The fact that the softball team was playing the best squad in the Ivy League and facing two of the most dominant pitchers in the conference could be an excuse for the Elis’ most recent losses, suffered to Princeton this weekend. But the Bulldogs have dropped seven of their last eight games, and at this point, yesterday’s defeats were just two more in what has amounted to a painful spring.

The Elis (13-25, 2-8 Ivy) continued their season-long struggles yesterday, dropping two games to Princeton (30-14, 9-2) to extend their conference losing streak to six games. Game One was a pitchers’ duel, with neither team scoring until the Tigers’ three-run outburst in the top of the ninth inning secured a 3-0 win. The late game was distinctly less dramatic, with Princeton scoring early and the Bulldogs failing to get anything going, en route to a 4-0 Tiger win.

Between the two games, the Elis notched only three hits, struck out 20 times, and committed seven errors.

“We can’t hit,” Yale head coach Barbara Reinalda said. “When you get no hits and the other team scores three runs, you can’t win the game.”

The lone bright spot for the Bulldogs was pitcher Ashley Linnenbank ’06, who continued her string of impressive performances on the mound in yesterday’s early game. Through her first eight innings of work, the junior southpaw allowed four hits and no walks, shutting down the vaunted Princeton offense.

For the majority of the contest, the Eli defense was very solid behind Linnenbank, committing only two errors through the first eight innings and fielding several hard-hit ground balls. Despite being responsible for both miscues, captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 wore a gold glove for the majority of the game, robbing several Tigers of would-be base hits.

But the Bulldogs’ composure finally broke in the ninth inning. After the leadoff batter walked, pinch-hitter Lindsay Motal laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second. Kanyer fielded the bunt and tried to get the out at second, but her throw was too high for shortstop Aracelis Torres ’08 to handle.

Tiger right fielder Stephanie Steel attempted a sac bunt as well. Linnenbank fielded the ball quickly but went to third base, and the throw was too late. Catcher Ty Ries made it three bunts in a row with the next at bat — Kanyer fielded the ball and tried to flip it to catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05, but was too slow to get the runner at home.

Neither the Princeton bats nor the Yale mistakes were finished quite yet. Third baseman Tiffany Andras hit a fly ball to left field, slightly deeper and left of where Emily Lederer ’06 was stationed. Lederer ran over to make the catch, but the ball glanced off of her glove and fell for a two-run single.

Linnenbank got the next three batters to pop up, but the damage was done: three runs on no hits and one error. In the bottom of the inning, center fielder Libby Peters ’05 struck out, and Kwiatkowski and second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 grounded out to end the game.

Kanyer said the Tigers were coached well and showed good execution in laying down the bunts and eventually scoring on the squeeze play with the bases loaded, but that the Elis’ defense was also to blame.

“They did a great job, but we didn’t defend it properly,” she said.

Linnenbank’s ERA stands at a healthy 1.69, but pitching alongside the lackluster Eli bats has left her with a 4-10 record. The lefty said that while she has been happy with her pitching, her statistics finish a far second to team victory.

“It’s good to keep the confidence going throughout the next few games, but if we don’t get wins, it doesn’t matter too much,” Linnenbank said.

Princeton shortstop Cristina Cobb-Adams set the tone for Game Two in the first at-bat of the contest, when she hit a hard line drive just past the outstretched glove of Niki Haab ’07 and into the right field corner for a triple. Cobb-Adams would be thrown out at home on the next play, but two more singles loaded the bases before designated player Amanda Erickson hit a two-run double into right-center field.

The other Tiger spurt came in the third inning. After hitting the left-field fence in the first inning, first baseman Erin Snyder cleared it easily the second time around for a two-run home run.

For the third time in four starts, Bulldog ace Peggy Hunt ’06 ran into serious trouble. She allowed four earned runs on 12 hits, and held the Tigers hitless in only one inning. Snyder’s home run was the 11th Hunt has allowed this season.

The Tigers said that despite the sweep, they thought the Elis played well.

“They did a good job,” Princeton captain Ty Ries said. “They came out ready to play — we knew they’d be gunning for us. They had us down in the first game until the end.”

And while the Bulldogs struggled at the plate yesterday, the Princeton hurlers are no slouches. Snyder, who pitched nine innings of two-hit shutout ball in game one, was the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week last week, and has been riding a 0.67 ERA to a 14-3 record. Kristen Schaus’ 1.22 ERA and 12-7 win-loss record may not match up to her junior teammate’s statistics, but her one-hitter in the second game speaks for itself.

But the Elis said that their failure to score goes beyond the player on the mound.

“Those pitchers are both really good, but I think that there’s a lot more to it than that,” Kanyer said. “Our bats are kind of slumping right now. I’m not trying to take anything away from those pitchers, but [the pitching] shouldn’t make us not score any runs.”