Title Defense Begins Friday as Softball Welcomes Penn for Ivy Championship Series

Title Defense Begins Friday as Softball Welcomes Penn for Ivy Championship Series

Harvard compiled a 17-3 Ivy League record in 2012, the best record in the Ancient Eight (Gil Talbot).

The Particulars
The Harvard softball team looks to capture its second-straight and sixth overall Ivy League title when it welcomes Penn to Soldiers Field Friday and Saturday for the 2012 Ivy League Championships Series. The teams will play a doubleheader Friday beginning at 2 p.m., with a single game scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, if necessary.

Harvard vs. Penn History
Harvard leads the all-time series against Penn 48-13, and has been victorious in 13 of the last 14 matchups. This weekend's games will be a rematch of the inaugural Ivy League Championship Series, which took place in Cambridge in 2007. In that series, the Crimson blanked the Quakers, 4-0, in Game 1 and earned its fourth Ivy title with a 4-2 win in Game 2.

Ivy League Recognition
Both the Crimson and Quakers had multiple players earn league awards throughout the season. In fact, seven of the nine Pitcher of the Week awards went to either Harvard or Penn (Harvard – Rachel Brown (5), Laura Ricciardone (1), Penn – Alexis Borden (1)), and six of the nine Player of the Week nods went to players from the two final teams (Harvard – Kasey Lange (3), Jane Alexander (1), Penn – Georgia Guttadauro (1), Brooke Coloma (1). Penn's Borden also earned four Rookie of the Week awards in 2012.

About Harvard
The Crimson proved to be the team to beat this season in the Ivy League, posting a conference-best 17-3 record. Harvard also ran away with its third-straight Ivy North Division title to clinch a spot in the championship series, compiling a 10-2 record against North Division foes. Since the inception of divisional play, Harvard has claimed all but one North Division crown, as Dartmouth earned the top spot in 2009.

Senior Jane Alexander and sophomore Kasey Lange have been responsible for much of the offense this season for Harvard. Alexander leads the team, and ranks second in the league, with a .408 batting average and leads the Ancient Eight in hits (58) and triples (4). Lange is batting an impressive .382 on the season and leads the league with 38 RBI. Shelbi Olson (.315) and Stephanie Regan (.336) are also hitting above .300 for the Crimson this season.

Rachel Brown had another stellar regular season, putting together an 18-5 record and 1.42 earned-run average in 163 innings pitched this year. She leads the Ivy League with 226 strikeouts, ranks second nationally in hits allowed per seven innings (3.78) and fifth in strikeouts per seven innings (9.7). Sophomore Laura Ricciardone has also been solid in the circle, going 13-6 on the season with a 1.80 ERA and 63 strikeouts.

Scouting the Quakers
Penn earned its way into the Ivy Championship series for just the second time in team history, thanks to a 4-0 victory in a one-game playoff versus Cornell last Saturday. Freshman sensation Alexis Borden pitched a perfect game for the Quakers and Elysse Gourney drove in three runs to secure the berth in the championship series. The game was the first ever one-game playoff in Ivy League history.

Penn boasts a quintet of players hitting at a .300 clip or better, led by Sydney Turchin who finished the regular season with a .342 average. She also leads the team in hits (52), steals (12) and runs scored (38). Brooke Coloma and Kayla Dahlerbruch have been the biggest run producers for the Quakers this season, as Coloma has a team-high 34 RBi and Dahlerbruch is close behind with 28. Jessica Melendez has driven in 27 runs this season, and leads the team with eight home runs.

Borden put up very strong numbers in her freshman campaign, leading the league in wins (24), innings pitched (183.2) and ERA (1.33).

Earlier This Season
Thanks to a pair of four-run first innings, Harvard was able to sweep Penn in a doubleheader April 7 at Soldiers Field.

Four singles, including a two-run base hit by Stephanie Regan, and a wild pitch gave Harvard a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first in Game 1 and the run total proved to be enough to pull out the 4-3 victory. Rachel Brown finished the game with 13 strikeouts, earning her 11th victory of the season, despite a late comeback attempt by the Quakers. The Crimson also posted four runs in the bottom of the first in Game 2, powered by a two-run single by rookie Katherine Lantz. Regan added her second two-run single of the day in the third inning and one final run in the fourth gave Harvard the 10-1, run-rule shortened victory.

What's Next?
The winner of the Ivy League Championship Series will earn the league's automatic berth in the 2012 NCAA tournament. The tournament selection show will air on ESPNU at 10 p.m. Sunday, May 13. NCAA regionals will begin Thursday, May 17 at campus sites.