Instead of distancing itself from the muddled Ivy League pack, the softball team (16-20, 4-4 Ivy) finds itself more firmly entrenched in the middle than ever before.

The surprise came Friday when a struggling Harvard team (11-21, 4-4) lambasted the Elis twice, completely dominating en route to 6-0 and 10-2 victories. While the Crimson has traditionally been a league powerhouse, this year’s edition has not lived to its top billing.

In the opener, Lauren Tanner and Michelle McAteer combined for a two-hitter while the Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot by committing three errors. Beth Pavlicek ’06, the two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, had her shakiest outing in recent memory, not making it out of the third inning. Pavlicek allowed eight hits and five earned runs. Before being the tough-luck loser against Princeton last Saturday, Pavlicek had won her previous five decisions and still maintains a 7-4 overall record.

“Our pitchers pitched well, but Harvard hit the ball hard and hit the ball in places our fielders weren’t,” said shortstop Leah Kelley ’03, who had one of Yale’s two hits. “We had a few defensive miscues that hurt, but Harvard’s hitting was the difference.”

The second game was no better; Harvard’s bats kept rolling. Jillian Miles ’04, who had made a strong return to the rotation Wednesday against Sacred Heart after struggling early in the season, took the loss by allowing nine hits and seven earned runs in 2.1 innings. Laura Beckert ’03 and Emily Lederer ’06 homered to account for the Bulldogs’ offensive output.

“I almost don’t know what to make of the Harvard games,” said catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05, who had an RBI single in the first game. “We didn’t show up as the Yale team we were. Our coach came out to the mound one inning and said ‘This isn’t the team I know.’ I don’t know exactly what happened. We didn’t have the defense we needed, we didn’t get the hits we needed: it just was not a good showing.”

But Saturday, the other Eli team did show up, gritting out hard-fought victories over Dartmouth (5-17, 2-6) by 2-1 and 3-2 counts. Peggy Hunt ’06 dominated the Big Green in the opener, and the Bulldogs managed a run in the seventh and final inning to escape with the win.

“Those were two pretty intense games,” Kelley said. “Coming back in the first game was pretty exciting. We came up with big hits to pull the game out in the seventh inning.”

The second game was similarly dominated by pitching; the teams accounted for only nine total hits. Ashley Linnenbank ’06 pitched the first six innings and allowed only one earned run, and Pavlicek redeemed herself by pitching a perfect seventh inning for the save. Pavlicek also went 2-3 at the plate with an RBI.

“It shows a lot of character that we can pull out one-run games,” said Kwiatkowski, who homered in the game. “That’s the team we usually are. The Dartmouth games showed the Yale team we know we are. With Harvard, we didn’t hit the ball or have scoring opportunities, and we let them get on base and take advantage of their opportunities.”

After splitting the weekend, the Bulldogs find themselves in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Ancient Eight with Columbia (15-17, 5-5) and Harvard. Brown (13-15, 4-3) sits just a half-game ahead. Princeton (18-12-1, 8-1) will have to falter down the stretch to relinquish its lead with second-place Cornell (24-6, 7-3) a comfortable two games back.

Yale travels to Cornell and Columbia next weekend for pivotal games, but the Elis no longer control their own destiny.

“We need some upsets,” Kwiatkowski said. “We need Princeton to fall, and for Cornell to be upset. Anything can happen in the Ivy League, so we just have to keep going out there as the Yale team we know we are and hope those teams falter.”

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