Softball to battle Harvard in season-ending four-game set

by Daniel Lee | 4/23/15 7:11pm

After the softball team’s spectacular 11-game win streak ended in a 9-0 shutout loss to Brown University in the second game of the four-game doubleheader this past weekend, the team will look to play the final four games of its regular season this weekend. Looking to take on Harvard University, softball (21-14, 14-2 Ivy) will prepare for its final home games on Saturday before heading to Cambridge on Sunday for the second doubleheader of the weekend.

The loss that ended the team’s victorious streak came as a surprise given Brown’s 5-11 Ivy League record and 11-19 overall season record, but head coach Shannon Doepking mentioned that the loss was a great lesson for the team to show that records really do not mean anything during the games.

“It’s us taking it one game at a time [and] competing every single pitch,” Doepking said. “It was a great learning moment for us to see that anyone can win on any given day and we just need to show up,”

The coach’s positive sentiment was shared amongst the players as well, which is not a common reaction after such a streak is ended.

“We’ve done a great job all season of coming out and playing our game. I think it was good to have a loss, even though it was not ideal, and being able to overcome that last weekend,” Kristen Rumley ’15 said. “We need to see that as a team going forward as Ivy Championship and for Harvard as well. It was unfortunate that we lost, but we could see the next steps that our team could take.”

The Crimson has enjoyed a win streak of its own that lasted from March 31 to April 12 and spanned nine games against the University of Rhode Island and Cornell, Princeton and Brown Universities. Just like Dartmouth, though, Brown put an end to the win streak in the final game of a four-game series, stopping the Crimson before the team’s streak reached double digits. Harvard is currently a solid 10-2 at home and a respectable 11-5 against Ivy League schools for an overall 21-19 season record, putting them second in the North Division behind the Big Green. The Crimson finished second in the North Division to the Big Green last year as well.

One compelling figure in the game should be Harvard’s ace pitcher, Laura Ricciardone, who has won 11 games and completed nine with 63 strikeouts in 23 games. Her numbers are up there with Rumley’s league-leading numbers, and she has dominated several teams on the mound in her final year.

“She’s a great pitcher, and she’s one of the best in the Ivy League,” Doepking said. “We’re going to go in with the same approach that we’ve had all year and that is make her throw strikes, and we need to be disciplined in the strike zone and if we’re swinging at good pitches, good things will happen.”

The team has been able to score in a variety of ways, as shown in the fifth inning of last weekend’s game against Brown. The Big Green tallied its first run off of a “surprise bunt,” Dartmouth Sports softball play-by-play announcer Brett Franklin said. Later in the inning, the Big Green scored four more runs off of a grand slam by Katie McEachern ’16.

Harvard’s offense has had success largely because their leadoff hitter, senior Katherine Lantz, has been swinging the bat extremely well. She is currently maintaining a .375 batting average, an impressive .430 on base percentage and .596 slugging percentage. Though she has not had numbers as impressive as the Big Green’s leadoff hitter McEachern, she has proven to be a difficult out for opposing pitchers.

“We’re going to stick to our game plan…when our pitchers do a good job of setting up their pitches and hitting good spots, it makes it tough on the offense,” Doepking said. “We can’t give her anything for free. We can’t throw the ball over the middle of the plate. We got to make her own anything she’s going to get this weekend.”

One of the many key aspects to this weekend will be pitchers Rumley and Morgan McCalmon ’16, who have proven over the course of the season to be the deadliest 1-2 punch in the Ivy Leagues.

“The biggest thing is pitchers coming out and just doing their job and the defense backing us up just as they have been doing all season,” Rumley said. “[McCalmon] and I have done a great job of working through Ivies so if we come out and play the Dartmouth softball way, we should be good.”

If the Big Green wins just one of the four games this weekend against Harvard, the team will clinch the North Division for the third consecutive year. Depending on results from the final weekend of Ivy play, Dartmouth would take on either Princeton or the University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League Championship Series. The championship series will take place on May 2 and 3.