This weekend, The Harvard Softball team traveled to Jacksonville, Florida to compete in the Jacksonville University Green and Gold Classic. In her collegiate debut, Rhianna Rich led Harvard (3-1) to its first three wins of the 2016 season. Rich was an offensive powerhouse - she tallied nine hits in 16 at bats and scored seven runs.
On Friday, Rich recorded two hits in each game. In her first ever collegiate game, Rich’s made her presence on the field known. She had a bunt single that set up sophomore Maddy Kaplan for a single and junior Giana Panariello for a double. In this play Rich scored her first run for he Crimson.
Later in the game, Rich teamed up with Kaplan again. Rich’s double led to freshman Meagan Lantz’s single and Kaplan’s double, allowing both freshmen to score.
Rich’s solid performance helped lead Harvard to a 7-2 win over Presbyterian College (6-5). The game marked the Crimson and Blue Horse’s first-ever meeting.
Later that same day, Rich led Harvard to another first-ever win, this time against St. Bonaventure University (1-8). Although the Crimson was down 2-0 after the first inning and the second inning passed by scoreless, Rich picked up the momentum for Harvard and helped lead a major comeback.
In the third inning, Rich hit a triple with one out, and then she scored during the next at bat when Kaplan grounded out to the second baseman. Rich shined again in the fifth inning, when she sent a long ball sailing over the right field wall, which was the first home run of her collegiate career. With this run, captain Zoe Galindo was also able to score. This was the second game in a row in which Rich scored twice.
This helped Harvard rally with five unanswered points, which won it the game.
“Rhianna came out and she didn’t play like a freshman,” Galindo said. “She was comfortable, relaxed, strong, confident.”
Rich continued to play well on Saturday against Albany (1-3), with two hits at bat. Unfortunately her efforts were not enough and the Crimson recorded their one loss of the season so far, falling to Albany 7-4.
Rich’s best game of her breakout weekend came in the final game against Jacksonville (9-7).
“Jacksonville University was suppose to be the toughest opponent of the weekend and we were playing on their home field,” Galindo said. “We play four games a weekend during Ivy League play, so being able to come out strong in that last game was going to show a lot of what we’re made of.”
From the lead-off spot, Rich went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, bringing Harvard to an early lead. She then laced a triple through the left side, bringing home teammates and fellow freshmen, Meagan Lantz and Kaitlyn Schiffhauer.
“Our younger players in general are going to have a big impact on the team this year, Galindo said. “That’s going to be very exciting to see.”
Rich, a California native, played softball and soccer at El Segundo High School where she won numerous athletic and academic accolades. She was three-time first team all-league in softball, the Pioneer League Most Outstanding Softball Player in 2014 and earned a spot on Daily Breeze’s 2015 Top 10 Soccer Players to Watch in South Bay.
Rich is not the only softball standout in her family. Her sisters Jenna Rich and Ciji Rich were both accomplished Division 1 softball players. Jenna was an NFCA All-American while playing softball for Stanford University and Ciji earned second-team All-Ivy League for Columbia University in 2008.
“The team really is a family,” Rich said. “Overall the weekend went really well, especially when we came back to beat Jacksonville under the lights after a loss from Albany. I think it showed how resilient the team is and how this season we’re going to play big and go all out.”
Rich currently leads the team statistics in almost all hitting categories. Rich has a double, two triples and a home run, more extra-base hits than any other Harvard softball player through one weekend of play.
Statistically, Rich is leading the NCAA as well. According to the yearly national rankings for NCAA Division 1 softball so far, Rich currently has a slugging percentage of 1.250, which puts her third in the nation, and a batting average of 0.583, which ranks her eighth.
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