With two wins and another two extra-inning losses to Ivy League competitors this weekend, the Yale softball team confirmed its standing as a competitive team following a 2015 campaign that yielded the worst record in the conference.
Yale (11–21, 4–4 Ivy) suffered two devastating losses to Princeton (11–21, 4–4) in two games that went into extra innings. On Sunday, the Bulldogs recovered against Cornell (1–7, 4–20) in a doubleheader sweep that featured two complete-game pitching performances from Yale.
“We’ve been having some issues finishing; we get leads in the game and then we just leave the other team in it and they are able to come back and score,” pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 said. “So these two wins today [against Cornell] were definitely needed as a team to come back and show that we can come back and finish a game.”
Though the Bulldogs remain at 0.500 in Ivy League play, they have outscored their opponents 38–23 in those eight contests. All four of their in-conference losses have been by just a one-run deficit, and each time, their opponents scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning or later.
The first game of the weekend, a Friday contest against Princeton, was one of those heartbreaking losses. In a 10-inning showdown, the Tigers traded leads with the Bulldogs five times, finally outlasting them to claim a 6–5 victory.
The nightcap was suspended after five innings, and the two teams were forced to split the game over two days due to insufficient light. Yale managed to keep its rival in check with a 4–4 score until the eighth inning, when Princeton catcher Skye Jerpbak singled off her sister, Yale pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19, to drive home the game-winning run.
Yale catcher Camille Weisenbach ’17 had the strongest offensive performance for the Elis in the two-game set: She went 4–7 with three RBI and a run scored. Terra Jerpbak and second baseman Laina Do ’17 contributed another three hits apiece against Princeton.
Despite the array of solid bats in the two games, the Bulldogs failed to succeed in several clutch situations. Over the course of 18 innings, Yale left 24 runners on base, including the would-be winning run in the bottom of the seventh of the second game.
Sunday had different results in store for the Bulldogs, as they claimed back-to-back victories in a sweep of the Big Red. Bats caught fire right from the start, as the Elis scored four in the first inning on their way to a 9–2 victory in the opener.
Third baseman Allison Skinner ’18 carried much of the Bulldogs’ success at the plate, going 3–4 with four RBI and one run scored. Skinner is the team leader in RBI with 16 so far this season, a quarter of which came in Sunday’s first contest alone.
To back those runs, pitcher Lindsay Efflandt ’17 delivered a complete-game two-run performance. Efflandt’s faced a turbulent liftoff, with six of her eight hits and both runs coming in the first three innings, but she settled down and eventually finished strong.
Efflandt noted that having the right mentality for softball was important for her rebound.
“[Softball is] such and up-and-down sport, it’s not like basketball or soccer where you are constantly running,” Efflandt said. “There can be lulls and there can be highly energetic parts, but it’s important to have control of that, and that’s why we do a lot of our cheers.”
The second of the two games brought on much of the same stress that the two games against Princeton did, but a clutch pitching performance from Casalino ensured that Yale could write a different ending. Casalino tossed seven innings of one-run ball and led the Bulldogs to their second win of the day, this time by a score of 3–1.
Casalino and Efflandt’s performances were especially impressive given the quality of Cornell’s lineup. Before the Bulldogs’ pitchers shut the Big Red’s batters down over the weekend, they held top-three positions in the Ivy League charts in four team hitting categories: on-base percentage, batting average, slugging percentage and home runs.
Meanwhile, outfielder Rachel Paris ’17 played the role of offensive hero. After the Elis lost a one-run lead in the fourth, Paris came in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of fifth and legged out a two-run triple.
“Pinch hitting is definitely a big challenge, especially in these cold games,” Paris said after the game. “In my at-bat today I just had to stay relaxed, trust my training and be confident that I would be able to deliver for my team.”
The Bulldogs move on to Ivy League North Division play with a four-game series against Harvard next weekend. Before that, however, the Bulldogs will face Quinnipiac during a Wednesday doubleheader in Hamden.
The matchup will be played in memory of Chris Labbadia, who died in a car crash in January. Labbadia was the brother of shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 and son of Quinnipiac assistant coach Lynn Labbadia.