PENN at HARVARD
Saturday, May 5 at 1 p.m. (DH)
Sunday, May 6 at 1 p.m. (if necessary)
PHILADELPHIA The Penn softball team will head north this weekend to Cambridge, Mass. to face off against Harvard in the first-ever best-of-three softball Ivy League Championship Series. The Quakers will be looking to win their first Ivy League title since 1981, and only the second in school history. Harvard is hoping to reclaim softball glory, as they won three titles in four years, from 1998 to 2001.
The Red and Blue were forced to wait almost two weeks to find out where they stood in the league. They finished regular season play on April 22, after a 2-2 split with Princeton. At that point, Penn stood atop the South Division with a 14-6 Ivy League record. But Cornell sat just one game back at 11-5, while Princeton was a close third, with a 10-6 league record. The two teams both had a shot at the division title, as they had yet to play each other in a four-game series. If Princeton won all four games, they would have tied Penn for first, and forced a playoff. If Cornell had won all four, they would have won the South Division outright and ended the Red and Blue’s season. Three wins by Cornell would have forced a playoff, while three wins by Princeton or a split assured Penn a spot in the Championship Series. And so the Quakers sat back, with their postseason hopes in the hands of others.
The Tigers helped the Quakers out in an odd twist of fate for the longtime Ivy rivals, beating Cornell in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, 9-2. The Big Red came back in the second to win, 12-10, eliminating the Tigers from the race. Sunday’s doubleheader started at noon, and again, it was Princeton who gave Penn exactly what they needed: a 4-1 defeat of Cornell in the first game. With Princeton’s second win, the Quakers won the South Division crown and a chance to play for the Ivy title. Cornell won the second game, 5-2, but the damage was done.
Much like the South Division, the North was up in the air going into the last weekend of Ivy play. Harvard had possession of first place in the North, but Dartmouth was only one game back. With the two teams scheduled for a four-game series, it was anyone’s shot. The Crimson and the Big Green faced off in the first of two games on Saturday, April 28. Harvard won the first game, 2-0. The second game was tied, 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning, when it was called due to rain. They were supposed to finish the series on Sunday, but rain pushed the games back, and the Quakers had to wait and see who they would be playing for the title.
In the second set of games, Dartmouth won the first game, 3-2, before Harvard rallied in the second game to win 11-8, and clinch the North. While Penn knew who they were playing, they still didn’t know where they would be playing. That depended on the outcome of the game that had been halted. The Quakers were forced to wait some more.
An finally answer came on Wednesday, May 2, when Harvard and Dartmouth resumed their game in Cambridge in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Crimson managed a 9-6 win, finishing the season with a 14-6 Ivy League record, an identical finish to Penn’s. However, the Crimson got home-field advantage for the Championship Series with their regular-season doubleheader sweep of the Quakers.
Quakers vs. Crimson: Regular Season
The Penn softball team had a tough time the last time they were in Cambridge, Mass., as they dropped two games to Harvard. The Quakers lost the first game, 6-3, and lost the second, 9-6.
In the first game against the Crimson, Penn got into action early, scoring two runs in the first inning. The Quakers maintained that lead until the bottom of the second, when Harvard’s bats started making contact. Three singles, two walks, and a timely double given up by Penn’s pitching staff turned into five runs, and Harvard took a 5-2 lead. The Crimson added one more run to their total in the bottom of the third, as they cashed in on two key singles, one of which scored the run. In the top of the fourth, Penn managed to get one more run on the board. But tough defense and strong pitching from both teams stopped the scoring there, and Harvard walked away with the 6-3 win.
In the second game of the day, the Quakers were able to get more runs scored, but it wasn’t enough to get the win, as the Crimson outscored them, 9-6. This time, it was Harvard who took the early lead. Two runs scored in the bottom of the first inning, and a third run scored on an error in the bottom of the second, giving Harvard a 3-0 lead.
In the top of the third inning, Penn cut Harvard’s lead to 3-2 before tying up the game on a sac fly. In the top of the fourth, the Quakers made their at-bats count again. Senior Melissa Haffner hit a home run down the left-field line to give Penn the 4-3 lead. Senior Kaelin Ainley got on base due to an error by the Crimson’s shortstop, and scored on the next play when Annie Kinsey hit a home run, giving the Quakers a 6-3 lead.
Harvard answered Penn’s home run with one of their own in the bottom of the inning. A triple brought in a second run, and the Crimson cut the lead to 6-5. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Harvard scored the tying run on a runner who had struck out but reached first on a passed ball. The runner then scored on a fielding error that also put the winning run on base. A single was all that Harvard needed to take the 7-6 lead. But they didn’t stop there, scoring two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Scouting the Crimson
Harvard is coming off of a weekend of big wins, and some big records. Freshman Laura Murphy, this week’s Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week, set new Ivy League records for home runs in a season (18), home runs in a game (three, tie) and total bases in a game (15). The freshman is batting .363 this year, and leads the league in RBI, with 47. The Crimson also has the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week, as Shelly Madick pitched 13.2 scoreless innings last week. Madick currently leads the league’s pitching, with a 1.37 ERA and a 15-4 win-loss record. She has struck out 130 batters this season. Harvard has a strong bullpen behind Madick, with three pitchers at the top of the league. Amanda Watkins is 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA, third in the league, and Dana Roberts is 5-5 with a 2.68 ERA.
Offensively, the Crimson has three batters near the top of the league. Murphy, whose .363 batting average is fourth in the league, is at the top for Harvard. Lauren Brown is in fifth, with a .356 batting average, and Julia Kidder is seventh, hitting .349.
This Quakers squad is looking to make history. They have already shattered multiple records at Penn, with marks in runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBI, total bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their 23 wins set a new record for the most wins in school history. Junior Annie Kinsey has also had her share of records broken. This year, she has set new single-season records in hits (62), runs scored (50), doubles (15) and home runs (10). Senior Stephanie Reichert set a new single-season RBI record, with 39.
They are also looking to claim the school’s second softball Ivy title; the last time Penn won a title, not one player on the current roster had been born. The year was 1981, and the Quakers went 5-0 in the Ivy League, and 18-4 overall, in what had previously been the best season in Penn softball history.