Softball Downs Eastern Michigan, 3-0, Falls to Villanova, 2-1, In Season Opening Action

Softball Downs Eastern Michigan, 3-0, Falls to Villanova, 2-1, In Season Opening Action

Laura Ricciardone fired a three-hit shutout in the season opener for the Crimson Friday (Gil Talbot).

In its first day of action of the 2014 season, the Harvard softball team split decisions with Eastern Michigan and Villanova Friday at the Florida Gulf Coast University Round Robin. The Crimson won its season opener against the Eagles, 3-0, and dropped a 2-1 decision to the Wildcats later in the day.

The opener featured a stellar pitching performance from junior Laura Ricciardone, who managed to keep the Eagles at bay despite a bit of a rocky start. A walk and a hit batter put the first two runners on for EMU, but a clean out on a sacrifice bunt and back-to-back strikeouts kept the game scoreless. The Crimson opened the scoring in the second with Emily Gusse drawing a leadoff walk and advancing to third on a bunt and a groundout. Katherine Appelbe came up with the key hit with two outs, punching a single through the left side, plating Gusse for the 1-0 lead.

Ricciardone continued to sit down EMU batters through the middle innings, aided by a heads-up play from Katherine Lantz in the third when she gunned down a runner trying to advance to third after snaring a line drive. Harvard padded its lead in the fifth when Zoe Galindo got hit by a pitch and promptly stole second. Lantz delivered a one-out single up the middle to bring in Galindo, pushing the lead to 2-0. Another run came across when Kasey Lange, who reached base on a fielder's choice, came in to score on a passed ball. A strikeout apiece in the sixth and seventh innings capped the victory for Ricciardone and the Crimson.

The junior hurler finished with a three-hit shutout, fanning eight Eastern Michigan batters and surrendering four walks. Gusse finished the day 2 for 2 with a run scored and the Crimson combined to swipe five bases in the win.

While the Wildcats held a 10-4 hits advantage in the second game, the score was much closer in the 2-1 final. Two hits in the first from Villanova resulted in no runs, but a three-hit second inning, including a RBI single up the middle from Aleshia Ayers, gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead through two at-bats. Villanova threatened again in the third, putting two runners on with a walk and a single, but rookie pitcher Taylor Cabe entered the game and promptly produced a ground ball double play to escape the frame.

The score stayed at 1-0 entering the bottom of the fifth where Harvard found some two-out magic to plate the tying run. Galindo led off with a walk and moved to second on a Shelbi Olson groundout. Lange walked with two outs and Gusse followed with her third hit of the day, a single to centerfield that brought home Galindo to tie the game. Villanova would respond in the top of the seventh however, plating the go-ahead run on a Chase Snell double that scored Natalia Segovia. Olson led off the Harvard seventh with a single, but the next three batters made out to seal the 2-1 win for Villanova.

Olson led the way for Harvard with a two-hit game and rookie Lindsey Hagberg roped a double for Harvard. Cabe took the loss in the circle, going 3.2 innings and scattering three hits to go with three strikeouts in her debut.

Harvard continues play at the FGCU tournament tomorrow when it takes on North Dakota at 1:30 p.m., followed by host Florida Gulf Coast at 8:15 p.m.