Courtesy of Steve Musco

The Yale softball team has arrived at a critical junction of the season, as it travels to Ithaca this weekend to take on division rivals Cornell in a three-game series.

After coming out of their demanding spring break stretch with a win against Princeton (5–13, 2–1 Ivy), the Bulldogs (8–16, 3–3) were not able to capitalize on this victory, dropping the next two games they played against Central Connecticut State (11–10, 0–0 Northeast). But even though Cornell (3–16, 2–1) has lost 12 of its 13 nonconference games, the Big Red is coming off a series win against Brown (8–10, 1–2 Ivy).

“We’re really looking forward to our games [against Cornell] this weekend,” center fielder Olivia Vinyard ’20 said. “We’re 3–3 in the league, so this is a great opportunity to improve our record. Our mentality is to come out with a lot of confidence and maintain energy throughout the series.”

The Elis closed out spring break last Sunday with an eventful come-from-behind win against the Princeton Tigers, preventing a series sweep. The Bulldogs were down a run in the top of the seventh, and had pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19 and infielder Phylicia Wilkov ’21 on base. A sacrifice bunt from first baseman Carlin Hagmaier ’19 then loaded the bases, before a clutch infield single from shortstop Maya Seifert’  22 tied the game at one run apiece. Right fielder Olivia Sardoff ’22 continued the rally with an RBI single of her own, putting Yale in front. Seifert scored on a wild pitch, and an RBI from center fielder Vinyard made the score 4–1. This game highlighted Jerpbak’s unbelievable senior campaign, as she pitched her fifth complete game of the season, struck out seven and gave up just one earned run in the process.

Three days laters, and the Bulldogs were back in action — hosting a hot, hard-hitting CCSU team that had been averaging just over eight and a half runs over their last nine games. In the first of two scheduled games that day, the Blue Devils built a four-run lead over the first three innings, but the Elis did not go down without a fight. In the fourth, back-to-back RBI singles by Hagmaier and Seifert brought Yale within two, and with Jerpbak in the bullpen, the score will remain the same all the way to the seventh. With one out in the bottom of the inning, pinch-hitter Giovy Webb ’20 drew a walk, and with an infield single from left fielder Shelby Kennedy ’19, the tying runs were on base. The rally fell short, however, when Central Connecticut pitcher Carley Stoker retired the Bulldogs’ next two hitters, giving Stoker her third complete-game victory of the season.

In the second game of this doubleheader, CCSU scored a run early in the third, a run that the Elis would match in the fourth inning when Vinyard singled up the middle, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out from first baseman Sydney Grobman ’21 and scored on an RBI single from Jerpbak. This tie was short lived, however, when a three-run home run from Blue Devil Sydney Bolan in the fifth put the game out of reach.

“I think this weekend at Cornell will be a great opportunity to improve our standing in the Ivy League,” said Seifert.

In fact, Cornell has run hot and cold in its last few games. In its first conference matchup against Brown last weekend, the Big Red dropped the first game despite scoring eight runs. In the next game against the Bears, Big Red pitchers Lisa Nelson and Ashley Delany gave up only three runs — the least amount of runs given up in a game all season. A walk-off, three-run home run from infielder Allison Kerce gave Cornell its second win of the season, while a 5–4 rubber game win for the Big Red gave them a series win in their first conference series. However, this momentum did not carry over to a doubleheader against Binghamton, in which Cornell blew a 7–5 lead in the seventh inning of the first game.

All of these results set the stage for an exciting conference showdown against Cornell this weekend, with the Bulldogs hoping to improve on their 3–3 conference record. Both teams are coming off of two-game losing streaks.

“Even though our games against Central did not go our way,” Jerpbak said, “it was good practice for me to get ready for this weekend and throw my pitches to [a] new hitter. We are ready to come back and get some wins this weekend against Cornell. Every game is important to us. As long as we commit to every pitch and do our job individually, we will have success as a team.”

Pitcher Ashley Delany is leading the Big Red with a .381 batting average, while Cornell is hitting .233 as a team. Yale, bolstered by Grobman’s team-leading .373 batting average, is hitting .261 overall. Both teams have three players hitting above .300. On the mound, it is Delany again, who leads the rotation with a 6.04 ERA; the Cornell pitching staff has an overall ERA of 6.98. The Bulldogs pitching staff, which has amassed an impressive ERA of 3.50, is led by Jerpbak and her even more impressive ERA of 1.78.

The Elis will play the Big Red at 12:30 p.m and 3 p.m. this Saturday, as well as at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at Cornell’s Niemand Robison Field.

Jared Fel | .

Jared Fel currently serves as a sports staff reporter covering football, baseball, and hockey for the Yale Daily News. Originally from Ossining, New York, he is a rising junior in Saybrook College majoring in Cognitive Science.