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Softball Finishes 4-2 in California Tournaments

Junior shortstop Rhianna Rich, shown here last year against Princeton, is this week's Ivy League Player of the Week.

After a sluggish start to the season, Harvard softball rallied for four wins in six games in the first portion of its spring break slate. Traveling to Los Angeles over the weekend, the Crimson (7-8) won its first three games before dropping the finale to Southern Utah. The game against FGCU, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, was canceled due to rain. On Tuesday, the team ventured east to Riverside, Calif., where it split a doubleheader with UC Riverside and Colgate.

For her contributions over the weekend at the Loyola Marymount Invitational, shortstop Rhianna Rich was awarded Ivy League Player of the Week honors. The junior hit .500 with a 1.088 OPS, with the highlight of her weekend a walkoff, two-RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against Providence.

UC RIVERSIDE 4, HARVARD 0

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Harvard closed out its California trip with a shutout at the hands of UC Riverside (21-7). Coach Jenny Allard opted for a pitching staff by committee, as no pitcher threw more than two innings.

“As a player, it's been awesome to use our full staff and to use everyone effectively,” junior catcher Elizabeth Shively said. “Going into conference with a full staff that's throwing well is going to help keep hitters off balance and keep our whole staff fresh.”

The Highlanders blanked a scorching Crimson offense on the strength of seven innings from rookie right-hander Hailey Dolcini. The freshman recorded her eighth win of 2018, striking out four Harvard batters and conceding just four hits and one walk.

UC Riverside posted a strong fourth inning and then coasted the rest of the way to the finish line. Crimson hurler Alissa Hiener had two outs and a runner on first base in her second inning of work, but the Highlanders kept the inning alive with an extended rally. Two walks loaded the bases, and Allard made the switch to staff ace Katie Duncan, who had pitched four innings earlier that day. Back-to-back singles pushed all three baserunners across home before Duncan ultimately shut down the threat by striking out left fielder Seanna Garewal.

HARVARD 10, COLGATE 2 (6 INNINGS)

Harvard only needed six innings to dispatch Colgate (1-15) in the opening game of the UC Riverside Tournament.

The Crimson collected 11 hits, including three-hit performances from the first two players in the lineup, Rich and co-captain Maddy Kaplan. Rich drove in two runs and scored twice, and Kaplan batted in three of her own. The power-hitting duo of junior Erin Lockhart and sophomore Olivia Giaquinto launched a homer each. Giaquinto’s blast kicked off the scoring in the top of the second, and Lockhart continued Harvard’s offensive onslaught in the top of the sixth with a two-run bomb.

“Hitters really focused over the past six games and the team has been really zoned in and confident at the plate,” Shively said. “We've been swinging at good pitches and really owning our zones.”

Through three innings the Raiders led, 2-1, but the Crimson erupted for nine runs over its next three trips to the plate. Duncan evened up her record at 5-5 with a four-inning start in which she struck out five.

SOUTHERN UTAH 9, HARVARD 3

Southern Utah (3-19) got its revenge on Harvard on Sunday. Sophomore Samantha Guile pitched around a myriad of Crimson baserunners across seven innings of work—despite allowing eight hits, walking four, and hitting two batters, only three Harvard players reached home.

The game was still up in the air as late as the bottom of the sixth, when the Crimson trailed, 4-3. However, the Thunderbirds hung five runs on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh. Duncan induced a fly out to start the frame, but Southern Utah managed four consecutive singles, which brought Hiener out from the bullpen. A triple steal pushed across a second run, and a walk reloaded the bases. A subsequent triple off the bat of center fielder Sarah Murphy drove in three more, extending Harvard’s deficit to six runs.

Defense also played a part in this loss, as four Crimson errors led to three of the Thunderbirds’ runs being unearned.

HARVARD 6, PROVIDENCE 5 (9 INNINGS)

After an intense seventh-inning rally to tie the game, Harvard once again had to claw back in the ninth. With a runner automatically placed on second base, Providence (3-15) managed to break the ninth-inning stalemate with an RBI single from Crista San Antonio. The Friars led, 5-4, with Giaquinto striding to the plate to lead the Crimson’s comeback effort.

Harvard set up its come-from-behind bid nicely: Giaquinto drew a hit by pitch, and freshman Alyssa Saldana sacrificed Giaquinto and automatic runner Lockhart up one base. With runners on second and third and one out, the top of the lineup came to bat for the Crimson.

Wasting no time at all, Rich dumped a single into left center, and Lockhart and Giaquinto sprinted in to score for the walkoff victory.

“Coming up to bat, I was very relaxed and just used the momentum from the team to hit the ball somewhere in the outfield so that we could score,” Rich said. “When I got to second base and realized two runs had scored and that we had won the game, I was ecstatic.”

“The reaction after winning a game in a walkoff is absolutely electric,” Shively added.

This game got to extra innings in the first place due to a significant rally in the bottom of the seventh. Harvard had been blanked in the first six frames and faced a four-run deficit to start off the home half of the seventh, but the top of the order combination of Rich and Kaplan got the job done. With the bases loaded, Rich pulled the ball to right field to break up the shutout. With two outs, Kaplan came up in the clutch with a gap double to left center, clearing the bases and forcing extra innings.

“Before the seventh inning, we had yet to come out and attack offensively, and we finally strung a rally together to tie it up,” Rich said. “After overcoming the four-run deficit, the team had this sense of truly knowing we could win the game.”

HARVARD 8, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 2

The Crimson posted a convincing victory over the weekend tournament’s host team, Loyola Marymount (11-14-1).

Aside from a lopsided fourth inning, this contest was even the entire way. In the away half of the fourth, Harvard slammed Lions pitchers for six runs on six hits after the first two batters of the inning fouled out and grounded out. Senior second baseman Melissa Lacro got the rally going with a double, and Shively, senior left fielder Alexa Altchek, co-captain Kaitlyn Schiffhauer, and Kaplan drove in runs.

“Timely hitting was another big component of our success this weekend…” Rich said. “We were able to come up with a hit or score a run when runners were in scoring position.”

Giaquinto cleared the fence for the first time this year in the top of the sixth with a solo shot to left center.

Duncan recorded her second complete game victory of the season. The junior left-hander struck out three in the effort.

HARVARD 11, SOUTHERN UTAH 3 (5 INNINGS)

Harvard kicked off the Loyola Marymount Invitational without Duncan in the circle, but with 11 runs of offense and solid run prevention from a trio of pitchers, the Crimson walked away with an eight-run win over Southern Utah.

Altchek smacked the first home run of her career, a two-run shot in the top of the second. Previously, Altchek had three extra base hits—all doubles—in her three-plus years in Cambridge.

Junior second baseman Meagan Lantz put on a show, going three-for-four with a run scored, two RBI, and three stolen bases. After both California tournaments, Lantz leads the squad with eight steals.

—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at jack.stockless@thecrimson.com.

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