Down to the final inning of the 2016 regular season, Harvard softball faced elimination from playoff contention on Tuesday. If Dartmouth clung to its one-run lead, the Crimson would be heading home and the Big Green would move on to face South Division champion Princeton in the Championship Series.
However, Harvard (28-15, 16-4 Ivy) rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh and took the final game of the series from Dartmouth (27-15, 15-5) to win the Ivy League North Division by one game.
“I think it’s especially great for us to beat Dartmouth,” co-captain Morgan Groom said. “They’re our biggest rivals in the Ivy League for sure.”
HARVARD 8, DARTMOUTH 5
Game two on Tuesday was the deciding factor for the North Division crown.
“There are so many things that can be on your mind in that situation, especially for us seniors trying with all of our might to extend our season to one more set of games,” co-captain Zoe Galindo said.
The Crimson faced a 5-4 deficit in the top of the seventh, but six hits later, Harvard found itself ahead, 8-5.
Sophomore Maddy Kaplan doubled to left and drove in Galindo and freshman Meagan Lantz to retake the lead.
The Big Green, down to its final out and trailing three runs, sent junior outfielder Lourlin Lara to the plate to try to spark a rally.
Lara sent a bounding ball to freshman shortstop Rhianna Rich, and Rich scooped it up, quickly transferred, and threw to junior first baseman Savannah Bradley on the run. Bradley stretched and held on to Rich’s throw, and the Crimson rushed the field, celebrating its sixth playoff berth since 2007.
Four Harvard hitters recorded multiple-hit games, and senior Haley Davis hit her sixth home run.
DARTMOUTH 7, HARVARD 6
Dartmouth briefly kept its playoff hopes alive with a win in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
“They have a very talented roster of hitters, and it was really tough to come up with a game plan for them, but I think the pitchers had really prepared for this all week,” Galindo said.
The Big Green put up four runs in the home half of the sixth to claim a one-run advantage. Senior Katie McEachern sparked the rally with an opposite-field homer to right.
Dartmouth senior starter Morgan McCalmon stayed in the circle to wrap the game up for the home team, setting down Harvard in order.
HARVARD 6, DARTMOUTH 5
The lead changed six times in the Crimson’s final home game of the year, but at the end of the day, a sixth inning home run off the bat of Rich put Harvard up for good.
Dartmouth threatened in the top of the seventh, recording two quick singles after a pop up for the first out of the inning. Sarah Smith had pitched four full innings of relief, so coach Jenny Allard made the call to the bullpen and brought in Groom.
Following a seven-inning performance in game one, the Lowell, Mich., native came on in relief for the final two outs. She struck out the first batter she faced and then induced a ground out to short to secure Harvard’s undefeated home record in 2016.
“We actually didn’t realize that until coach told us after the game, and that’s a huge accomplishment really,” Groom said. “One of our little mantras this year was to protect our house.”
HARVARD 4, DARTMOUTH 3
A three-run third inning spurred the Crimson on to victory in its first contest with the Big Green of the weekend series.
Despite being thrown out at third trying to stretch a double into a triple, Rich drove in two runners to break the 0-0 tie in the bottom of the third. Kaplan followed with a homer to right field, her second of the year.
At the conclusion of the regular season, Kaplan finished with a batting average of .446, best in the Ancient Eight.
Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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