In a pair of doubleheaders against league rival Harvard this weekend, the Yale softball team struggled once again in conference play, dropping three of four games in the series.
It was an uphill battle for the Elis (9–20, 3–11 Ivy) from the very first inning against the Crimson (20–19, 11–5), who claimed an early lead that the Bulldogs could not shake. Although the next two games also ended in losses, Yale finished on a high note with a 3–1 win to end the series on a winning note.
“As for this weekend, we came out a little slower from the onset and then built our momentum as each game progressed,” infielder Maddie Wuelfing ’18 said. “Our pitchers worked really hard and our offense came [through] in some clutch situations. Our win [in] the last game was definitely a team win.”
Harvard set the tone for the doubleheaders from the bottom of the very first inning. After the bases were loaded with three of the first four Crimson batters, Harvard pitcher Laura Ricciardone hit a home run down the left field line, earning four runs batted in for her grand slam. Although the Elis swapped pitcher Lindsay Efflandt ’17 for Rhydian Glass ’16, the Bulldogs still could not keep the Crimson from crossing the plate, allowing another five runs between the two pitchers in the inning to give Harvard a 9–0 lead.
Though Yale limited Harvard to just one more run the rest of the game, a lack of offensive power prevented the Elis from mounting any sort of comeback. With four hits to the Crimson’s 14, the Bulldogs only scored one run, and the game was called after the top of the fifth.
“Take out that first inning, and we were in every game and every inning,” pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 said. “Everyone stepped up this weekend and played an important role in allowing us to keep the games within winning reach. Rhydian Glass … did a phenomenal job this weekend being ready to go in for relief at all times and was able to shut a great Harvard offense down.”
Things were looking up for Yale in the second game on Saturday. Despite allowing two Harvard runs in the third inning, the Elis were more on their game, with players on base in five of the seven innings. The Bulldogs rallied in the top of the fourth, scoring four runs of their own. A double from right fielder Camille Weisenbach ’17, followed by another hit from left fielder Rachel Paris ’17, brought three Yale runners across the plate. Paris then scored on a fielding error to give the Elis a 4–2 lead.
But over the course of the next two innings, Harvard steadily added to its total, scoring a pair in both the fifth and sixth to give them a two-run advantage.
In the top of the seventh, third baseman Allison Skinner ’18 hit her first career home run with the Bulldogs to bring Yale within one, but ultimately the Elis could not drive the last run home and the contest ended in a 6–5 defeat.
In the second game, the Bulldogs outhit Harvard 12–10, yet left eight runners on base. This failure to capitalize spelled another loss for Yale against the Crimson, who lead the league in the number of home runs and are second highest in hits this season coming in to the weekend.
“After Saturday, we were hungry for those W’s because we were all over their pitchers both games,” Casalino said. “Especially [in] that second game we came so close and just couldn’t pull it out.”
Sunday’s first game was also characterized by an early Harvard lead, which the Elis failed to surmount despite another RBI for Skinner in the top of the seventh. The final score was 6–4 in favor of the Cantabs.
The weekend did not turn around for the Bulldogs until game four, which started off with a pitcher’s duel between Efflandt and Ricciardone.
Harvard broke the stalemate with a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Yale answered quickly, tying the game up in the top of the fifth when pinch runner Allie Souza ’16 crossed the plate to bring the score up to 1–1.
In the top of the seventh with the game still tied, shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 reached third on a throwing error from Ricciardone that also scored second baseman Laina Do ’17. Labbadia also crossed the plate after a fielding error by the Crimson third basemen on the next play, securing the Elis’ 3–1 win to finish off the series.
“[The win was] absolutely empowering,” Glass said. “It was a total team win. We truly fought hard with all we had. It’s also fantastic for our seniors to wrap up their careers with a win in their last game against Harvard.”
Harvard retained its position in second place in the North Division, while Yale still remains in the bottom spot.
Although the Bulldogs have now dropped 10 of their last 11 conference contests, players remained positive about the season ahead and confident in their ability to finish each series strong.
“We feel ready,” Glass said. “It’s a big Ivy week for us. We have the talent, depth and the passion [to beat the rest of our Ivy competition]. We need to carry the confidence and energy from today’s win into this week and keep up the fighting, relentless spirit we showed today.”
Yale will continue Ivy League play away from home with a doubleheader against Princeton this Wednesday and then return to New Haven to start a pair of doubleheaders against Brown.