Even with the Ivy League North Division championship all wrapped up, the Harvard softball team (which clinched the title on April 20) has hardly been taking it easy. Before kicking off a pair of nonbinding doubleheaders at home and away against Dartmouth on Saturday and Sunday (April 26-27), the Ancient Eight-leading Crimson took on another first-place team in cross-town rival Boston University.
In the anticipated April 24 matchup versus the America East-leading Terriers (26-16 heading into the game), host Harvard relied on superb pitching courtesy of senior Shelly Madick and sophomore Dana Roberts to shut out the efficient BU club, 1-0. Together the two hurlers tallied seven strikeouts and gave up just fours hits. Pitching into the fifth inning, Madick whiffed half a dozen batters while Roberts surrendered just one hit to improve to 7-2 on the season. Over the final three innings, Roberts allowed just two of 11 BU batters to touch base.
Following five and a half innings of precise, near-flawless softball, sophomore Lauren Murphy broke the scoreless standstill with a herky-jerky single that evaded BU’s shortstop. The shot — Murphy’s second hit of the afternoon — plated teammate Bailey Vertovez ’09 to hand Harvard the ultimately decisive one-run advantage.
The Terriers threatened to make some noise in the top of the sixth when Caitlin Rentler drilled a single to advance Rachel Moeller to second base. But with two outs, Harvard’s Danielle Kerper ’08 coolly gloved a blistering line drive to derail BU’s momentum.
Following a day of rest, Harvard welcomed the Big Green to Soldiers Field on Saturday (April 26) for a two-game engagement. Hot on the heels of the Crimson all season long, Dartmouth displayed it mettle by capturing both contests, limiting Harvard to six runs on the day en route to 8-3 and 4-3 wins.
Again starting on the mound in game one, Madick gave up zero hits through the first four innings to help the Crimson preserve a 1-0 lead. In the top of the fifth, however, Harvard succumbed to a six-hit, seven-run rally. And though the Crimson women chipped away at the deficit with a pair of runs in their final at-bat, Dartmouth’s monster fifth inning proved insurmountable.
In the nightcap game, the Crimson constructed a 2-0 lead with back-to-back hits in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Murphy notched an RBI by driving home freshman Ellen Macadam before sophomore Jennifer Francis cranked a double to plate Murphy. But again, the Big Green fought back with another nasty rally, this time exploding for four-runs in the top of the sixth to take a 4-2 advantage. Harvard tacked on one last run in the bottom of the inning to set up the 4-3 final.
On Sunday (April 27) in Hanover, N.H., the Crimson returned the favor with a convincing two-game sweep of its own. Harvard dispatched Dartmouth 4-2 and 5-2 to close out both clubs’ Ivy seasons. The Cambridge softballers finish at 14-6 in league play — five games ahead of Dartmouth — and 24-20 overall.
Relying on a trio of pitchers in game one, the Crimson effectively limited the hosts to five hits and two runs. In the second bout, meanwhile, Madick struck out four Dartmouth batters in three innings of work to earn the save, marking her fifth of the season. With the win, the senior set a new school record in single-season saves.
On offense, freshman Emily Henderson hit .571 on seven at-bats for the Crimson, while collecting two runs and a pair of steals (to garner the league’s rookie of the week honor). Classmate Caitlin Bowers, meanwhile, picked up three hits at the plate while Vertovez slammed a two-run homer to left field in the early going of the nightcap game to give Harvard the lead.
The reigning league champion Crimson will get one last tune-up prior to this weekend’s best-of-three Ivy showdown against recently crowned South Division champion Princeton when Harvard again plays host to BU this afternoon (May 1 at 4 p.m.). The Tigers (18-2; 23-22 overall), meanwhile, secured the division with a pair of dramatic comeback wins against Cornell on April 27.
The Harvard-Princeton series kicks off this Saturday (May 3) in New Jersey (a tiebreaker will be played May 4, if necessary). Since 2000, Harvard and the Tigers — who narrowly beat the Crimson earlier this season by scores of 5-4 and 3-2 — have shared or outright owned the title a total of seven times.
For softball scores and updates, visit http://www.gocrimson.com.