Softball swept in first Ivy series after challenging spring break
Taylor Ward '19 makes a diving catch against the University of Oklahoma. (Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department)
The softball team traveled to California over spring break to play a challenging slate of games in preparation for upcoming Ivy League play. The team competed in the California State University Northridge/Loyola Marymount University Tournament and played a total of seven games out west before returning to the East Coast for its conference opener against Columbia University. As the defending Ivy League co-champions with Harvard University, the team is looking to build upon last season’s success after hiring new head coach Jennifer Williams.
The Big Green traditionally start their season with a difficult non-conference schedule. Williams believes that a challenging schedule is necessary to determine and address weak points early in the season.
“It means that you have some frustrating games, but we’ve also had to confront and work through a lot of things now with the goal that we will not have to do that in Ivy League play — that we’ll be able to work through things quickly and productively in conference play,” Williams said.
Already, Dartmouth has played the top two teams in the country: Florida State University and the University of Oklahoma, the latter being its first opponent over spring break. Despite only trailing by one run through the first four innings, Dartmouth’s matchup against Oklahoma resulted in a 10-0 loss for the Big Green.
After a shortened 11-2 loss to California State University Northridge, the team took on California Polytechnic State University and California Baptist University and fell short with close 5-4 defeats. Dartmouth trailed by four after the fifth inning against Cal Poly, but a late surge in the last two innings almost tied the game. Co-captain Morgan Martinelli ’19 doubled and Micah Schroder ’20 homered to get two runs in the sixth, and Schae Nelson ’21 plated Emily Lipsett ’22 on a triple in the seventh, but the last two batters could not drive Nelson home.
In the next game, the Big Green was tied 4-4 against Cal Baptist until the bottom of the seventh when the Lancers walked off on a sacrifice fly. Co-captain Taylor Ward ’19 and Billie McFadyen ’22 both said they were impressed with how the team gained confidence throughout the week and came together as a team in the close games. Williams added that although Cal Poly and Cal Baptist were well-played games, the players know they have more in them.
“We want them to be able to take pride in what they’ve accomplished and the progress they’ve made, but also not be satisfied with where they are and be looking for the next steps,” she said.
After a shutout loss to Loyola Marymount University, Dartmouth bounced back with a 10-9 win against CSUN. Dartmouth had 15 hits total, with four players recording three hits and Ward driving in six of the 10 runs. The Big Green scored all 10 of their runs before the fifth inning, and Heather Turner ’21 held on for the save after CSUN had strong fifth and sixth innings. According to Martinelli, the CSUN win marked a change in mentality for the team and showed the team’s potential entering Ivy League play.
“It was definitely a team win,” she said. “It took every single person. It took our batters being on, our pitchers being on and our defense being able to lock it up.”
Williams also pointed to how the team gradually worked better together over break.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do with these games is figure out what our team identity is,” she said. “I think one of the biggest things that happened over the course of this past week was the team really pulling together to decide what their collective mission is — what they’re going to be thinking about as a group every single game.”
The team hoped that a unified identity would act as a catalyst at the start of Ivy League play. After concluding their California stretch with a 9-1 loss to California State University Fullerton, the team traveled to New York City to commence conference play against Columbia.
To end the break, Dartmouth was swept by Columbia in a three-game series. In the first game, the Big Green fell 5-4. Tessa Grossman ’20 had her first career homerun, bringing in three runs. Schroder also had a strong day at the plate with a triple, double and a run scored. The game was close, as the Big Green held a 4-1 lead through the top of the fourth inning before Columbia came back with several runs late in the game to take the lead.
Columbia finished off its sweep with a pair of wins in Sunday’s doubleheader, outscoring the Big Green 9-1 and 6-4 respectively. In the first game of the day, the Big Green recorded a run in the first inning, giving it an early 1-0 lead before losing its footing and giving up nine unanswered runs in the remaining innings. In the final game of the series, despite recording nine hits to the Lions’ eight, the Big Green could not seal its first win of Ivy competition.