Softball hits splitsville again

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde returned to DeWitt Family Field Sunday with the usual split-personality doubleheader results.

The softball team (9-15) took on Sacred Heart (7-7) yesterday in the Elis’ last games of a two-week home stand. The Bulldog offense was nowhere to be found in the first game — a 1-0 Pioneer win — as hurler Bethany Lemenager not only no-hit the Elis but came only one walk and a hit batsman away from a perfect game.

But if the Bulldogs have made anything crystal clear this spring, it is that game two is an entirely new slate. While they allowed Sacred Heart to come back and take the lead in the top of the seventh inning, the Elis rallied to send the game into extra innings and again to win in the 10th on a walk-off three-run home run from pinch hitter Aracelis Torres ’08 to secure a 7-4 win.

Just another Yale-style doubleheader. The Bulldogs have split four of their six twin bills this season always losing the first and winning the second. Over those six doubleheaders, the Elis have averaged less than one run per game in the first game, but nearly three in the second.

Yale co-head coach Barbara Reinalda said the Elis’ hitting irregularities can be chalked up to timidity at the plate.

“We’re not aggressive enough,” Reinalda said. “There’s no killer instinct, and then suddenly a game is tied. We can’t let down. We have to be aggresive all the time.”

The Bulldogs drew first blood in the late game, putting two runs on the board in the fifth inning. Left fielder Rachel Kelley ’06 drew a leadoff walk, catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 doubled and center fielder Courtney Blachford ’08 walked, loading the bases with no outs and bringing captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 to the plate.

Kanyer was named Ivy League Player of the Week last week after batting .526 with three RBI in six games last week. While the Bulldog captain was only 1-for-7 yesterday, her one hit came when it mattered.

With the count at 2-0, Lemenager — who came on in relief of Chrissy DeMott after the walk to Blachford — delivered a pitch right into the middle of the strike zone. Kanyer hit the ball hard on the ground past the third baseman to bring Kelley and Kwiatkowski home.

The Elis nearly escaped the game without extra innings. Pitcher Peggy Hunt ’06 got Jacqui Riley and Jen Place to ground out, and almost got a third out when Megan Spehar hit a fly ball to shallow right field. Second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 came over to make the catch but stopped short, thinking the ball was foul. The ball hit the line and Spehar came in with a single, moving Becky Cameron to second.

One strike away from victory, Melissa Mezzanotte took Hunt’s 1-2 pitch over the left field wall to put Sacred Heart up 3-2. The three runs were Hunt’s only earned runs of the day.

Fortunately, the Elis can make 11th-hour comebacks as well. With two outs and runners on first and second, designated player Jessica Meyer ’07 hit a line-drive double into center field, allowing Kanyer to score from second and send the game into extra innings.

After two scoreless innings, Sacred Heart’s Caitlin Carroll hit a two-out single into center field to bring in Place, who started the inning on second base.

The Bulldogs would not take long to even the score. With Guerland visibly preparing to send Niki Haab ’07 to third with a sac bunt, Pioneer Danielle Mellin’s 2-0 sailed past catcher Brittany Uno. Haab took third base on the passed ball, and Guerland singled into center field to bring Haab home.

The Bulldog bats were not quite done yet. Shortstop Kate Meserve ’07 set down a bunt and Uno tried to make the throw to second, but Cameron could not hold on and Guerland slid in easily.

After Kelley popped up an attempted sac bunt and Kwiatkowski’s foul ball was caught by the third baseman, Torres came in to pinch hit for Blachford. The freshman has not been hitting well, and since third baseman Meredith Parks ’07 is back from a hamstring injury, Torres sat the late game, with utility player Meserve moving from the hot corner to short.

Torres did not look like the rookie who has gone 3-for-18 so far in April — her three-run shot cleared the left field fence easily.

“It definitely felt really good,” Torres said. “I’d been struggling a bit. And Peggy pitched a pretty good game — she needed the support.”

Hunt’s good game took the form of five strikeouts, 11 hits and three earned runs in 10 innings. The Bulldog ace, who has been denied more than one victory because of lackluster Eli hitting, was very happy with the Yale performance behind her work on the mound.

“The second game was phenomenal,” Hunt said. “A comeback like that shows what kind of team this is. We stayed in it until the 10th inning. This is exactly what we needed before Ivy play. Everyone contributed.”

Sacred Heart players said that the difference in the second game was simply that the Elis started hitting well.

“They got some hits, started adjusting to pitches — they’re a great team,” Cameron, the Pioneers’ captain, said.

Hunt’s fellow junior hurler, Ashley Linnenbank ’06, was less fortunate in the support her teammates provided in game one. Yet the southpaw nearly won the game by herself — despite no hits from the Bulldog order. In seven innings of work, Linnenbank allowed only four hits and three walks, surrendering no earned runs.

The only run of the game came on an error from Kwiatkowski in right field in the third inning, allowing Tiffanie Cross-Monzo to reach third and then score on the next at-bat.

Linnenbank said that the frustrating part about pitching well in such a game is that it can’t motivate the team like bats getting hot can.

“The frustrating thing about it is hitting generates momentum,” Linnenbank said. “Without it, it’s hard to keep going. Hopefully we’ll put this behind us and the hitting will start up.”

Several key Bulldogs showed promise at the plate in the late game. Guerland, who led the team in hitting in Florida but has struggled lately, went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Kwiatkowski continued to put up strong numbers, hitting 3-for-6.

And despite going 0-for-8 on the day, having Parks back in the lineup is a big plus for the offensively lacking Elis. The third baseman had good velocity on her swing and should provide a big bat in the middle of the middle of the lineup.

Parks’ bat would be even more necessary if left fielder Emily Lederer ’06 cannot return to the lineup soon. Lederer, who had been batting well in the fifth spot, sprained her ankle sliding into home during Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Marist. While she did not play today, she was able to walk around.

Lederer, a staff reporter for the News, said she will see a trainer today and hopes to return to the lineup for this weekend’s action against Dartmouth and Harvard.

The Bulldogs have shown several times this spring that they are capable of putting up great numbers at the plate. The issue — one they must fix immediately, since Ivy play begins this weekend — is getting started early and maintaining momentum.

“You can tell them and tell them, but you can’t play the game for them,” Reinalda said. “Hopefully it changes when we get to Ivies. It only takes one or two to get excited, but those one or two, that’s what I’m looking for.”

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Jie Zhou
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