Set to make its Ivy League debut, the Yale softball team will travel to New York and Pennsylvania in an effort to extend a three-game winning streak. The Bulldogs will take on Columbia and Penn in doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Ivy League play arrives at an exciting time for Yale (7–15, 0–0 Ivy), which comes off two one-run victories over Fairfield on Wednesday. Head coach Jen Goodwin and her team are looking to build on their recent offensive success and strong pitching to climb the Ivy League rankings.
“We have learned something from every game we have played this season,” Goodwin said. “In our last three games we have had an extra-innings win, a win where we kept our lead the whole game, and a win where we had the lead, lost it [and] had to fight back and hold off a very strong offense.”
The Bulldogs will first square off with Columbia (5–17, 0–0), looking to widen the gap in their all-time series record of 17–14 over the Lions. Still, Columbia comes into Ivy play with the momentum of two consecutive wins this season as well as six straight victories in the past three years against the Bulldogs in its series with Yale.
Together, Columbia’s star hitters, second baseman Taylor Troutt and first baseman Kerry Cook, will pose a threat to Yale’s pitchers. Troutt currently holds a batting average of 0.354 along with seven home runs, 21 RBI and a slugging percentage of 0.738. She received an All-Ivy honorable mention for her performance last year with the Lions.
Cook, who is a junior, received an All-Ivy honorable mention after her freshman season. She is batting 0.341 so far in the season and leading the Columbia team with 28 hits.
In the pitcher’s circle, Yale hitters will likely face a combination of pitchers Kayla Maloney, Tessa Kroll and Tonia Wu. The last of the three is the Lion ace. Wu posted an earned run average of 2.97 in the 2015 season and started 18 games. She also earned second-team All-Ivy honors for her performance at the plate.
“As an upperclassman, I have a lot of familiarity with the teams I’m going to playing,” utility player Rachel Paris ’17 said. “Having had some success against several of these teams and specific pitchers is going to help give me and my teammates confidence going into these marathon weekends.”
Penn (11–9, 0–0), the Ivy League South Division champion for four years in a row, starts conference play against Brown on Friday before its two games with Yale. The Quakers are coming off of two back-to-back losses to Lehigh.
The top of Penn’s lineup looks strong with second baseman Sam Pederson, third baseman Lauren Li and right fielder Leah Allen. Allen, a power hitter, has an Ivy League-leading 25 RBI and has been awarded the last two Ivy League Player of the Week honors. Pederson is also high up on the Ivy charts with her 0.400 batting average — second best in the Ancient Eight — while Li is right behind her at 0.393.
Perhaps the most impressive player on the Red and Blue squad, however, is pitcher Alexis Sargent, who has claimed the three most recent Ivy League Pitcher of the Week awards. Sargent, who holds a 0.93 earned run average and is also a 0.326 hitter, has just one run to her name in her last 33 innings. Last Saturday, the hurler nearly pitched a perfect game against Rider, allowing just one hit and striking out 14 en route to a 5–0 team win.
Sargent will go up against a Bulldog lineup that has performed well this season, with eight players batting above 0.250. Shortstop and occasional leadoff hitter Brittany Labbadia ’16 has appeared in all 22 games so far this season and sits atop the Yale hitting charts with 19 hits and 9 RBI.
Supporting Labbadia near the top of the lineup will be current Ivy League Rookie of the Week and utility player Carlin Hagmaier ’19, who owns a batting average of 0.379 and enters the weekend with nine hits in her last 17 at bats.
Pitching for the Bulldogs will likely be Terra Jerpbak ’19, Francesca Casalino ’18 and Lindsay Efflandt ’17, though Goodwin said Thursday that the exact starters for each game were yet to be decided.
Last year, Casalino was the workhorse of the Ivy League season with a total of 60.1 innings pitched in conference play. Casalino, who currently owns an earned run average of 5.02 is recovering from a minor overuse injury to the right forearm, but is nonetheless eager to return to the mound.
“I believe this team can go over 0.500. It’s just tough for us with the powerhouses to start with [Penn and Columbia], who have a lot of good talent,” Casalino said. “From the South Division teams, we think we can take both games from all of them.”
Yale’s doubleheader with Columbia will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, while Saturday’s matchup against Penn will start at 12:30 p.m.