Two Down, One to Go: Crimson Rallies, Sweeps Green

HANOVER, N.H.—The Harvard softball team rallied from a pair of sixth-inning deficits to sweep a doubleheader from Dartmouth, 7-3 and 6-3, and move within one win of its third straight Ivy League North Division championship Saturday afternoon at Sachem Field.

Freshman Rachel Brown won the first game and saved the second, breaking Harvard’s single-season strikeout record in the process. Sophomore Ellen Macadam broke a 3-3 tie with her three-run home run in the opener. Junior Melissa Schellberg hit a tying two-run double and scored the winning run on a single by Hayley Bock in the nightcap.

The wins gave Harvard (27-14, 12-6 Ivy League) a one-game lead on the Big Green (20-20, 11-7) heading into the final day of the Ivy League regular season. The Crimson can clinch the division crown by winning either end of the teams’ twinbill Sunday at 2 p.m. at Harvard's Soldiers Field. Dartmouth needs a sweep to take the title, with the division winner visiting South Division champ Cornell for the Ivy League Championship May 2-3.

Jennifer Francis homered in Game 1, led the Crimson with four hits and was one of four Harvard players to score twice. Schellberg had three hits, and Macadam had a team-high three runs batted in. Starter Margaux Black, Dana Roberts and Brown combined to hold the Big Green to three runs in Game 2, with Roberts improving to 5-1 with the relief win.

Brown wasted little time setting the strikeout record, recording her 183rd strikeout of the year against the second Dartmouth batter of the first game, Dartmouth centerfielder Nikki Yee. That was the first of nine strikeouts in the game for Brown and broke Tasha Cupp’s mark set in 1997. Brown went the distance, allowing eight hits, to improve to 16-5, tying for third on Harvard’s single-season wins list.

Harvard got on the board with a bases-loaded walk to senior Bailey Vertovez, scoring Schellberg in the top of the second inning of Game 1. The Crimson again loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Dartmouth pitcher Devin Lindsay escaped with a grounder to shortstop for a force at home and a groundout to first to end the inning.

Dartmouth took advantage of the Crimson’s missed opportunity by taking the lead in the bottom of the inning. Kirstin Costello was hit by a pitch, stole second and came in on Yee’s two-out single. Ashley Gleason then doubled to deep left to score Yee.

Harvard tied the game on three straight Dartmouth errors to begin the sixth inning and went on top, 5-2, when Macadam sent a 1-2 pitch over the leftfield fence. One out later, Francis added another run on a high-sailing opposite-field homer to left. Lindsay finished with eight hits and one earned run allowed. Hillary Barker pitched the final 1.1 innings, surrendering one run and one hit.

The Big Green answered with a solo homer by Molly Khalil, leading off the bottom of the sixth, to cut the Crimson lead to three runs. Harvard got back that run in the seventh, when sophomore Emily Henderson singled through the left side and scored from first on a Dartmouth error.

Francis, Henderson and Macadam each had two hits in the game. Henderson scored twice.

Dartmouth had the first chances in Game 2. A ground ball back to Black left runners on second and third in the first inning. In the third, Vertovez dove to her left at shortstop to knock down a potential hit, limiting Khalil to a single and saving a run. Black then induced another ground ball to Vertovez for a fielder’s choice to leave the bases loaded.

The Big Green broke through in the bottom of the fourth. After the first two batters reached base and a sacrifice bunt moved them to scoring position, Roberts came on to pitch. Roberts was greeted with a three-run homer by Christy Autin.

Harvard got a run back in the fifth. Bock reached on a fielder’s choice after a Pledger single and came around when Henderson’s bunt down the third base line forced a rushed throw and a Dartmouth error.

The Crimson once again came back in the sixth. Francis and Shaw reached on a hit-by-pitch and infield single, respectively, and came around when Schellberg boomed a double off the leftfield fence. Schellberg moved to third on a Pledger groundout and crossed on Bock’s single up the middle to give Harvard a 4-3 lead.

Dartmouth looked to tie in the bottom of the inning, but Macadam and Brown had other ideas. Playing second base, Macadam ranged into the hole to make a backhand stab on a Yee single, keeping Autin from scoring. Brown entered in relief with runners on second and third but got the final two outs of the frame on a foul popup to Schellberg at third and a grounder to Macadam.

Shaw gave Brown some breathing room in the top of the seventh. She ripped a two-out double to the right-center gap to score Macadam, who had been hit by a pitch. Pinch-runner Marika Zumbro then came home when Francis dropped a single into left.

Black allowed two runs on six hits in 3.1 innings, while Roberts surrendered one run on five hits, striking out two, in two innings. Brown shut the door with 1.2 inning with one hit allowed and one more strikeout for a total of 10 on the day and 192 on the year. Francis had two hits in the game, and six Crimson players scored one run each.