The Yale softball team finished off its 2016 season this past weekend in the same way that the Bulldogs navigated most of conference play: with intensely competitive games not decided until the last moments.
Yale (18–31–1, 9–11) walked away from its four-game series against Brown (18–23, 7–13 Ivy) with two wins, taking a split and finishing the season tied for the fourth-best record in the Ivy League. Excitement marked the late inning of all four contests, including one 2–1 Yale win that took 14 innings and two days of play to complete. Perhaps the most important part of the weekend, however, was the opportunity to honor Yale’s three graduating seniors.
“Being honored on Senior Day, on our home turf, was one of the highlights of my Yale career,” captain and outfielder Allie Souza ’16 said. “I was surrounded by all of the people I love, including my family, friends, coaches and teammates.”
Yale opened the weekend with a 6–2 loss in which pitcher Lindsay Efflandt ’17 was charged with four runs in 3.2 innings before handing the ball off to Terra Jerpbak ’19 to finish the game. Brown designated hitter Sarah Syrop and right fielder Yeram Park both went 4–4 in the batter’s box to lead a Bear offense that outhit the Bulldogs 13–8.
The Eli arms and bats proved no match for the Bears’ ace pitcher, Katie Orona, who threw her third consecutive complete game in the win. Yale did, however, deny Orona a shutout, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh that proved too little, too late. Pinch runner Carlin Hagmaier ’19 and second baseman Laina Do ’17 dashed home on a two-out single by shortstop Brittany Labbadia ’16.
The second of Friday’s two games ended up also being the first of Saturday’s, as the game remained locked in a 1–1 tie into the 14th inning of play. After 11 innings of the game were played in Providence, Rhode Island, the remainder of the game was moved to Saturday in New Haven before the scheduled doubleheader.
Both Yale pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 and Brown arm Gina Chieffallo tossed complete-game gems in a quintessential pitcher’s duel. Yale’s only run through 13 innings was unearned, as center fielder Sydney Ginsberg ’18 made her way around the bases after getting on due to a throwing error by Brown’s shortstop. She ultimately scored on a fielder’s choice play that got third baseman Allison Skinner ’18 out at first.
Delayed gratification came to Yale when the lineup recorded its second and winning run in the final inning. The key offensive players were the same as they were earlier in the game for the Bulldogs: Skinner hit a sacrifice fly to push Ginsberg home and give Casalino just what she needed to close out the game.
Casalino’s effort — eight strikeouts and just seven hits given up to a full 49 batters faced — marked a continuation of her recent improvement following an injury to her right forearm.
“Heading into Saturday and restarting that game, we knew we’d played that long and we wanted to get those three wins for the seniors,” Casalino said. “We made a joke that our gift to the seniors was allowing them to play another game — another seven innings — that we wouldn’t have played.”
The first of the two games scheduled for Saturday’s Senior Day in New Haven also belonged to the Bulldogs, who drew a 5–3 win starring notable performance from Skinner and Do.
For Yale the magic number was five, as the lineup strung together five runs on five hits in the fifth inning. The Elis loaded the bases with three singles in a row and only one out, allowing the top of Yale’s lineup — Labbadia, Glover, Skinner and Weisenbach — to establish a lead with two fielder’s choices and another two singles.
With her RBI bunt single, Skinner completed her fifth multi-hit game of the conference season, while Do recorded two hits for the second time on the weekend.
During my at-bats against Brown I was just focused on finding ways to put us in the best position to score runs,” Skinner said. “Whether that meant laying down a bunt to move runners, squeezing or hitting away, I was prepared to do what was needed to help the team.”
Five runs of support proved more than enough for Efflandt, who pitched a complete game and allowed just two earned runs on seven hits.
Yale closed the weekend with a 3–1 loss that featured even more late-inning drama. Jerpbak pitched six innings of three-hit shutout softball before allowing three baserunners in the seventh whose runs would eventually be charged to the freshman. With three earned runs in 6.1 innings, Jerpbak was the losing pitcher, even though Efflandt was in the circle when the runs crossed home plate.
Efflandt finished the game and her season with a 1.77 in-conference ERA, the second-lowest of any Ivy pitcher.
For Yale’s part at the plate, the lineup had a few opportunities, but was unable to convert them into numbers on the scoreboard. In the bottom of the first inning, the Elis scored their only run by playing small ball. Labbadia got on base with a single, stole second base, advanced to third on a ground ball and ran home on a passed ball. Yale failed to score again despite a bases-loaded opportunity in the second inning.
Yale’s nine-win Ivy season is the most by any Yale softball team since 2009.