After a herculean effort against Dartmouth kept the Yale softball team in contention for the Ivy League North Division title, the Bulldogs have just four games against Brown to complete a dramatic season turnaround.
The Bulldogs (15–26, 8–8 Ivy) took three of four games against division-leading Dartmouth last weekend to preserve its chance for the title. With the season winding down, Yale enters the Brown series just two games behind the Big Green, which squares off against Harvard in a four-fgame series before the Crimson play a make-up game against Brown. Although the North Division is still undecided, the Bulldogs maintain that their focus is just on taking care of what they can control.
“I know there are now a few scenarios that we’re hoping for but really we’re just trying to focus on our games against Brown,” outfielder Rachel Paris ’17 said. “It doesn’t matter what happens in that series if we don’t take care of business on our end.”
While the Bears (14–27, 4–12) sit at the bottom of the North Division, they have played better than their record suggests. The team is top four in the conference in runs scored, RBIs, doubles and triples. Brown also sits at second in home runs with 29 total, six behind Columbia.
Senior catcher Julia Schoenewald has been phenomenal for Brown the entire year, and her hitting will pose a serious threat to the Bulldogs. She is currently third in the Ivy League with a batting average of 0.253. Junior first baseman Annie McGregor also had an outstanding season on the offensive end, as she leads the team in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs. The pair bat in different halves of the lineup, creating a deep order for the Bears.
“Our pitchers have been facing great power hitters all season,” catcher Cristina Teems ’19 said of the duo. “They know by now where we need them to keep the ball and how to approach those types of hitters to get the best results.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Brown is much more vulnerable. The Bears give up 4.44 earned runs per game and are in the bottom three in opponent batting average and batters struck out. The pitching core is also first in total losses and is in the bottom three in saves.
The stat column reveals even more glaring defensive weaknesses for Brown: The Bears ranks in the bottom three in fielding percentage, errors and bases stolen against. According to captain and first baseman Camille Weisenbach ’17, the team hopes to exploit this weaker Brown defense and capitalize on these scoring opportunities.
“We stay aggressive offensively and look to take extra bases, bunt and, ultimately, put the ball in play as often as possible to force the defense to make every routine play,” Weisenbach said. “We have been watching film on Brown’s pitching staff and adjusting our practice plan to respond to their pitching styles.”
The first doubleheader of the home-and-home will be played in New Haven, marking the Bulldogs’ fifth and sixth consecutive contests at Dewitt Family Field. The Elis’ 9–4 record on their own turf bodes well for a successful start to the crucial series. And with second baseman Laina Do ’17 and pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 heating up in the batter’s box after a grand slam and homer against Dartmouth, Yale will attempt to improve on its 0.265 team batting average — currently the worst in the conference.
While the Bulldogs understand that this series has huge implications on the division race, nothing seems to be changing in terms of the game plan. According to many players, the mood in practice, the approach to the games and the intensity have all stayed the same.
“We are trying to keep it simple and just get better each day. We have looked at some film of their pitchers so we know what to expect. The most important thing is that we come out aggressive and play our game,” Do said.
The series begins Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Dewitt Family Field.