Steve Musco

Most Yale students will congregate on Old Campus this Saturday for Spring Fling. Although the Yale softball team won’t have the chance to dance along to last-minute insert Playboi Carti, the Elis enter the weekend with similar excitement and anticipation for its series against Harvard.

A three-game series at Harvard (18–16, 11–4 Ivy) this weekend has stood out at the end of the Yale (15–25, 9–9) calendar all season, and the Bulldogs will seek to steal their first series win over the Crimson since 1994. Yale’s trip to Boston will feature its last few games of the 2019 season, barring a miraculous combination of results over the last two weekends of Ivy League play. Despite the fact that clinching one of two bids to the Ivy League Championship Series is unrealistic, any matchup with their archrival figures prominently for the fifth-place Bulldogs.

“Harvard-Yale weekends always have a different level of intensity, so I hope we bring that and it benefits us,” pitcher Nic Conway ’22 said. “Especially because it’s our last weekend, everyone prioritizes Harvard-Yale all year … I think that everyone has a chip on their shoulder to an extent. We really want to prove it to ourselves, to our coaches and pretty much everyone that we’re one of the best teams here.”

The Elis are exactly .500 in league play this season. Harvard and Columbia, meanwhile, could secure a trip to the softball playoff series with sweeps and at least one Cornell win over Princeton. To have any shot at a postseason berth, the Bulldogs need to sweep this weekend’s series and root for Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth — the cellar of the Ancient Eight — to dismantle Harvard, Columbia and Princeton next weekend.

Last season, Yale opened its conference play with Harvard, dropping two of three when the Crimson visited New Haven. Yale officially commemorated its 5K Corral Field at DeWitt Family Stadium before the Saturday doubleheader, led by three hits apiece from left fielder Shelby Kennedy ’19 and second baseman Annie Tarte ’20. Miranda Papes ’21 pitched a complete game to lead the Bulldogs to a 7-0 win in the third game of the series on Sunday. The Bulldogs trail the all-time series with the Crimson, 73-22.

After Yale played its last nonconference games last week in a split doubleheader against Sacred Heart, the Bulldogs travel to Boston this weekend after playing a rare midweek conference matchup.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in New Haven, in a makeup game for a rain-interrupted, three-game series, Yale and Columbia found themselves in a pitcher’s duel in a contest that closely mirrored the previous two played on Sunday. This time, it was Columbia’s Alexa Pinarski who came out victorious, tossing a complete-game shutout and not allowing a hit from the Bulldogs until the bottom of the sixth, as the Lions edged the Bulldogs 3-0. After taking two out of three in the series against the Elis, Columbia moved into a first-place tie with Harvard in the Ivy League. The Crimson currently own the tiebreaker for postseason seeding.

“Going into this final weekend, we are just worrying about our team and doing our job to win,” captain and pitcher Terra Jerpbak ’19 said. “We are focusing on our strengths and plan on coming out strong and with a winning mentality to have a great final series. This weekend is exciting and also sad as the season comes to an end, but playing against Harvard will definitely make for a good series.”

On paper, Harvard doesn’t jump out as the first-place Ancient Eight softball team. The Crimson ranks fifth in overall batting average, fifth in overall pitching ERA and their best batter, first year Teagan Shaw, ranks outside the top twenty of all Ivy League hitters with an average of .318.

Still, Harvard boasts one of the best arms in the league in Katie Duncan, who has pitched a 12-4 record with a 2.78 ERA and is second to Yale’s own Jerpbak with 75 strikeouts.

“We’re preparing for this weekend like any other Ivy weekend,” center fielder Olivia Vinyard ’20 said. “Regardless of who we play, our goal is to win the series … We’re a competitive team, but we’re especially competitive [during] Harvard weekend. We hope to take the series for our seniors who have dedicated so much to this team and to the program.”

The Elis face Harvard’s first pitch at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday from Soldiers Field.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu

Jared Fel | jared.fel@yale.edu