PHILADELPHIA - A week after knocking off the three-time defending South Division Champion Cornell, softball will now travel north to battle Harvard in a best-of-three series for the Ivy League Championship. The Quakers (33-15) have already established a new benchmark for winning by becoming the first team in program history to win 30 games in one season. This weekend they will be looking for their first ever trip to the NCAA Championships and the second Ivy League title in program history, with the first coming in 1981.
Harvard (31-13) earned the right to host the Championship Series with a 17-3 record against Ivy League opponents this season. With the one-game playoff pushing the schedule back one week, the Crimson have not played a game since April 28-29, when they split the four-game series with Dartmouth. Harvard has now represented the North Division in five of the six years of the Ivy League Championship Series, going 2-2 in the first four years, but is the defending Ivy League Champions from 2011. This weekend's matchup will also be a rematch of the inaugural 2007 Ivy League Series that was hosted by Harvard. The Crimson have won five Ivy titles in program history.
The series will get underway with a doubleheader on Friday at 2 p.m. If a third game is needed to determine a champion, that decisive game would be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. Fans that are unable to make the trip to Cambridge this weekend will be able to watch the game through a video stream on the Ivy League website.
Penn advanced to the Ivy League Championship Series thanks a large part to a perfect game from freshman Alexis Borden (24-4, 1.33 ERA) in the one-game playoff against Cornell. She currently leads the league in wins, ERA, complete games (23), shutouts (7), games started (25), appearances (32), and innings pitched (183.2). She has picked up the victory in each of her last seven appearances and thrown a complete game in her last six starts, all of which have been wins against Ivy League opponents where she never allowed more than two runs.
Solidifying the pitching staff will be Lindsay Mann and Jen Retzer. Mann (1-0, 2.78) has appeared in eight games this season, making three starts. In six of her outings this season, she has allowed no more than one earned run. This includes four outings in which she did not surrender anything to the opposition. She has faced exactly 100 batters this season and has allowed just two doubles as her only extra base hits. Retzer has pitched in five games, making three starts. She picked up her first career win by going 6.2 innings and allowing just one earned against South Dakota.
The Quakers are averaging 4.4 runs per game and batting .281 as a team. These marks are just off the pace of league leading Harvard at 4.6 runs per game and a .290 batting average. The Quakers own the highest on-base percentage in the league at .359. At the top of the Penn order, freshman Sydney Turchin leads the league with 38 runs scored. She is second in walks (22) and stolen bases (12) to go along with a .429 OBP and .342 batting average, fifth and seventh in the Ivies, respectively. Fellow freshman Karina Rios brings a team-best .511 slugging percentage into play. She has a hit in 20 of her last 24 games. During the last nine games, Samantha Erosa has raised her average 62 points to a .315 batting average. She has a hit in eight of those nine games, including four multi-hit games during that time.
Elysse Gorney and Kayla Dahlerbruch give the Quakers five players in the lineup that are hitting over .300. Gorney is batting .308 and is fourth in the league with 29 runs scored. She has also stolen 11 bases, the third most in the league, and has a six-game hitting streak going, which includes six hits in her last 10 at-bats. Dahlerbruch is batting .304. She is third in the league with 28 RBI and ranks seventh with six home runs. She is also seventh in OBP (.400) and eighth in slugging (.493). She has scored or driven in a run in four of the last five games. Brooke Coloma also has six home runs to go along with 34 RBI, the second-most in the Ivies. In Ivy play, she drove in 20 runs which was a league best. She has nine hits during her five-game hitting streak and has driven in eight during that span.
With a team-high eight home runs and 27 total RBI, Jessica Melendez ranks fourth in the league in both categories. Six of her home runs came during the Ivy League schedule, tying her for the league best. She brings a .476 slugging percentage into the weekend. Since the Cornell series, Georgia Guttadauro has raised her batting average 52 points. She is hitting .278 and has four home runs in just 79 at-bats, the second-highest rate on the team. She has driven in nine runs and scored eight more during the last nine games, collecting 10 hits during that time. Stephanie Caso ended the regular season with a seven-game hitting streak, including two multi-hit games. She also scored in every game during the final full weekend at Columbia.
Jessica Arneson has made 25 starts at catcher this season. She has three hits in her last eight at-bats and started all four games against Cornell and the first three in the Columbia series. Justine Payne has a hit in three of her last four pinch-hit attempts, including two that drove in runs. She has played in 24 games. Kristen Johnson and Laura Placentra each have five hits this season. Placentra has scored 11 runs and stole four bases. She and Johnson each have two RBI. Bridget Ellsworth has three hits this season, including a double, to go along with six runs, while Vanessa Weaver has driven in three runs and scored two more. Senior captain Meg Krasne has not seen any game action with her injury but was named the player's player by her teammates at the banquet.
Reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Rachel Brown (18-5, 1.42 ERA) leads Harvard in the circle. She has struck out 226 hitters in her 163 innings of work. She has made 23 starts and has thrown 20 complete games. Laura Ricciardone (13-6, 1.80) provides Harvard with a second option. She and Brown have combined to pitch over 90 percent of the Crimson's innings this year.
Offensively, Harvard has four regulars that are batting over .300. Leading the way is Jane Alexander's .408 average. Last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year Kasey Lange is batting .382 with six home runs this season. Stephanie Regan and Shelbi Olson are batting .336 and .315, respectively. In the first series, the Crimson finished with 20 hits but only one hit, a triple in the last inning of game two, went for extra bases.