Softball Sandwiches Mercy Rule Victory between Losses in Ithaca
Sandwiches are an American staple. From the classic hamburger to the Bobby Valentine wrap (to the hot dog?), a good sandwich can make for a great meal. However, the bread is crucial–without quality bread, a sandwich can quickly be ruined.
Sandwiched between two rough losses, Harvard softball exploded for 14 runs and an 11-run victory over Cornell on Monday afternoon at Niemand-Robison Field in Ithaca, N.Y. Framed by a stand of coniferous trees emblematic of the winter paradise that is Ithaca, Niemand-Robison Field also played host to a pair of games in which the Big Red outscored the Crimson by a combined 13-4 margin: in other words, the bread.
“With the win in game two...we strung a lot of hits together, producing runs each inning, we made the plays on defense that we needed to, and Katie Duncan threw a great game for us,” junior third baseman Erin Lockhart said. “With the losses, the Cornell hitters had a good plan against our pitchers and were able to produce. We struggled a bit with their pitcher, and it gives us something to work on.”
CORNELL 7, HARVARD 2
A superstitious person may claim that Harvard (10-11, 3-3 Ivy) used up all its runs in the first half of Monday’s action. Considering superstition or not, however, the final game of the series was eerily similar to Sunday’s opening matchup—the Crimson was limited to just two runs, and it would have been in contention for the whole game, save one explosive offensive inning for Cornell (7-9, 2-1).
This time, the Big Red cobbled together its extended rally earlier on, in the bottom of the second. Five of the six runs Cornell scored in this frame came from doubles. Olivia Lam and Avery Voehl hit back-to-back two-baggers, and Madeline Avery followed up with a ground-rule double later on in the inning. All told, the Big Red sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, with Tori Togashi making both the first and last outs of the inning.
“They had the momentum and were hitting the ball hard each at-bat, which made them tough to get out,” junior shortstop Rhianna Rich said. “We need to learn how we can contain an offense exploding so we can limit the big innings.”
Rich had quite the day at the plate. After collecting three hits in Monday’s first game, two of which were triples, the shortstop went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in this contest. She scored three runs and drove in five between these two games.
Co-captain Maddy Kaplan extended her hitting streak to 12 games in this contest. The senior is third in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and seventh in slugging percentage among qualifying Ancient Eight batters with a .457/.506/.600 slash line.
HARVARD 14, CORNELL 3 (5 INNINGS)
Harvard’s offense was clicking so well on Monday afternoon that even pitcher Katie Duncan, in her first collegiate at-bat in a three-year career, sent a pitch sailing over the fence in center field. Duncan, one of seven Crimson to record a hit in the first game of the doubleheader, also notched a single in the top of the fourth and came around to score on a Rich triple.
“I wasn't really thinking about it as my first collegiate at-bat but instead as another opportunity to contribute my efforts to the team,” Duncan said. “The fact that the ball ended up going over the fence was an great result, but I was definitely more focused on the process.”
Monday’s first game was in stark contrast with Harvard’s two losses to Cornell. The Crimson scored in each of the game’s first four innings, tacking on a combined 11 runs between the third and the fourth. The 14 runs scored marked a season-high for any Ivy League team in a conference game this season.
In the top of the fourth, Harvard scored five runs on just two hits. The biggest play of the inning was Rich’s triple. With the bases loaded, the junior shortstop served a ball into the left-center gap, and Rich herself motored all the way around the bases, scoring on a throwing error by the Big Red’s center fielder. The three-base hit was Rich’s second of this game—she now leads the Ivy League with three triples.
The Crimson somehow had an even more momentous inning in its previous trip to the plate. The visitors pummeled Cornell’s pitching staff to the tune of six runs on four hits. Half of the innings’ runs came in to score when sophomore catcher Lindey Kneib smacked a home run to left-center. The round-tripper was Kneib’s second on the season, matching the totals of Lockhart and sophomore Olivia Giaquinto. Harvard is second in the Ivy League with 11 home runs, and its pitching staff has allowed the fewest with five.
Due to the eight-run rule, the game came to a close after the bottom of the fifth, as Duncan struck out Big Red second baseman Sarah Murray for the final out. Duncan evened up her record to 7-7 on the weekend, and the junior now has a 2.86 ERA in 16 appearances on the season.
CORNELL 6, HARVARD 2
Cornell starter Lisa Nelson came out firing in game one on Sunday, tossing seven frames of two-run ball and effectively silencing the Crimson’s bats in the Ithaca cold. The sophomore tallied eight strikeouts, and only one of the runs she conceded was earned. The eight punch outs were the most in any game for Harvard’s batters this season.
Through four and a half innings, it was pitchers’ duel between Nelson and Duncan. Despite allowing seven hits and a walk through four innings pitched, Duncan managed to evade major danger and only allowed two runs. However, Duncan led off the bottom of the fifth by allowing a ground-rule double to Cornell second baseman Rebecca Kubena. Coach Jenny Allard went to the bullpen, and the home half of the fifth subsequently became a huge rally inning for the Big Red. By the time the dust had settled, Cornell had broken the game wide open by tacking five runs onto the scoreboard.
The top of the seventh started well for the Crimson, as senior Melissa Lacro rocketed a double up the middle and took third on a wild pitch. Alexa Altchek followed with a single down the third base line. After the Big Red recorded one out, Kaplan ripped a single down the line in right field to bring in Lacro.
In its last chance at a comeback, Harvard had a rally going but was unable to prolong it. Just as soon as it had started, Cornell pulled the plug by spinning two up the middle on a grounder from junior third baseman Meagan Lantz.
—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.