Andrea Del Conte had a pair of hits and two RBI for Harvard against Jackson State Saturday (Gil Talbot).
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Harvard softball team continued its successful run at the Purple and Gold Challenge Saturday, picking up its third straight win of the tournament, a 4-2 victory over Jackson State, before dropping a 4-2 final to Iowa State. Harvard's record stands at 5-4 heading into the final day of action Sunday.
After enduring two grueling pitchers duels Friday, the scoreless draw was broken up in the bottom of the first inning against Jackson State. Denisha Knight, JSU's first batter of the game, lifted a solo homer to left field for an early 1-0 lead and Lauren Aikens knocked an RBI single to center with two outs in the third to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Harvard ripped two hits in the top of the fourth and another in the fifth, but failed to push runs across in either frame.
Harvard finally unleashed its offense in the top of the sixth where five hits led to four runs in the inning, giving Harvard the lead for good. Shelbi Olson led off the inning with a double and promptly scored when Kasey Lange banged a double to left-center. Emily Gusse singled and stole second in the next at-bat and a Catherine Callaway single brought Lange home, tying the game at 2-2. Andrea Del Conte kept the hit parade going, plating Callaway and Gusse with a single through the middle to give the Crimson a two-run lead. Rookie Taylor Cabe came relieved Morgan Groom in the circle and retired six of the next seven batter to cap the 4-2 comeback win.
Lange, Gusse and Del Conte had two each apiece on the day with Gusse and Del Conte notching steals as well. Groom went five innings, allowing just two runs on two hits and Cabe was credited with the win, surrendering one hit in two innings of relief.
Against the Cyclones, Harvard once again found itself in an early hole as Sara Davison and Aly Cappaert drove in runs for Iowa State, dealing the Crimson a 2-0 deficit before its first at-bat. Harvard had an immediate response, however, with Olson and Lange reaching base on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, respectively. A double steal was executed on the next play and a throwing error from the ISU catcher allowed Olson to come home with Harvard's first run. Callaway proceeded to knot the score at 2-2 with a single through the right side, but got stranded at third base with the score tied.
His were tough to come by through four innings for Harvard and Iowa State reclaimed its two-run cushion in the top of the fifth on a wild pitch and an RBI single. Callaway led off the sixth with a single, but the threat was negated on a double-play in the following at-bat, and a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh wasn't enough to overcome the 4-2 deficit.
Callaway led the Crimson in Game 2, going 2 for 2 from the plate with an RBI and a steal. Laura Ricciardone, a day removed from her 12-inning gem against No. 23 LSU, absorbed the loss for Harvard, firing five innings and allowing two runs on five hits.
Harvard faces Jackson State Sunday to wrap up its stay at the Purple and Gold Challenge.