Laura Ricciardone shutout the No. 23 LSU Tigers for 12 innings Friday at the Purple and Gold Challenge (Gil Talbot).
BATON ROUGE, La. – It was a long day of small-ball for the Harvard softball team, but the Crimson showed it was the team with the tactical advantage, upsetting host No. 23 LSU, 1-0 in 12 innings and downing Lamar, 3-1 in 10 innings, in day one of the Purple and Gold Challenge. The Crimson moves to 4-3 on the year with the pair of victories.
It marked Harvard's first win over a ranked team since a 2-0 win over then-No. 23 Texas Tech in the 2012 NCAA Regional in Seattle, Wash.
Junior Laura Ricciardone had one of her strongest outings as a member of the Crimson, keeping Harvard level with the Tigers through all 12 innings of the game. LSU managed one hit in each of the first two innings but was unable to record a base hit the next four frames. Harvard managed four hits of its own through seven at-bats, but LSU hurler Ashley Czechner matched Ricciardone frame for frame, keeping the game knotted at 0-0 into extra innings.
Harvard loaded the bases in the top of the eight on hits from Catherine Callaway and Adrienne Hume, but a fly out with two outs ended the threat. LSU nearly ended it in the bottom of the inning when Sandra Simmons doubled to left-center with a runner on first, but Harvard's relay to the plate cut down Jacee Blades trying to score to move the game to the 9th. Harvard finally manufactured a run in the top of the 12th when Shelbi Olson was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and Emily Gusse knocked a single to center field to bring home the only run of the game. LSU loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, but Ricciardone recorded the final out on a strikeout looking, sealing the dramatic win for Harvard.
The junior pitcher tossed over 180 pitches in the game, scattering just seven hits and fanning nine LSU batters in the win. Olson led all players with three hits in the game as Harvard outhit LSU, 9-7.
It was a pitcher's duel from the outset of Game 1 against Lamar, as the teams traded scoreless frames up to the midpoint of the game. Harvard's Morgan Groom scattered four hits through the first four innings and escaped a jam in the bottom of the third when the first two batters singled but were erased on an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. Lamar's Shannon Millman was equally as effective, holding Harvard to one hit through five innings.
Lamar finally manufactured a run in the bottom of the fifth as Stephanie Meeuwsen, who reached third base on a wild pitch, came home on a Brynn Baca fielder's choice to grab a 1-0 lead. Harvard went down in order in the top of the sixth and needed to post a run to extend the game in its final at bat. Katherine Lantz led off the seventh with an infield single and Kasey Lange followed with a base hit through the left side. A sacrifice bunt from Emily Gusse put two runners in scoring position with one out and rookie Catherine Callaway came up big with a single to right, plating Lantz and knotting the score at one.
Rookie Taylor Cabe took over from there for Harvard, allowing the occasional hit but never letting any Lamar threat mount into runs. The Crimson struggled to mount much against Millman as the game stretched into extra innings, but runs finally came in the top of the 10th. The Crimson got a runner placed at second base to start the inning and freshman Lindsey Hagberg came up with the big hit, lifting a ball deep to left field that cleared the fence for a two-run home run, her first as a member of the Crimson. Cabe retired three batters in a row in the bottom of the 10th to end the dramatic 3-1 victory.