run homers in the second and third innings to go up 4-3. The score remained at a one-run differential until the sixth inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Auburn smacked two single-run homers to grab a formidable 6-3 lead with only one inning remaining. Dartmouth couldn’t get a hit in the seventh and lost its rematch to Auburn.

Dartmouth ended its tournament on Sunday with a rematch against Marshall.

The Big Green played a much tighter game with the Thundering Herd, but once again proved unable to get on the board, losing 1-0.

Both teams played two scoreless innings before Marshall managed the lone run of the game in the bottom of the third. Rumley threw a season-high seven strikeouts and did not allow another hit after the third, but the lone RBI in the third proved to be the difference. Marshall earned another win over the Big Green in a low-scoring affair.

The mental toughness that the team developed during its difficult pre-season conditioning, Doepking said, contributed to the closer result in the second game against Marshall.

“In the first meeting, they sped us up a lot and we weren’t ready for it,” Doepking said. “But recalling the pressure situations from conditioning in January definitely paid off this weekend.”

Despite dropping four games, the softball team remains positive about its ability to compete for a consecutive Ivy League title and an NCAA berth, crediting its strong focus and preseason training.

Winning another regional, Rumley said, is realistic because of the work the team already put in.

“It’s been rougher,” Rumley said. “But that gets us more excited knowing we’re more prepared than we have been in the past.”

Continuing its weekend tournament play, the team will travel to Austin, Texas, to play in the University of Texas Invitational with games against Lamar University, Texas Southern University and the Longhorns.

To prepare for the upcoming weekend, Doepking said, the team will work on returning to its disciplined aggression approach offensively and its routine “catch, throw, receive” plays defensively.

“We need to work on doing what we need to do rather than letting the opposing pitcher dictate what we’re going to do,” Doepking said.

The Big Green will face Lamar on Friday at 12:30 p.m. before challenging the host team at 3:30 p.m.