With three Ivy League series remaining, Yale softball is searching for a second-half boost in the Ancient Eight standings.
One game shy of a four-way tie for first, the Bulldogs (12–20, 7–5 Ivy) conclude the season with series against Ivy co-leaders Columbia and Harvard. But this weekend, the Elis travel to Providence looking to rack up runs and a trio of wins at Brown (8–17, 1–8). Riding a seven-game losing streak, the Bears occupy the cellar of the Ancient Eight standings, but Yale — which dropped two of three last weekend against a previously underperforming Dartmouth squad — will be focused on avoiding complacency as it turns its attention to the Bears.
“We are feeling good coming off of our win against Dartmouth on Sunday and hope to carry that into this weekend,” captain and pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19 said. “Every weekend we do the best we can to prepare against the opponent, and this weekend is no different. We will come out against Brown with the same mentality and fight we’ve had all season and look forward to getting a few more wins.”
It will be pivotal for Yale to curtail the struggles that plagued its series-opening twinbill against the Big Green. Eli pitchers lacked their usual strength in the circle as the Dartmouth bats plated at least five runs in the first two innings of each game. Yale also played uncharacteristically sloppy defense, committing a season-high three errors in the first leg before increasing that mark a couple of hours later with four errors in the next game.
The Bulldogs concluded last weekend’s home series with a hard-earned Sunday afternoon win that saw the Elis outhit the Big Green by two to secure an 8–5 win. Though they fell in Saturday’s doubleheader by a combined margin of 21–5, Sunday’s resilient win gave the Bulldogs confidence to prepare for a much weaker Bears squad.
“We ended last weekend on a high note and need to continue the energy we had on Sunday into this weekend,” pitcher Nic Conway ’22 said. “We really need a sweep this week to stay in the running for the Ivy League championship. I know that all of the girls are working hard this week to fix the things that didn’t click this weekend and everyone should be ready to go Saturday.”
As they prepare for the final stretch of the regular season, Yale enjoyed a relatively quiet week. The Elis were without a midweek opponent for the first time since commencing conference play against Penn on Mar. 16. Previously, the Bulldogs fit a Wednesday doubleheader in between each weekend Ivy series in addition to an extra Tuesday doubleheader a few days before their series win over the Quakers.
Additionally, head coach Jen Goodwin, associate head coach Barbara Reinalda and assistant coach Eric Kraut offered the Bulldogs an extra day off from practice this week. The team consistently uses Mondays as a rest day and extended the break through Tuesday this past week.
“Our extra day off will be very beneficial going into this weekend,” Jerpbak said. “We are heading into a very stressful few weeks academically, and our coach acknowledges that. By giving us a day off it allowed us to get ahead with our work and give our bodies a rest as we push through the end of our season.”
Brown, having played nine conference games of its own, is dead last with a 1–8 conference record. Despite having an Ivy-worst .254 batting average, the Bears boast one of the best hitters in the conference: sophomore catcher Madi Cranford. She leads the Ivy League with a .448 batting average and a .793 slugging percentage and is second in the league with a .515 on-base percentage and nine steals. Cranford hit only .163 in 27 games as a first year in 2018 but now finds herself enjoying quite the 2019 upswing.
On the mound, Brown owns the second best ERA in the conference, due in large part to the presence of first-year phenom Lauren Innerst. She lays claim to a 2.48 ERA — ranking third in the Ivy League — and sits in a tie for first with Jerpbak for striking out the most batters.
“We’re ready for redemption,” catcher Sydney Grobman ’21 said. “Taking this series is imperative for us to stay competitive going forward. Our practices this week have been productive and we’re all feeling a calm confidence heading into this weekend.”
First pitch from Brown Softball Field is slated for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
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