In a Wednesday doubleheader that meant more than the rivalry between two schools or the scores at the end of the day, the Yale softball team battled closely with Quinnipiac in Hamden for all 14 innings played, but wound up falling at the very end of both contests.
The games, which Yale lost 3–1 and 1–0, took on a special significance, as they were played in honor of Chris Labbadia, the brother of Yale shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 and son of Quinnipiac assistant coach Lynn Labbadia. Chris Labbadia was killed in a car crash this past January. The Bulldogs and Bobcats had not met since 2010, and both schools collaborated to raise donations for the Chris Labbadia Memorial Fund both before and during the game. As of Wednesday night, $32,308 had been raised for the fund, with $2,895 combined coming from those connected to Yale and Quinnipiac’s softball teams.
“We view today as games for Chris Labbadia and the Labbadia family, and the highlight of today’s games was that we were able to honor him,” said pitcher Lindsay Efflandt ’17, who started the day’s first game. “When we remember this day, that is what we will remember, not that we lost the games.”
Though Quinnipiac (14–17, 0–2 MAAC) claimed two victories, both games were marked by excitement, as the winning runs came in the Bobcats’ last inning at the plate in each contest. That included a walk-off single in the second game by Quinnipiac pitcher Casey Herzog, who both shut out the Yale offense in the pitcher’s circle — holding a no-hitter until the final inning — and drove in the game’s only run.
The close losses were quite familiar to the Bulldogs (11–23, 4–4 Ivy), for whom six of the past eight defeats have been by just one run.
“These games for us are so valuable, especially having a 3–1 and a 1–0,” pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 said. “Almost every game we have played in the Ivy League thus far has been this close of a contest, going into extra innings. Playing more games like this allow us to settle in and feel less pressure going into the more important games. Now that we are getting acclimated to these pressure situations, nothing will feel different for us going into Ivy Leagues.”
Both contests were low-scoring, though the Bulldogs had many more chances to score in the first game with seven runners reaching scoring position. In that game, neither team scored until the top of the sixth, when a single by Yale pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19 drove home center fielder Sydney Glover ’17, who had reached first on a walk and second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by third baseman Allison Skinner ’18.
However, at the bottom of that frame, Quinnipiac responded with three runs of its own, finishing with a victory when Yale failed to close the gap in the top of the seventh.
The tops of the third and seventh innings held golden opportunities for the Bulldogs, as both ended with the bases loaded. In the third, the Bulldogs benefited from a single, walk and error — all with two outs — but a ground-out by Skinner ended the Eli rally. In the seventh, Yale threatened even further, as the first two batters in the inning, catcher Madison Sack ’19 and right fielder Rachel Paris ’17, singled before a fielder’s choice and error resulted in the Bulldogs having bases loaded with two outs. With Yale holding a chance to tie with a single or even take the lead with an extra-base hit, Skinner grounded out again to end an exciting final inning.
Starting pitcher Efflandt was tagged with the loss after allowing three runs and six hits on 5.1 innings of work. One of the most impressive moments for the junior came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Bobcats loaded the bases with no outs, but Efflandt got out of the jam by inducing two straight fielder’s choice ground-outs followed by a pop-out to second base.
In the second game, a competitive matchup between pitchers Jerpbak and Herzog left both teams scoreless until the seventh inning, when Quinnipiac scored the only run of the game to nab a second victory.
Casalino said the team knew going in that Herzog would be a strong pitcher, but praised Jerpbak for gaining confidence during the game and noted that both pitchers “did their jobs.” Efflandt added that the Quinnipiac pitchers were successful at keeping Yale’s hitters off-balance throughout the day.
“The biggest part we struggled with was getting too far out with pitches,” Jerpbak said. “For the most part, our pitch selection just needs to get a little better so we are swinging at good pitches we know we can drive.”
Yale was hitless through six innings before Jerpbak singled to left field to break up Herzog’s no-hitter bid. However, the Bulldogs could not advance pinch runner Shelby Kennedy ’19 past first base, and Quinnipiac stepped up to the plate holding a chance to walk-off with a victory.
That is exactly what happened, despite Jerpbak retiring the first two Bobcat batters in the inning. A walk and a wild pitch with two outs put Quinnipiac second baseman Emily Czaja in scoring position before Herzog aided her own cause, singling up the middle and allowing Czaja to score.
This weekend, Yale will begin intradivision play against Ivy League North Division rival Harvard. A key four-game series with the Crimson will require a quick turnaround from the two nonconference losses. But the support that the Bulldogs showed Brittany Labbadia and her family in the doubleheader is not something from which they will move on.
“This game was definitely one of those games that you will remember for a lifetime,” Casalino said. “Going in, we were all emotional about it, but we all really were keeping [Chris Labbadia] close to our hearts this whole game, and remembering that life should be cherished and we should give it our all on the field.”
The Bulldogs’ first game against Harvard begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Yale’s DeWitt Family Field.