Kristina Kim

The Yale softball team aims to push its record above 0.500 for the first time this season as it enters Ivy League North Division play against Harvard.

The Bulldogs (11–23, 4–4 Ivy) are coming off a pair of hard-fought losses to Quinnipiac (14–18, 0–2 MAAC) on Wednesday. The two games were played in memory of Chris Labbadia, the brother of Yale shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 and Quinnipiac assistant coach Lynn Labbadia. Regaining composure after the emotionally intense matches, the team will look to prove its effectiveness in the Ivy League over the course of the four-game set.

“This series is incredibly important,” outfielder Rachel Paris ’17 said. “We are currently in last place in our division, so winning this series will help us make up some ground.”

Harvard (16–13, 6–2 Ivy) sits at second place in the North Division standings, just below undefeated Dartmouth (20–10, 8–0). The Elis will have to perform exceptionally well to keep the Crimson’s bats in check: Harvard currently stands at second in the Ivy League in runs scored and runs batted in, while Yale sits at the bottom in both.

The Bulldogs’ pitching, however, holds up next to the Crimson’s. Harvard’s overall earned-run average is 4.01, while Yale’s is a slightly lower 3.98. Additionally, Yale arms have tossed more innings than any Ivy League rival, totaling 227 innings, thanks to four extra-inning games in conference play so far.

Still, Harvard has the potential to dominate on the mound. With five pitchers on the roster, the team has more variety in pitchers than Yale does. Crimson ace Taylor Cabe has pitched a total of 67.2 innings this year and has an ERA of just 2.90. She has been even more successful in conference matchups, where her ERA rests at 1.75. Only Yale’s Francesca Casalino ’18 and Brown’s Katie Orona have lower Ivy ERAs.

Outfielder Sydney Glover ’17 said the Bulldogs will have to come together to deal with Harvard’s impressive pitching staff.

“When we string singles together, we score,” Glover said. “We can’t rely on a huge hit from one person. We all have to contribute in a small way to get big results.”

Entering competition this weekend, Harvard has a lot to celebrate. The Crimson is coming off of two doubleheader sweeps of Columbia and Penn at home. The weekend had its share of exciting moments, including a walk-off and two games cut short by the NCAA mercy rule, which is invoked if one team is ahead by at least eight runs after five innings.

In the first contest last weekend, Harvard pitcher Morgan Groom threw a shutout against Columbia. Groom’s teammates scored eight runs, allowing the game to end in only five innings. The second game was a much closer 4–3 victory, but it belonged to the home team nonetheless.

To open up against the Quakers, the Crimson fought tooth and nail for an 11–10 extra-innings win. Facing a one-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Crimson managed to both tie and win the game thanks to a Penn fielding error and three well-timed singles.

In the final game of its weekend, Harvard once again came with bats swinging. The Crimson claimed a 10–2 triumph in only five innings.

At the plate, Harvard has impressive numbers. The team has a strong three-four combo in its lineup with outfielder Maddy Kaplan and third baseman Meagan Lantz. As a freshman, Lantz leads the team in RBI with 29. Her batting average is 0.381, sitting just below Kaplan’s team-leading 0.417. These two powerful hitters will pose a threat to Yale pitchers this weekend.

When Yale’s offense performs as it is capable, the team has success. The team will look to build on last Sunday’s hitting performances against Cornell to knock the Harvard pitchers off their game.

The Yale lineup starts with a bang. Leadoff hitter Brittany Labbadia currently owns a batting average of 0.287 and 13 RBI so far this season. Allison Skinner ’18 has a team-leading 16 RBI, just three more than Labbadia.

This weekend’s Harvard series serves as the first of three four-game tests for the Elis, who will both enjoy the advantages and suffer the disadvantages of familiarity. As Yale’s biggest rival, Harvard is both known and unknown: The two teams have not seen another since April of last year, when the Bulldogs lost three of four games to their Cambridge opponents.

“A lot of people believe in playing with faceless opponents, but I like the edge that comes along with rivalry games,” Shelby Kennedy ’19 said. “I am really looking to see our team rise to occasion and use the energy in our favor.”

The first game is slated to begin at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at the DeWitt Family Field in New Haven.