Letting opponents take advantage of defensive mistakes was the downfall of the Yale softball team this weekend.
“Princeton’s the kind of team where if you make one error, it will come back and get you,” pitcher KR Ling ’10 said.
Yale (12-16, 2-6 Ivy) fell to both Princeton (11-17, 8-0) and Cornell (21-7, 5-1) this weekend. The Bulldogs lost to the Tigers 8-1 in the first game and 5-2 in the second. The next day, the Big Red won 7-3 in the first game and 11-7 in the second.
Despite some bright moments and key plays, including three home runs in their last game against Cornell, the Bulldogs could not match their opponents’ offensive explosion. Yale’s defensive mistakes gave the Tigers and Big Red many opportunities to capitalize with their consistently strong clutch hitters.
Early in the weekend, there were already signs of the Bulldogs’ little mistakes adding up. In the third inning of the first game, Yale allowed the Tigers to score four runs after several Eli miscues. Princeton’s Brianna Moreno reached first base on an error, stole second and scored the game’s first run when her teammate hit a clutch double. The Bulldogs then let another player on base, which proved to be a huge mistake after Kelsey Quist followed up with a homer that gave Princeton three more runs.
The Bulldogs scored a run in the bottom of the third but did not produce any more for the rest of the game. In addition to scoring two more runs in the fourth and fifth innings off Bulldog defensive slips, the Tigers finished the last inning with another homer, which made the final score 8-1.
“We had a lot of opportunities to switch the momentum,” Ling said, “but we didn’t take advantage of them.”
Yale fought hard in the second game with strings of solid hitting leading to runs in the second and sixth innings. Outfielder Courtney Blachford ’08 had a big game, with a triple in the third inning and a double in the fifth, but both times she was left stranded on base. These missed opportunities kept the Bulldogs from catching up to the Tigers’ five runs.
“We were hitting the ball, but they just weren’t going in opportune places,” Blachford said.
The Bulldogs started out their second game against Cornell on a strong note. Captain and shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08 singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Catcher Katie Edwards ’09 then followed with a homer that gave Yale two runs and the early lead.
Cornell caught up soon afterwards and was leading, 5-3, going into the fourth inning, but the Bulldogs rallied successfully. After Edwards advanced to third on a single from Holly Gutterud ’10, third baseman Allie Canulli ’10 came through with a clutch homer that earned Yale three more runs to tie the score.
But the Big Red pulled away in the fifth inning when the Bulldogs’ defensive mistakes let Cornell take advantage with a string of solid hits. The Big Red scored six runs by consistently finding the gaps in Yale’s defense. After Larkin scored an unearned hit on a throwing error and with players continually on base, Cornell had two doubles at key moments that led to a combined five runs.
Yale’s defense came together and stopped Cornell from earning more runs as the Bulldogs stepped up offensively, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Big Red.
Despite the loss, several Yale players had standout performances. After hitting a single in the sixth, Gutterud stole second, then third and scored a run with Canulli’s strong hit to center field. And in the last inning, Torres pulled through with key plays on both offense and defense. The shortstop made a clutch double play in the top of the seventh. She followed up with a homer in the bottom of the inning that brought the Bulldogs closer, but not close enough — the game ended 11-7 in Cornell’s favor.
Players said this weekend would have been crucial to bringing down Ivy League powerhouses Princeton and Cornell. The Bulldogs’ losses were disappointing, but players said they hope to learn from their mistakes.
“We left a lot of runners on base, made a lot of defensive errors and our pitching wasn’t holding us down,” coach Barbara Reinalda said. “But hopefully some of the girls will have gotten out of their hitting slump soon.”
Ivy League softball is divided into two divisions, North and South. At season’s end, the winner of each division plays in a best-of-three championship series, and each division’s representative is determined by which team has the best overall Ivy League record. Since Cornell and Princeton are both in the South, Yale can take solace in the fact that it didn’t lose to division foes.
After a doubleheader against Sacred Heart on Wednesday, the Bulldogs will turn to division play within the league. Yale will host Harvard in two doubleheaders this weekend.