This weekend, the Yale softball team will travel to the woods of New Hampshire seeking to remain in contention for the Ivy League North Division title. Doing that, however, will require taking down the Ancient Eight’s only remaining undefeated team.
The Bulldogs (13–26–1, 5–7 Ivy) will play four games over two days against the Big Green (24–10, 12–0), the two-time defending Ivy League champion. This series presents the opportunity for Yale to retaliate for a frustrating matchup last spring. The Big Green has swept Yale for the past three seasons, and managed to run-rule the Bulldogs in two of last year’s four contests. This season, even two losses against Dartmouth would officially put the Elis out of contention — yet another motivation for Yale heading into a matchup between David and Goliath.
“The team and I are looking forward to some great competition this weekend and upsetting their season,” shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16 said. “Dartmouth is a very good team, but we know that we can compete with anyone.”
The Big Green poses a threat from all parts of the field, leading the league in both runs scored and runs against in Ivy League play.
In the pitcher’s circle, Dartmouth owns a 2.82 earned run average overall, with all three pitchers contributing to that impressive mark. Senior Morgan McCalmon, the staff’s ace, has been heating up lately, winning the last two Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honors. McCalmon’s 14 wins are the most of any Ivy pitcher this year. Sophomore Breanna Ethridge, meanwhile, holds a 1.94 ERA, the best individual mark in the conference.
Though Dartmouth’s arms stand out on their own — the team boasts the lowest overall ERA last season and the second-lowest two seasons ago — they also benefit from extensive run support. In addition to runs scored, the Big Green leads the league in RBIs and on-base percentage in conference play.
Two hot-hitting players spearhead the lineup, ranking number one and two in batting average. Shortstop Katie McEachern bats 0.446 while boasting similarly impressive on-base and slugging percentages of 0.541 and 0.821, respectively. Though McEachern is a senior and a longtime dominant presence in the Ivy League and NCAA rankings, freshman Morgan Martinelli nearly equals her dominance. In 29 games this spring, Martinelli has a batting average of 0.423.
Pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 said that playing Dartmouth is especially challenging because the Big Green coaching staff recruits from Texas and California — two softball powerhouse states — than those of other Ivy League teams. McEachern hails from San Diego, and Martinelli is a Morgan Hill, California native.
“Their coach knows how to teach them how to hit so they are great at making adjustments, which makes it difficult as pitchers to try and work around,” Casalino said. “They know how to take away that outside pitch by getting on the plate and driving it to right field.”
Still, Yale’s pitchers enter the weekend with momentum coming off impressive outings against Sacred Heart on Wednesday. Lindsay Efflandt ’17 pitched a complete-game victory, while Terra Jerpbak ’19 and Casalino each tossed four frames. Jerpbak gave up no runs on two hits, and Casalino allowed one on three.
Entering the weekend, all three of the Eli hurlers’ ERAs rank in the top 15 in the Ivy League overall and in conference. Efflandt’s conference ERA currently rests at 1.56, which is the second-best in the league.
Offensively, a Yale team whose batting average ranks eighth in the Ivy League is expecting its most difficult competition yet from the Big Green pitchers.
The lineup features select members who have posted notable statistics, particularly in the conference season. Labbadia, who leads off, has been a consistent presence in the batter’s box and will look to start something early against the Big Green. The senior boasts a team-leading on-base percentage of 0.360, which she shares with first baseman Lauren Delgadillo ’16. Catcher Camille Weisenbach ’17 holds a conference batting average of 0.342, the team’s highest.
Jerpbak, who holds the highest overall average on the team in addition to her contributions on the mound, said the outcome of the series will depend on a team effort at the plate.
“We are just going to focus on getting hits and getting runners on base so we can score early,” Jerpbak said. “We need to capitalize on our hits and any mistakes they make, and as pitchers keep the ball off the plate, so we can get them on our best pitches, which will result in outs.”
This weekend’s matchup is the second-to-last conference series for the Bulldogs, who will face Brown the following weekend. The first game on both Saturday and Sunday will start at 12:30 p.m.