It was a wild weekend in Cambridge, filled with blowouts, nail-biters, offensive explosions and shutdown pitching as the Yale softball team took on Harvard four times over two days.
Coming into the weekend, the Elis (11–24, 5–7 Ivy) led the Crimson (15–15, 6–6) by one game and trailed Dartmouth (10–21–1, 9–3) by one in the Ivy League’s North division and were desperate to stay in the title race. But the defending division champions played as tough as ever, replicating the result of the 2016 series by defeating Yale in three of four games. Harvard dominated the opening contest, eviscerating the Bulldogs 11–1. Yale charged back in the second Saturday game, winning 14–6 on the back on two home runs from catcher Madison Sack ’19. The two teams returned Sunday for a second doubleheader, both of which Harvard took by slim 5–4 margins to knock Yale to third in the North.
“Obviously it is hard to lose [three] games, especially to Harvard, but we still have two more weeks of Ivies so we are by no means down or think we are out of this,” pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19 said. “I am sure we will bring our best to practice this week to help us take on Dartmouth this weekend.”
Game One: Harvard 11–1 Yale
A monster fifth inning for the Crimson turned a competitive game into a mercy-rule shortened shellacking. For the first four innings, pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 kept the score close, holding Harvard to just three runs while Yale notched one of its own off a single by second baseman Laina Do ’17 that brought home shortstop Lindsay Kuss ’20. In the bottom of the fifth, though, the wheels came off. Casalino left the mound after putting two runners in scoring position, but a base hit, two wild pitches and a home run given up by pitcher Lindsay Efflandt ’17 broke the game open, and the Crimson cruised to an 11–1 lead by the end of the frame, causing a premature conclusion to the game.
Game Two: Yale 14–6 Harvard
The Yale bats that had been so quiet just hours earlier found new life in the second game, exploding for 14 runs, the most the Bulldogs have recorded in a game since 2008. The Crimson took a 3–0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but the Elis quickly fought back for 10 runs in the top of the second, punctuated by a grand slam from Sack that brought home third baseman Allison Skinner ’18, Casalino and Do. Jerpbak pitched a complete game, allowing only four earned runs off 10 hits, and Yale’s mammoth lead at the end of the fifth triggered the mercy-rule for the second time on Saturday.
“I always try to help the team out in anyway I can,” Sack said. “It’s always fun to play Harvard, because they are good competitors. It was nice to help my team come back in the second game to split the first two games of the series.”
Game Three: Harvard 5–4 Yale
Despite ending on such a positive note Saturday, Yale was unable to keep the momentum flowing in the first game on Sunday. Once again, the Crimson raced out to an early lead, scoring one in the bottom of the first and three in the bottom of the second thanks to an untimely error and a two-out rally. The Bulldogs quickly began the arduous process of clawing back, as a Harvard error in the top of the third led to two Eli runs and outfielder Shelby Kennedy ’19 batted in another run in the fourth, cutting the score to 4–3. Harvard added a run, however, in the bottom of the fourth, and though Yale tried valiantly for a comeback in the top of the seventh, the one run it managed was too little, too late, as Harvard took its second game of the weekend, 5–4.
“Pitching [two days] in a row, especially against the same team, is hard physically but also mentally,” Casalino said. “You have to be better than you were yesterday or at least reinvent yourself since this will be a second day in which they already have seen you for four at bats. They know what you are throwing so it’s even tougher to try and shut them down.”
Game Four: Harvard 5–4 Yale
Yale needed to win its final game to split the series and maintain second place in the division, but the Crimson nabbed a nine-inning thriller to move up in the standings. Back-to-back doubles from Casalino and Sack followed by a Skinner single gave the Elis two runs in the top of the first. Though Harvard got one back in the bottom half of the frame, a second inning triple from outfielder Sydney Ginsberg ’18 followed by a Kennedy single brought the score to 3–1.
Nevertheless, Harvard hung tough, scoring two in the third and keeping the game tight until extra innings were needed to break the deadlock. The game remained all square until the bottom of the ninth, when Harvard’s Erin Lockhart hit a walk-off double to score alongside Maddy Kaplan and win the series for the Crimson.
Yale now returns to New Haven for six consecutive home games this week. The Bulldogs take on Sacred Heart twice on Wednesday and have two doubleheaders against North-leading Dartmouth on Saturday and Sunday.