CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - After advancing to the Ivy League Championship Series for the first time since 2007 on the strength of a program-record 33 victories, including a 15-5 record in Ivy Play - plus another win in the South Division Playoff - softball saws its run come to end Friday afternoon. The Quakers (33-17) made defending Champion Harvard (33-13) work for everything it got, but would ultimately come out on the wrong side of 1-0 and 5-2 games as the Crimson repeated as league champions.
In game one, the two most dominant pitchers in the league, Alexis Borden and Harvard's Rachel Brown squared off. As expected, runs were hard to come by; however, after five scoreless innings Harvard was able to push across the first run of the game and Brown would make that run stand up in the 1-0 win. With Penn batting last in the second game, the Crimson took a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the fifth. Penn would push one across in both the fifth and sixth innings and threaten for more but would ultimately fall short in the 5-2 game.
Harvard 1, Penn 0 (Game one)
In the regular season meeting between the two schools, Harvard jumped out early with big first innings in both games. Borden would make sure there was not a repeat of that in the championship series as she did not allow a ball out of the infield in the first two innings, recording five groundouts and one pop-up to extend her perfect innings streak to nine from the Cornell game. However, her counterpart matched her pitch-for-pitch over that span despite the Quakers making her throw several more pitches than Borden.
Heading to the bottom of the third, Harvard's seventh hitter flew out to Brooke Coloma in right on the first ball that would leave the infield for the Crimson. Borden would then strike out the eighth hitter to put two away. Harvard's ninth hitter worked a walk for the first base runner of the game with two down. However, she was quickly erased as Jessica Arneson threw her out on the caught stealing attempt as Borden and Brown each faced the minimum through three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Penn would then get the first hit of the game for either side when Elysse Gorney doubled into right-center field with one out. A fly ball off the bat of Kayla Dahlerbruch would allow Gorney to move to third with two outs but Harvard would strand the runner at third. In the bottom of the fourth, Crimson leadoff hitter Jane Alexander recorded the first hit off of Borden. She would move to second and third on consecutive groundouts on the infield and Borden would strand that leadoff runner on the base paths as she got the Harvard clean-up hitter to go down looking at strikes.
Georgia Guttadauro would get Penn going again in the fifth with a leadoff single through the right side. Laura Placentra, who was on to run for Guttadauro, was then bunted into scoring position by Jessica Melendez. During the next at-bat, Penn was caught being too aggressive on the base paths, as Placentra got caught in between second and third on a grounder to short. With Placentra in the rundown, Erosa took a big turn around first base, but was then thrown out as she thought about going to second during the rundown.
In the bottom of the fifth, Harvard would work a leadoff walk. After a grounder moved the runner to second, Borden would induce a foul pop-up to Arneson behind the plate and get the next batter swinging as the teams remained scoreless through five innings. Two walks to start the sixth put Harvard runners on first and second with nobody out. After Borden got the first out of the inning via the strikeout, a throwing error on an infield single allowed the first run of the game to cross the plate. After Harvard loaded the bases with another infield single, Borden would escape the jam with a fly out to Sydney Turchin in left and field a grounder right back at her.
With one out in the seventh, Dahlerbruch singled through the left side. However, the next at-bat would see Coloma rip a line drive right at the third baseman, who doubled off the pinch-runner at first base to secure Harvard's 1-0 win. For the game, Borden and Brown surrendered just three hits each and both finished with four strikeouts.
Harvard 5, Penn 2 (Game two)
The Quakers went back to Borden to start game two and she would work around runners in each of the first two innings. Two Harvard singles would be stranded on first and second in the top of the first, while a leadoff single would be stranded on third base in the Harvard second. The Crimson went with Laura Ricciardone to start the second game and she set down Penn in order in the first two innings.
Harvard would score first in the top of the third. Two singles would put runners on the corners with one out. After a stolen base, a walk would load the bases and a second walk would force home the first run of the game. The second run would then score on a sacrifice fly, giving Harvard a 2-0 lead. Stephanie Caso would beat out an infield single in the hole at short with one out in the third but Ricciardone would strand her on the base paths.
In the fourth, the Crimson again put the leadoff runner on base with a single to start the inning. However, Borden would get the top three hitters in the Harvard lineup to escape that inning without any damage. In the fifth, Harvard again singled to lead off the inning. That runner would be bunted into scoring position and then came around to score on a one-out RBI single back through the middle to give Harvard a 3-0 lead after four and a half.
Penn would strike in the bottom half of the inning. Guttadauro got things going with a leadoff double down the right field line. With one out, Erosa took her pitch back through the middle and off the glove of the second baseman and into centerfield, bringing home Placentra, who was in as a pinch runner. In the top of the sixth, Harvard would add two more runs. After two quick outs by Borden, a double would come around to score on a single dropped down the left field line. After the throw allowed her to move up and a wild pitch moved her to third, the third straight hit brought home the second run of the inning and gave Harvard a 5-1 lead.
With the pressure on to make something happen and the top of the order coming to bat in Penn's half of the sixth, the Quakers put the first two runners on base. Turchin reached on an error to start and Gorney smashed a line drive right off the foot of the pitcher to put runners on first and second with nobody out. That would bring Brown back out of the bullpen. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Dahlerbruch grounded to second to bring home one on the RBI groundout. However, Gorney would be stranded at third base at inning's end.
In her final inning of work, Borden set Harvard down in order in the seventh. Melendez got the bottom half of the inning started with a single through the left side. However, that was all Penn could get off Brown in its final at-bats as she finished with the save in relief.
Despite the loss in the Ivy Championship Series, the Quakers set a new benchmark for winning in 2012 as they posted 30-plus victories for the first time in the history of the program. The future also looks bright for the team as 17 of the 19 players on this year's roster return for at least one more season, including all 11 players that started either one of both of the games today. However, the Quakers will have to replace the veteran leadership of senior captains Justine Payne and Meg Krasne, both of whom earned All-Ivy accolades during their four-year careers at Penn.