Presented with a golden opportunity to distance itself from the lower echelon of the Ivy League, the softball team (14-18, 2-2 Ivy) travels to Harvard and Dartmouth.

While the Crimson (8-20, 1-3) is a perennial league power, it has faltered early and often this season and sits in sixth place in the Ancient Eight. The Big Green (4-14, 1-3) has struggled mightily as well, managing only a handful of wins and staying out of the cellar thanks to the even greater futility of a University of Pennsylvania team that the Elis swept last weekend.

The Elis have turned it on since struggling in Florida over spring break and have taken 12 of their last 16 contests. But while Harvard and Dartmouth have not exactly been setting the world on fire, the Bulldogs know that no game in the hotly contest Ivy League will come easily.

“We can’t take any team lightly,” Katharine Shiota ’04 said. “Teams have a tendency of playing down to their opposition, and when you do that you get the game handed to you. You have to approach each team like they’re the top, No. 1 team.”

Since spring break, the Bulldogs have not left the state of Connecticut, playing 16 straight at home after a set against Quinnipiac. But the disadvantage of having to travel might be offset by the return to the rotation of Jillian Miles ’04, who had not pitched since April 3 before throwing five innings and allowing no earned runs against Sacred Heart Wednesday.

The Elis have relied on a three-person rotation comprised entirely of freshmen, and having the experienced Miles back on the hill after early struggles can only boost the team’s depth.

“Jillian has been a great supporter for the freshmen even when she hasn’t been on the mound,” left-fielder Laura Beckert ’03 said. “She has been able to contribute her experience vicariously through them, but it’s also very important to have her on the mound.”

Wednesday, the Elis swept Sacred Heart (9-22) by scores of 5-3 and 3-1. Both Shiota and Leah Kelley ’03 hit their first collegiate home runs in the opener while Beckert added an RBI triple. Peggy Hunt ’06 pitched the first six innings for the victory and Beth Pavlicek ’06 closed it out.

In the second game, Miles shut down the Pioneers and allowed Pavlicek to record her second save of the afternoon. Kelley and Britni Fabacher ’04 had RBIs for the Bulldogs, who were outhit 9-4.

“It was a great start for the weekend,” Shiota said. “It definitely helps, but for most Ivy League games you get pumped up anyways.”

Losing twice to Princeton (15-11-1) last week, the Elis could not find the seams in the Princeton defense, often hitting balls hard but right at fielders. Against the Pioneers, things went more their way.

Sitting in a fourth place tie in the Ivy League with Columbia and with games remaining against the Lions as well as against second-place Cornell and third-place Brown, the Elis know the league is still very much up for grabs.

“If our pitchers keep throwing good games, and we go up aggressive at the plate we should do well,” Beckert said. “Against Princeton we hit the ball right at their players, so hopefully our balls will hit the gaps this time.”

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