Softball looks to break out the bats in Ivy openers this weekend

Non-conference play is all but done, and it is time to see if the softball team can conjure up some new energy against some old rivals.

The softball team (9-15) hits the road this weekend to begin its 2005 Ivy League campaign, facing Dartmouth (3-11-1) on Saturday and Harvard (7-9) on Sunday.

If the Bulldogs want to win, there is really only one thing they have to do — hit the ball. The Eli lineup is packed with hitters who have all shown that they are capable of hitting consistently. The key this weekend will be whether more than one or two batters will be able to produce in any given game.

“To win this weekend, we have to hit,” right fielder Niki Haab ’07 said. “When we hit well, we almost always win.”

At the plate, the Bulldogs will need more than ever from their upperclassmen. Captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 and catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 have been the biggest contributors thus far and must keep it up to pace the Elis.

Two hitters who the Bulldogs will be looking to with cautious optimism are second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 and third baseman Meredith Parks ’07. Parks started her first games at the hot corner since she strained her hamstring over spring break on Wednesday. The sophomore could provide a valuable source of power in the Eli lineup as she regains her swing.

Guerland has struggled since a strong showing in Florida, and she hopes her 2-for-5 with a run scored performance against Sacred Heart Wednesday is a sign of things to come.

“I’ve been really frustrated the last eight games because I haven’t been helping the team out like I had been,” Guerland said. “I haven’t changed my swing, it just happened. I hope those two hits give me a little more confidence, a little more momentum going into Ivies.”

On paper, this weekend looks like a great way for the Bulldogs to ease into league play. Neither Harvard nor Dartmouth has a winning record this spring, and Dartmouth has dropped its last four contests by an average of five runs.

But after a poor start, Harvard has recently come alive, winning their last five games by an average of nearly four runs. And given the Crimson’s recent offensive production — including an 8-0 mercy-rule rout of Quinnipiac Thursday — the Harvard batsmen will probably come to the plate with more confidence than their more erratic New Haven rivals.

Despite the recent propensity for hitting, the Crimson are led by a young and talented pitching staff, most notably rookies Shelly Madick and Amanda Watkins. The pair have been impressive thus far, each throwing to a record of 3-3.

If the Bulldogs can get even a little going on offense, it might be enough. The small pitching staff of Peggy Hunt ’06, Ashley Linnenbank ’06 and Jessica Meyer ’07 has been stellar this spring — no member of the trio has allowed more than three earned runs in a start since March 19.

Linnenbank has been particularly strong lately, posting an incredible ERA of 0.93 in her last four appearances and making the Ivy League honor roll last week. But the southpaw can only claim one win for her work on the mound during that stretch.

Linnenbank’s last outing was a seven-inning four-hitter against Marist Wednesday that the Bulldogs lost 1-0 on an error. No Yale batter got a hit in that game.

“Our pitchers have been doing a great job,” Haab said. “When a pitcher only gives up one unearned run in seven innings and we still lose, we’re definitely not doing something right. Our team knows that the pitchers need some support and we’re hoping we can give it to them this weekend.”

Most importantly, the Bulldogs know that they have to show up this weekend focused and ready to play — waiting until the second game of a doubleheader to get started is not an option.

“We need to come with the mentality that we are going to play every game hard,” Kanyer said. “Every year, Ivies can go either way when any two teams are playing. Typically the team who shows up to play mentally is the team who comes away with the win.”

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