It’s crunch time for the softball team, and Yale is hoping that its bats will come alive to help the squad to victory.
Heading into its last weekend of Ivy League play, the Bulldogs (18-16-1, 4-4 Ivy) need to sweep both Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania on the road to stay in contention for an Ivy title. The Tigers (25-15, 9-1) sit atop the Ancient Eight while the Quakers (12-26, 0-10) occupy the cellar. Yale is currently in a four-way tie for third place.
“This is a very, very big weekend for us,” head coach Andy Van Etten said. “We need to sweep, and if we do we’ll be right back in the thick of things.”
Princeton’s lone league loss came at the hands of second-place Harvard last weekend. An all-around strong team, the Tigers can clinch at least a share of the Ivy crown this weekend with sweeps over Yale and Brown.
“We want to upset them because we heard they are really cocky,” pitcher Jillian Miles ’04 said. “We don’t want them to only go through the league with one loss.”
The Quakers, on the other hand, have been struggling all season.
They’re last in the league in batting average and earned run average. The squad recently snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over Lehigh last Tuesday.
“They’re a good team, they haven’t been losing by much,” Miles said. “They’re not someone we’re going to overlook. We’re going to play them like they’re the No. 1 team.”
To beat both teams, Yale will need a strong offensive performance, something that it has often struggled with in the past. The Elis are currently batting .236 as a team, seventh in the Ancient Eight. Wednesday at Connecticut, Huskies pitcher Barb Cook silenced the Yale lineup, giving up just one hit. But it was not so much her pitching prowess as the Bulldogs’ inability to find the gaps that stifled their offense.
“It wasn’t so much that she was a difficult pitcher to hit off of, because we were making contact off her,” shortstop Leah Kelley said. “But their fielders made a lot of nice plays. We didn’t put the ball in the right places on the field.”
Third baseman Jesseka Bartholomew ’03 continues to lead Yale in several offensive categories, including batting average, hits, doubles and RBIs. She is also tied with pitcher Shayna Filson ’04 for most home runs on the season. Each has tallied five homers.
But after Bartholomew, there is only one player in the Eli starting lineup who has a batting average above .300. Captain Laura Beckert ’03 has come on strong as of late and is batting .313. In Yale’s doubleheader sweep of Columbia last weekend, Beckert went 4-6, on her way to earning herself a spot on the Ivy League Honor Roll.
But Van Etten said that he would like to see that kind of productivity from the rest of his players.
“We have to hit and take the game to them,” Van Etten said. “We can’t sit back on our heels. We need to be tough one through nine.”
After this weekend, the Bulldogs will only have one more Ivy League matchup left. Yale will face Brown next Friday in New Haven.
“We just have to come in and get the job done and not be scared of losing an Ivy League title,” Kelley said. “I think we have the talent and staff to sweep six [Ivy games], it’s just a matter of having the right attitude and mentality.”