Season Preview: Softball Sets Sights on Fifth Ivy Championship
Pictured: Harvard will look to take back the Ivy League
North Division title in 2010.
Photo Courtesy: DSPics.com
The Harvard softball team returns a wealth of talent to the 2010 roster and sets its sights on a league title. The Crimson finished the 2009 season with an overall record of 27-17 and a league mark of 12-8, good for second in the Ivy League North Division and third overall in the Ancient Eight, but missed out on the division title for the first time since the implementation of division play in 2007.
In her 16th season at the helm of the program, head coach Jenny Allard boasts a 365-288-2 overall record and a 153-63 mark in Ivy League play. With seniors Margaux Black and Melissa Schellberg serving as captains, Allard feels that the Crimson has the right blend of upperclassmen leadership and freshman potential to make a run at a fifth Ivy title.
“One of the elements that I’ve seen that is critical to a team’s success is to have really strong leadership,” said Allard. “With six solid seniors returning that is really key for us this year. We also have not only new energy but some impact players in the freshman class that are going to come in and push everybody. I think the freshmen not only give us a push at certain positions, but also give us great overall depth.”
While the Crimson absorbs its biggest losses in its infield, there remains plenty of talent at a multitude of positions. Sophomore Whitney Shaw will anchor the team at first base after a stellar freshman campaign in which she hit .304 and led the team with 11 doubles, 19 walks, a slugging percentage of .529 and an on-base percentage of .455. Junior second baseman Ellen Macadam started 43 games for the Crimson in 2009 and was second on the team in doubles (10) and stolen bases (9) while posting a team-high 42 hits and 60 total bases. Captain Melissa Schellberg will provide her usual strong defense as well as power from the hot corner as she was tied for second on the team with 23 RBI in 2009.
The graduation of shortstop Bailey Vertovez and catcher Hailey Bock leaves Allard with some decisions to make in the infield but the depth of the 2010 roster should provide a number of options. Senior Jessica Pledger comes in as the top candidate to take over catching duties after spending much of the 2009 season in a designated hitter role and spelling Bock on a number of occasions. Jane Alexander saw limited playing time in 2009 due to an injury, but proved to be a defensively sound backup to Vertovez and looks to take over the starting duties at shortstop this season.
The freshman and sophomore classes are loaded with infielders that could make a serious impact in 2010. Megan Fazio, Olivia Piccione and Mariel Sena begin their first season in Cambridge vying for playing time at the catcher position while sophomore Eve Rosenbaum made 15 appearances as a pinch-runner in her freshman campaign. Sophomore Mari Zumbro started seven games in the field last season and joins freshmen Jessica Ferri and Kassy Shiotani as potential infield options.
The Crimson outfield is boosted by a wealth of experience as seniors Jennifer Francis and Stephanie Krysiak and junior Emily Henderson will likely make up the starting trio. Francis, a 2009 All-Ivy selection, led the Crimson with a .311 batting average and drove in a team-high 24 runs last season. Henderson, a 2008 All-Ivy pick, was tied for second on the team with 24 runs scored and led the team with 15 stolen bases in 2009. Krysiak started all 44 games for Harvard last season as a defensive stalwart in center.
Freshman Ashley Heritage joins the Crimson in hopes of working her way into the outfield rotation, while Sena and Shiotani will also challenge for time in the outfield.
Harvard returns the 2009 Ivy League Rookie of the Year in Rachel Brown, who begins her sophomore campaign as the go-to option on the mound. As a freshman, Brown led the league with 211 strikeouts. She also paced all Crimson pitchers, and was second among Ancient Eight hurlers, with 150 innings pitched, a 1.49 ERA and 16 wins.
Captain Margaux Black was second on the team with 16 appearances last season and held opposing hitters to a .285 batting average in 40-plus innings. Sophomore Julia Moore posted the second-best ERA on the team in 2009 with a 2.70 mark, while Dana Roberts and Zumbro also contributed significant innings on the mound. Due to a season-ending injury, Roberts will be serving in a student-coach role for the 2010 season.
Ferri has stepped up early in spring preparations as a pitcher with poise beyond her years who could toe the rubber for a number of innings this season.
A varied and challenging scheduled is once again on tap for the Crimson as it begins its season March 5 with the UCF Invitational, where it will face host Central Florida as well as Georgia Southern, Providence, the College of Charleston and Boston College. A week-long trip to California will pit the Crimson against 24th-ranked Texas A&M and San Diego State, a team receiving votes in the national poll, as Harvard will participate in both the Amy S. Harrison Classic and the San Diego Classic II, March 13-20.
Harvard opens its home schedule with a twinbill against Bryant March 23, followed by a showdown with Boston University two days later. The Crimson’s Ivy schedule kicks off with a doubleheader at Princeton on April 2, followed by two games at defending champion Cornell the next day. Harvard’s league home-opener comes against Penn April 9 with Columbia visiting Cambridge for two the day after.
In its longest homestand of the season, Harvard plays two against cross-town rival Boston College April 15, before hosting back-to-back double-headers against Brown April 17-18. The Crimson wraps up its regular season with a home-and-home series against 2009 Ivy League North Division champion Dartmouth May 1-2.