The Yale softball team strung together quality performances at the plate and impressive command from the pitcher’s circle in a midweek nonconference matchup that served as an encouraging tune-up for this weekend’s league games against Dartmouth.
Sparring with Sacred Heart (11–27–2, 2–6 Northeast), Yale (13–26–1, 5–7 Ivy) rode its reliable pitching staff in the doubleheader as it bounced back nicely from a stretch of six games with only one win. The Elis won the first matchup 5–2 and then played the Pioneers to a 1–1 tie in a contest that was called after eight innings due to darkness.
“Any games we go into, we have to focus on competing,” left fielder Shelby Kennedy ’19 said. “We have to stay within ourselves and our play and not overthink our competitor.”
The Pioneers’ disappointing overall record this season does not necessarily reflect the effectiveness of the team’s pitching, as Sacred Heart boasts a team ERA of 3.07. However, it was an oft-unused senior, Kelli Licursi, who started the first game for Sacred Heart.
Against Licursi, who entered the game having pitched only 0.2 innings all season, the Eli bats came out swinging.
Yale pushed across one run in the first inning and two in the second, thanks to some crafty base running and carefully played small ball. Shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 was the first runner to score after she was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. After stealing second base, Labbadia made it all the way home on an error on a bunt from Sydney Ginsberg ’18.
“As a leadoff hitter, I always try to get on base in any way possible so that the team can hit me in,” Labbadia said. “Scoring in the first inning gives our team a lot of momentum.”
Lindsay Efflandt ’17 conceded a run in the bottom half of the frame but Yale responded right away in the top of the second with right fielder Rachel Paris ’17 walking to start off the action. She was then doubled home by first baseman Lauren Delgadillo ’16, who coincidentally shares a first and last name with Sacred Heart’s center fielder. Later in the same frame, Yale’s Delgadillo crossed home on a single off the bat of left fielder Kennedy.
Though Yale’s offense quieted down for three innings, Efflandt preserved the team’s 2–1 advantage, allowing just one hit between the second and fifth innings. The scoring resumed in the top of the sixth, when Kennedy drove in another run on a double. Yale tacked on an additional insurance run in the seventh inning when designated hitter Terra Jerpbak ’19 singled in pinch runner and captain Allie Souza ’16 to give the Bulldogs their fifth and final run of the contest, with the offense boosted by five Sacred Heart errors.
Meanwhile, Efflandt finished off another solid outing in the pitcher’s circle, continuing a dominant run for the junior. In the complete-game performance, she allowed only two earned runs on five hits. The outing was Efflandt’s fourth in the past five Yale game, during which she has tallied 28.2 innings while giving up just four earned runs.
And while Yale cruised with relative ease to victory in the first game behind Efflandt, the second game of the day was marked by impressive pitching from both sides.
Jerpbak took over on the mound, where she tossed four scoreless innings, striking out four Pioneers while allowing just two hits.
“I just remind myself that my job is to pitch well and hopefully our hits will start to fall in,” Jerpbak said. “We usually are making good contact, just not getting the runners on or getting quality at-bats to score the runs.”
However, Yale got a quality at-bat when it needed one, when second baseman Laina Do ’17 knocked a run home on a third-inning double for the first run of the game. Jerpbak, whose season ERA now stands at 3.83, exited the game with a 1–0 lead, handing the ball over to Francesca Casalino ’18.
Casalino struck out the side in her first inning of work and continued to punch batters out over the course of her four innings. She sent seven Pioneers down on strikes, despite battling tendonitis in her right forearm that has developed over the course of the season due to overuse. She is one of Yale’s only three pitchers to have tallied innings this season. Combined, Casalino and Jerpbak struck out 11 batters and allowed five hits over the course of the nightcap.
However, the game went into extras, Yale’s seventh such game this season, thanks to a two-out Sacred Heart rally in the sixth inning, sparked by a bunt single. Casalino then allowed a game-tying RBI double, though that would be all the scoring for either team. After the eighth inning, the action was halted due to darkness, sending both teams home with a tie.
Wednesday provided a nice change from recent history for Yale, as the Bulldogs had only won one of the five games played against the Pioneers over the past three seasons.
On deck for the Elis is a four-game set against Dartmouth, which is the lone team undefeated in Ivy play.
The series will be played over the weekend in Hanover, New Hampshire with the first pitch scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.