It seems that no matter how close the softball team gets to doing everything right, something inevitably goes wrong.
The Elis (14-26, 3-9 Ivy) went back to their splitting ways Monday against Penn (14-25, 4-10). Despite the Bulldog batsmen putting up far more offense than they have in recent weeks, the usually stingy Yale pitching staff allowed 19 hits on the day.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a seven-run lead in game one, and despite a late-inning collapse from normally-solid Ashley Linnenbank ’06 on the mound, pitcher Jessica Meyer ’07 came in to record the final out in the seventh inning to secure an 8-6 win.
The late game saw the two squads switch roles. Down 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Elis rallied to score two runs before Penn’s Lindsey Permar came in to provoke a game-ending groundout from Meyer, cementing the final score at 5-4.
The Bulldogs said that they were pleased with the offensive production, but that the second loss hurt after the early win had them emotionally riled up.
“That last game was a hard loss for our team,” outfielder Rachel Kelley ’05 said. “Emotions were high and we knew that we could beat them. Even though we have split so many games this season, it still is very frustrating to lose to a team that you have already beaten once.”
Catcher Kristy Kwiatkowski ’05 was the Eli hero of the day. The senior connected on two home runs, a two-run shot in the third inning of game one and a solo bomb in the fifth inning of game two, en route to going 5-for-6 with three RBI and four runs scored. Kwiatkowski leads the Bulldogs in most offensive categories, including doubles (7), home runs (5), runs scored (27), stolen bases (8), slugging percentage (.508), and — despite hitting in the leadoff spot for most of this season — RBIs (15).
Meyer was the other star of the early game. She hit a solo shot in the fourth inning, her first of the season, and also recorded her first save of the season in relief of Linnenbank.
Penn would strike first with a run in the top of the first inning, but the offense would be all Yale for the next four innings. Following a one-run second inning and two more runs in the third, the fourth inning saw the biggest offensive explosion of the afternoon.
After Meyer led off with her home run, center fielder Libby Peters ’05, Kwiatkowski and second baseman Christina Guerland ’07 all singled to load the bases. Penn pitcher Kara Eyre walked captain Chelsea Kanyer ’06 to bring Peters home, and Kwiatkowski scored when third baseman Meredith Parks ’07 grounded out to second base.
Adding insult to injury, the Elis would score one more run, on an error from Quaker shortstop Christina Khosravi that allowed Guerland to score.
Linnenbank started well, allowing only three hits and one earned run through the first five innings. But the Penn batters seemed to figure the southpaw out in the late innings, scoring five runs on three hits in the sixth and another four in the seventh, narrowing the Yale lead to two runs before Meyer came on to provoke a game-ending groundout.
The win brings Linnenbank’s record to 5-10. The lefty said that while the offense and run support was appreciated, she was not happy with her pitching.
“It was nice,” Linnenbank said. “I was struggling a bit with my pitches though, so I never really felt comfortable no matter how big our lead was.”
The Bulldogs would get seven hits in game two, only a slight drop-off from their 11-hit performance in game one. But the difference would be errors and shaky pitching.
The Elis were stuck playing catch-up throughout game two, erasing a one-run Penn lead in the third inning before falling behind again on a two-run Quaker fourth inning. The Bulldogs would narrow the gap to one on Kwiatkowski’s home run in the fifth, but Penn’s Anna Kinsey hit a two-run shot off of Linnenbank — who came on in relief of Peggy Hunt ’06 after four and two-thirds innings — to bring the lead up to three.
The Bulldogs would not call it quits just yet. With two outs and Kanyer on first base, Parks and left fielder Emily Lederer ’06 logged successive singles to load the bases before shortstop Kate Meserve ’07 hit a long fly ball to left field. The ball glanced off of Quaker Kaelin Ainley’s glove, allowing Kanyer and Parks to score. Meserve took second base, putting the tying run in scoring position, before Meyer’s groundout ended the game.
After breaking the .500 mark only a few weeks ago, Hunt struggled again Monday, allowing seven hits and three runs, one earned. The Bulldog ace has dropped five straight decisions, bringing her record to 7-11.
Several team members said it was frustrating to lose the late game because they said the loss was due to factors beyond their control. For example, in a fourth-inning play at the plate, a Penn baserunner ran into Kwiatkowski, rather than slide. Kwiatkowski said that the rules state that the runner must slide if there is a play at the plate, but the umpire allowed the play to stand, resulting in two Quaker runs.
“It is always frustrating losing, no matter how it happens, but game two was especially frustrating since we felt the game was within reach for us,” Kwiatkowski said. “There were some questionable calls and rather unusual plays that led to two of UPenn’s runs, so that in itself was frustrating.”
The Elis are currently sitting alone in the Ivy League cellar with a conference record of 3-9. The only way the Bulldogs will not finish in last in the league is if they can sweep their doubleheader with Brown next Saturday. The Bears (12-16-1, 4-8) are on a two-game losing streak and are not known to be a strong squad, but given the Elis’ troubles and the fact that they have only swept one team all spring, winning both games will take a complete performance from the Yale squad.
But the Elis — particularly the three-member senior class of Kelley, Kwiatkowski and Peters — are not ready to roll over and die just yet.
“We are all definitely motivated,” Kelley said. “It’s about pride now. We are going to continue to do the best that we can until the very end. Especially for the three seniors, we all want to finish the season strong, so it will be important to beat Brown this weekend.”
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