Yale Athletics

Fresh off taking one of three games in the Ivy League series against league-leaders Columbia, the Yale softball team is set to host an up-and-coming Cornell team.

The Elis (5–17, 2–4 Ivy) have struggled in the first two series of the season, dropping two out of three games against both Columbia and Harvard, and the Big Red (7–10, 2–1 Ivy) will not make a bounce back easy. Cornell has far surpassed its winning pace from last season, the team showcased its improvement this year with a series win over two-time Ivy Championship Series competitor Harvard to open the league campaign.

“We just need to keep our energy and hitting going,” Yale catcher Francesca Casalino ’18 said. “Everyone on the team is a threat at the plate, so we have to believe it and have some fun, to not put too much pressure on each of ourselves. If we each keep trying to hit hard line drives, the balls will go and the runs will score.”

For Cornell, 2017 was a year to forget. The Big Red struggled to a 6–14 league record that left them tied with Brown in the cellar. The team’s pitching was particularly bad, as Cornell accumulated a team ERA of 5.40, more than two runs higher than its opponents, while allowing 37 home runs in 41 games.

This year has been different, and the upset victory over Harvard to kickstart the conference slate proved to be just the tip of the iceberg. In the series against the Crimson, sophomore infielder Erin Rockstroh hit .857 with three doubles, three runs, three RBI and a 1.286 slugging percentage and was named Ivy League Player of the Week for her efforts. Rockstroh became the first Cornell player to take home the award since Chloe Pendergast on April 20, 2015. The so-called Ichiro of Ithaca is hitting .479 on the season.

Rockstroh isn’t Cornell’s only hot hitter. Three more players are hitting over .400 for the Big Red, contributing to a solid .294 team batting average. The power in the lineup comes from catcher Tori Togashi who has hit three of the team’s four home runs and slugged .556 on the season. Her 11 runs batted in match Rockstroh for the team lead.

Sophomore pitcher Lisa Nelson also went 2–0 in the Harvard series, pitching a pair of complete games. Nelson struck out fourteen and gave up a mere three runs over the course of the two games. The starter has notched a 4–3 record with a 2.93 ERA so far this season, a significant improvement on her mediocre 4.76 mark a year ago.

“Ivy play is always the most fun part of the season,” outfielder Shelby Kennedy ’19 said. “Playing games is fun no matter what but when it comes to Ivies there is an added edge. This year especially with the removal of divisions there is the opportunity for any team to succeed within Ivy play, which is really exciting.”

Yale, too, has intimidating players. First baseman Sydney Grobman ’21 was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week after hitting .615, with one run and one RBI in four games against league-leading Columbia. Grobman also handled twenty chances at first base without an error. Grobman is the first Bulldog to be named Rookie of the Week since Carlin Hagmaier ’19 on March 29, 2016.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 1–2 series against Columbia. After losing the doubleheader on Saturday in disappointing fashion — leaving a combined 18 runners on base in the two games, including two bases-loaded situations in game two — the Elis bounced back to win Sunday’s game three 8–6 in nine grueling innings. The Bulldogs took early leads in all three games, but blew each of them.

“Our team has a lot of momentum coming off the win in a tight game against Columbia in extra innings,” catcher Madison Sack ’19 said. “They were great competitors and put a great fight until the end. So to come out of such a close game with a win should be really good for us going into next weekend. We can definitely improve on coming out strong in those first games and dominating right from the start.”

After a punishing start to the season, in which the Bulldogs started with an 0–8 record, Yale has tried to right the ship and is currently on a 3–3 run. Nevertheless, it currently holds a 2–4 league record and sits in seventh place in the Ivy League.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu