Despite four well-pitched games, the softball team’s ailing bats continue to hurt the squad.
Yale (17-13, 3-7 Ivy) dropped three of four to Harvard (14-12, 5-5) in the opening days of North Division play, slipping further in the title race with only two weeks left in the season.
The Crimson put the Bulldogs in a hole early in each of the games, making it difficult for the home team to rebound. Add Lauren Murphy’s league-leading 11th and 12th home runs to the mix, and the Cantabs’ advantage was too much for the Bulldogs for most of the weekend.
With both squads fielding their aces on the mound, the offenses did their scoring in the first three innings of the series. The Cantabs capitalized on a walk off of pitcher Rebecca Wojciak ’09 to get on the board, then a Murphy homer cemented the final score at 2-1 in the third.
“When you walk kids, those are the runs that score,” Yale head coach Barbara Reinalda said. “When you walk people it puts the defense in a hard spot. We were in there on Friday; we just didn’t take advantage of their mistakes.”
Friday the 13th only got worse for the Elis in the second game. Four Harvard batters got on base off of two errors, a pass ball and a walk before a chaotic play halted the game.
Harvard’s Susie Winkeller stepped to the plate with runners on first and third and knocked a long fly ball that deflected off of leftfielder Allie Canulli’s ’10 glove and the fence before leaving the park. A giddy Winkeller spurted past her teammate who was running from first to second. Following confusion that halted the game for 15 minutes, the umpires determined that Winkeller was out, but she was given an RBI single as two other runners scored.
Captain and second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 said the team was unfazed by the pseudo-home run.
“Defensive errors are going to happen,” she said. “It’s just offensive production that makes a difference. I’m not bothered by what happens on the field as long as we get it done at the plate.”
But the Bulldogs were unable to come back from the 4-0 deficit and ultimately fell, 5-2.
The opening contest on Saturday mirrored the first game of the series — quick and uneventful. Both pitchers threw complete games, but another Murphy dinger put the Crimson ahead 1-0 and would ultimately make the difference.
The Bulldogs were plagued by their inability to get runners home, a problem they have had since conference play began. Eleven straight Elis went down between the fourth and the sixth inning, and the team could not capitalize on a two-on, two-out situation in sixth. Harvard took the pitcher’s duel with a 1-0 final.
Several players said that stringing hits together was the Bulldogs’ biggest problem last weekend, but the bats woke up in the final game of the series. Though the Crimson scored first, the Bulldogs forced their rivals to exhaust three pitchers en route to a 5-2 victory that prevented the sweep.
“We just started to relax a little,” catcher Katie Edwards ’09 said. “We had seen the pitchers a couple of times now and it worked.”
Guerland and rightfielder Kyli Hanson ’09 both knocked in two runs, and the Bulldogs racked up a weekend-high eight hits. Even after falling behind 2-0 on a pair of unearned runs, they were able to put together a pair of two run innings in which they finally advanced base runners.
The win was secured by a solid four-inning performance from starter Kayla Kuretich ’10 and a three-inning save by Deanna DiBernardi ’09, who struck out three batters and got out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth.
“I knew we had to keep their big hitter [Murphy] in the park,” DiBernardi said. “And we just got the job done. It felt good to come out of the weekend with a win.”
Eli pitching this weekend was exemplary as usual; Bulldog hurlers were only responsible for four of the 10 Cantab runs. But the Elis, who struck out 17 times, will continue to struggle if their hitting does not improve.
Though the series ended on a high note, the Elis still have some players who are slumping. The team needs to find a way to score with players on base, Reinalda said.
“We’re supposed to play Wagner on Wednesday,” she said. “Hopefully that will get a couple people out of the slump. We’re going to use [those games] to get back into the groove for next weekend.”
Yale will take on Wagner at Staten Island on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. before continuing their Ivy League schedule against Dartmouth next weekend.