Softball pitching helps sweep URI

While some Huskies have been getting all the attention lately, there is another pretty good group of canines in Connecticut.

With its 9-3, 1-0 doubleheader sweep of Rhode Island Wednesday in Kingston, R.I., the softball team has quietly won 11 of its last 12 games, improving to 17-13 overall on the season. The Bulldogs have relied on outstanding starting pitching, solid defense and timely hitting to become one of the teams to beat heading into Ivy league play today. All these facets were showcased in their double-dip against the Rams.

The Eli offense took center stage in the first game, rapping out a season-high 19 hits and crossing the plate nine times. Seven different Bulldogs had two or more hits, while six drove in at least one run. Rams pitcher Katie Halcomb was charged with four of those runs and lasted only an inning and a third. Shortstop Leah Kelley ’04, who has performed exceptionally in the leadoff spot, went four-for-five with a run scored, and first baseman Chelsea Kanyer ’06 went a perfect three-for-three, knocking in one.

Yale got off to a quick start when Kelley led off the first with a single to left and scored on a double by second baseman Christina Guerland ’07. After designated hitter Beth Pavlicek ’06 struck out, Kanyer singled to advance Guerland to third. Catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 then drove in the rookie on a fielder’s choice. The Bulldogs followed up the two-run first with a two-run second, relying on a pair of Ram’s errors and a RBI double by Britni Fabacher ’04. Two more Elis crossed the plate in the third after Pavlicek tripled down the right field line and scored on another Kanyer single. After Kwitakowski reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second, leftfielder Emily Lederer ’06 doubled home Kwiatkowski. The Bulldogs put a three-spot on the board in the sixth, but the six runs were more than enough for starter Peggy Hunt ’06.

Hunt pitched her sixth complete game of the season, striking out three while surrendering three. She found herself in some trouble in the bottom of the fourth, however, giving up a leadoff homer to Ram’s designated hitter Megan Long. After a Hughes pop up, Hunt gave up another four-bagger to first baseman Courtney Wall. Left fielder Heather Pelletier then singled, but Hunt got out of the jam, inducing a line out by centerfielder Kassie Harrelson and a foul out by second baseman Alyssa Martino. Hunt settled down after that, going three scoreless innings to earn her seventh win of the season. The Eli pitcher conceded that the early six-run lead may have contributed to her lapse in the fourth.

“You try to pitch just as intensely because it doesn’t take much to change the momentum,” she said. “It is kind of a relief to have a big lead. Unconsciously, you might not be as focused if the game was 1-0.”

As far as the two dingers she gave up, the upbeat Hunt did not take them to heart.

“They were just bad pitches,” she said. “It was completely my fault. But the team was playing well and those runs didn’t mean anything. A win is a win.”

Head coach Andy Van Etten seemed a little more worried about the situation.

“I had [Ashley] Linnenbank warming up,” he said. “I thought we might need it. But Peggy found a way to win. She looked a little tired, but she settled down.”

A great pitching duel between Pavlicek and Jenna Thurston highlighted the second game. In the end, Pavlicek came out on top, tossing a three-hit shutout to notch her fifth victory of the season. She also struck out four Rams and did not issue a single walk. Fellow pitcher Jenna Thurston, though, went toe-to-toe with Pavlicek, giving up only one run and striking out six Elis in a complete game of her own. “I focus on every pitch, every batter,” Pavlicek said. “You work hard every time. From those efforts, everyone works hard and we got a team win.”

Pavlicek’s performance was not lost on her teammates.

“Beth is always so focused,” Kanyer said. “She doesn’t get rattled at all. Beth pitched a great game, but it wasn’t surprising.”

The Bulldogs will host the Cornell Big Red and the Columbia Lions this Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Dewitt Family Field, where they hope to carry their success into the Ivy League season. Cornell comes in with a gaudy 20-8 record, but after earning only a split against Columbia in its Ivy opener, the Big Red will do its best to steal two from the Bulldogs. The Elis, though, seem ready to make some noise this year.

And while it will take nothing short of an NCAA berth to replace the Huskies in Connecticut’s heart, if the softball team continues to stay hot, being Bulldogs will suit them just fine.

A bulldog pitcher tosses heat during softball’s game April 2 against Sacred Heart at the Dewitt Family Field. The Elis blanked URI yesterday in a doubleheader in Kingston, R.I. with sharp pitching and solid defense.
Smita Gopisetty
A bulldog pitcher tosses heat during softball’s game April 2 against Sacred Heart at the Dewitt Family Field. The Elis blanked URI yesterday in a doubleheader in Kingston, R.I. with sharp pitching and solid defense.

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