The Yale softball team began Ivy League play this weekend looking to rebound from the past few seasons with an improved conference record. Notching the best collective result against Columbia and Penn in five years is certainly not a bad place to start.
Yale (9–17, 2–2 Ivy) outscored its opponents 17–9 this weekend en route to a pair of split doubleheaders against Columbia (7–19, 2–2) and Penn (13–11, 2–2). The four-game weekend featured three games decided by just one run — including two that went to extra innings — and a fourth in which Yale blew out Penn 9–0, invoking the NCAA’s mercy rule in the process.
“All four games this weekend were incredibly hard fought,” center fielder Sydney Ginsberg ’18 said. “To win two of them, no matter what the score was, is such a rewarding feeling that really reflects all the hard work we have put in thus far.”
The offensive ability to get baserunners home marked major strides forward in situational hitting, but still left something to be desired as 27 Bulldogs were stranded on-base over the course of the four games.
Nonetheless, that issue did not keep Yale from playing competitively with its opponents, as the Bulldogs never lost by more than one run on the weekend. Yale and Columbia sparred for 17 innings in two extra-innings games, with the Elis falling to the Lions 3–2 in the first and triumphing 1–0 in the second. Against Penn on Saturday, the Yale bats exploded in the 9–0 win before the Bulldogs, despite a four-run rally early on, dropped the second contest 6–5 because of a ninth-inning walk-off homer.
In New York City, Yale forced extra innings by taking advantage of a Columbia error to tie the score in the top of the seventh inning. Shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 went 3–4 with a walk and a run scored, putting up the best individual hitting performance for the team that day. Pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19, who tossed six innings of two-run ball, continued her recent hot streak with two hits.
Together, the three Yale hurlers — Jerpbak, Francesca Casalino ’18 and Lindsay Efflandt ’17 — allowed only three runs on Friday. Columbia’s best hitters this season, first baseman Kelly Cook and second baseman Taylor Troutt, were held to just one hit combined.
The strongest pitching performance of the day came from Efflandt, who stunned Columbia in an eight-inning pitchers’ duel with the Lions’ Tessa Kroll. The junior held off the Lions long enough for left fielder Shelby Kennedy ’19 to drive in pinch runner Allie Souza ’16 during the top of the eighth inning, ultimately winning the game for Yale.
“There’s definitely an extra level of intensity [in extra innings] that is forced upon you, but that’s the kind of intensity you should feel every inning,” Efflandt said. “It should feel no different and I don’t think it really did in that case.”
Perhaps the most impressive game of the weekend was the first of Yale’s two games against Penn, four-time consecutive South Division Ivy League Champion. The Bulldogs run-ruled Penn with a stunning nine-run margin of victory, marking the Bulldogs’ most decisive win since 2014. The NCAA’s run rule, or mercy rule, comes into effect when one team leads another by at least eight runs after five innings, and it took Yale just that number of frames to build its insurmountable lead.
Jerpbak tossed a complete-game shutout, and hits for the Bulldogs came from all parts of the lineup. Kennedy went 3–4 with two runs scored and an RBI while Ginsberg, her fellow outfielder, also scored two runs and had an RBI on 2–2 hitting at the plate. Jerpbak had two hits, scored a run and drove in one while striking out five over the course of her pitching outing.
Most of the damage was done in the third inning off of Penn ace pitcher Alexis Sargent, who entered Ivy play with a 0.93 earned run average. After a loss against Brown and an even more severe bombardment from Yale, Sargent’s earned run average now sits at 1.68, which still leads the Ivy League, despite being significantly increased from last week.
The last of the four games played on the trip was a loss, but not without a fight from Yale. Following a five-run third inning for the Quakers off Efflandt, the Bulldogs rallied from a 5–1 deficit to knot the score in the sixth inning.
The Bulldogs outhit the Quakers 12–11, but could not maintain the tie. Star Penn right fielder Leah Allen added to her league-leading RBI total by knocking in the final run of the game to clinch the victory over Yale.
The pair of wins for the Bulldogs helped them remain competitive in the Ivy League North Division. Only Dartmouth (15–9, 4–0) has an in-conference winning percentage higher than 0.500, and Yale sits two games back.
“While it is not necessarily more satisfying to succeed against in-conference teams, it is definitely a different type of rewarding,” Kennedy said. “We are always looking to succeed regardless of who we are playing, but finding success against in-conference teams is the true measure of the team that we have become.”
Yale will return home to fight Army in a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.