Battle For North Division Culminates With Softball Facing Dartmouth in Home and Home Series
The Crimson looks to distance itself from Dartmouth atop the Ivy North Division standings this weekend (Gil Talbot).
The Ivy League North Division title and the inside track on the Ivy League championship series is on the line as the Harvard softball team takes on rival Dartmouth in a home-and-home series this weekend. Saturday's games will begin at 1:30 p.m., in Cambridge while Sunday's doubleheader will be in Hanover, N.H.
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Look At The Standings
It has been a two-way battle in the north division for some time now, as the Crimson and Big Green find themselves leagues ahead of Brown and Yale in the division standings. While Harvard is a perfect 13-0 in Ivy League play, the Crimson still has to make up three games due to rainouts/darkness that will likely come into play in the league standings. Dartmouth will complete its regular-season schedule this weekend, and enters the Harvard series with a 15-1 Ivy record, the most league wins of anyone in the Ancient Eight. Dartmouth's one slip up came in its most recent league action as it dropped the final game of a four-game series with Brown last weekend.
The significant series edge goes to Harvard with 51 wins in 68 all-time meetings, but recent history has seen a more even battle between the two teams. Harvard took 19 straight from the Big Green from 1985 to 1999, representing the longest winning streak within the series. Last year, Dartmouth took three of four from Harvard in the season-ending series and the Big Green has taken five of the last eight games from Harvard in the past two years.
Harvard's Last Time Out
The Harvard softball team's program-record 18-game winning streak was halted Thursday when the Crimson dropped a 2-1 decision to local foe Boston University in its final non-conference contest of the regular season.
Boston University pitcher Lauren Hynes was dominant on the day, surrendering just one hit, a single to centerfield by Shelbi Olson in the third inning, in her six frames of action. Star pitcher Laura Ricciardone matched Hynes' effort through four innings of work, scattering four hits and striking out three. The Terriers were finally able to break through in the fifth against reliever Taylor Cabe when Brittany Younan ripped a single to right that brought in two runs.
Melanie Russell came in to work the seventh for BU and got the first out of the frame, but surrendered a solo home run to Emily Gusse, her fourth long ball of the season. That is as close as Harvard would get, however, as a pair of groundouts ended the game in favor of the Terriers.
Inside The Streak
The 18-game win streak represents the longest in team history for Harvard, eclipsing the old record of 12 set at the end of the 1996 season. The Crimson was dominant during the stretch, averaging 5.7 runs per game and outscoring opponents 103-34. Harvard swiped 53 bases and was caught only five times and had a team batting average of .327 to its opponents' .230. The pitching staff combined for an impressive 1.34 earned-run average in the 18-game stretch.
Kasey Lange was a catalyst during Harvard's historic run, hitting at a .481 clip and boasting a .565 on-base percentage. She led a group of five players with double-digit RBI totals with 16 and belted five home runs over the course of the win streak. Shelbi Olson tied for the team lead with 25 hits, batting .403, while Andrea Del Conte stole 13 bases to lead the squad. Katherine Lantz (14), Olson (13), Adrienne Hume (13) and Emily Gusse (12) all had double-digit RBI totals during the stretch. Laura Ricciardone was nearly untouchable in the circle, collecting 13 wins in 14 appearances and allowing just seven earned runs in 72.0 innings pitched for a miniscule 0.68 ERA.
It has been a great season for the defending North Division champion Big Green, as it enters the weekend with a 26-15 record, good for the second-highest win total in the Ancient Eight. Following the Brown loss in the series finale with the Bears, the Big Green dropped a 1-0 decision Tuesday in a makeup game to UMass Lowell.
The sophomore tandem of Katie McEachern and Kelsey Miller has been leading a potent Dartmouth offense this season as McEachern leads the team with 47 hits and 13 doubles. Kelsey Miller boasts one of the highest batting averages in the league at .373 and also leads the team with six steals. McEachern and Karen Chaw are tied for the team lead in home runs with six apiece, and Chaw leads a quintet of Dartmouth players with at least 20 RBI on the year with 25. Junior Kristen Rumley has proven to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league, bringing a 15-6 record into the Harvard series to go with 166 strikeouts and a 1.91 earned-run average.