Harvard softball begins 2016 in Jacksonville (Harvard Athletics).
Harvard (0-0) vs. Presbyterian (4-3)
Harvard vs. St. Bonaventure (0-5)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard softball team will escape the cool temperatures of the Northeast this weekend, opening the season in Jacksonville, Florida where it will play a quartet of games at the JU Green and Gold Classic hosted by Jacksonville University.
The Crimson will play its first game of the season Friday, Feb. 26 at 11:30 a.m. against Presbyterian, followed up with a 2 p.m. matchup against St. Bonaventure. Saturday sees Harvard play two more games, facing Albany at 2 p.m. before closing out the weekend against host Jacksonville at 7 p.m. All games will be played at The Debbie & Fred Pruitt Softball Complex.
Harvard is slated to play 21 games on the road or at neutral sites before hosting a home game at Soldiers Field. In addition to this weekend's JU Green and Gold Classic, the Crimson will play in the Eagle Classic at Georgia Southern, the Loyola Marymount Tournament and the San Diego State Classic II. Harvard's first home doubleheader will come March 29 against Boston College. Columbia, Penn, Maine, Brown and Dartmouth will also visit Cambridge over the course of the season.
Harvard's rosters tilts to the youthful side this season, as 13 of the 23 student-athletes are freshmen or sophomores. Six juniors and four seniors round out the class distribution.
RELATED ARTICLE: Softball Welcomes Eight Newcomers in Class of 2019
Harvard's roster is comprised of players from all over the U.S. with 12 states represented. The stretch of the Crimson reaches as far west as Hawaii with freshman Nicki Nishizawa, as south as Florida with three athletes calling the Sunshine State home and as close to Cambridge as Connecticut with sophomore Morgan Macchiarulo.
2015 Season Recap
The Crimson posted a 23-21 overall record last season and a 13-7 mark in the Ivy League which was good for second in the North Division. Harvard relied heavily on its seniors in 2015, as they accounted for three of the top five hitters and its top pitcher. Position players Maddy Kaplan andCatherine Callaway return from last year after batting .344 and .304, respectively. Senior Morgan Groom and junior Taylor Cabe also return to the circle for the Crimson. Cabe tossed 86.2 innings last season and earned six wins with a 4.12 ERA. Groom pitched 65.2 innings, won five games and had a 3.20 ERA.
All-Ivy Shoes To Fill
Harvard placed five players on All-Ivy League teams in 2015. Four of those players graduated a few short weeks later. Pitcher Laura Ricciardone, second baseman Katie Lantz and outfielder Andrea Del Conte were all first team selections, while shortstop Emily Gusse was honorable mention.
The lone All-Ivy choice from last season to return to the Crimson this season is sophomore Maddy Kaplan. As a rookie, Kaplan garnered first team accolades after she batted .344 with 43 hits. She also added in two homers, 16 RBI, 11 walks, 20 runs scored and only struck out nine times all season.
The 2014-15 Harvard softball team posted the fifth-highest GPA in the nation. Harvard's GPA came in at 3.595 and was the only team from the Ivy League in the top-30, with Yale coming in next at 32nd overall. The Crimson and Bulldogs were the only two Ancient Eight schools in the top 50.
Individually, 15 Harvard players were selected NFCA All-America Scholar-Athletes. To be selected as an NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete, a student-athlete must earn a GPA of 3.5 or higher for that academic year.
The Presbyterian Blue Hose of Clinton, South Carolina sport a 4-3 record after the first week of its season. Following two road wins at Furman, the Big Hose went 2-3 last weekend at the Charlotte 49ers Tournament. Presbyterian knocked off Stony Brook, split with St. Joseph's and were swept in two games against Charlotte. A year ago, Presbyterian finished an even 25-25 overall and 10-12 in the Big South to finish sixth in the conference standings.
Through the early portion of the season, Hope Rogers is blazing a trail with her .478 batting average and 1.043 slugging mark thanks to four home runs. Also batting over .300 thus far is Kersten Legacki (.389), Erin Ruff (.333), Megan Anderson (.333) and Kelsie Sanchez (.304).
Friday's meeting will be the first ever between Harvard and Presbyterian
Scouting St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies are winless at 0-5 entering the JU Green and Gold Classic. St. Bonaventure lost each of its games at the Mercer Invitational in Macon, Georgia Feb. 12-14, getting outscored 41-7 over those 5 contests. Last season, St. Bonaventure went 15-24 overall and 7-11 in the A-10 Conference, losing in the opening round of the postseason tournament to Fordham and La Salle.
Seniors Kelli Rohan and Emily McDonough have provided the most offense this season, batting .417 and .333, respectively. The combined ERA of the pitching staff is 8.83, while opposing pitchers boast a 1.88 mark against the Bonnies.
Similar to Presbyterian, Friday will be Harvard's first matchup ever against St. Bonaventure.
The Danes, like the Crimson, are taking the field for the first time in 2016 this weekend. Albany faces St. Bonaventure Friday and then Presbyterian earlier in the day Saturday before its matchup with Harvard at 2 p.m. Albany was one of the top teams in America East last season, finishing second in the conference standings with an 11-6 record and an overall mark of 30-18. In the America East Tournament though, the Danes were downed by Binghamton and Maine.
Senior Maggie Cocks was the team leader at the dish last season for the Danes, batting .411 with 47 RBI. Junior Elizabeth Snow also had a good season, hitting at a .404 clip and slugging a team-best .743. Sophomore right-hander Devin Durando led Albany with 14 victories in the circle in 2015. Over 116.2 innings, she posted a 3.60 ERA and 119 strikeouts.
Saturday will be the second meeting ever between Harvard and Albany. The squads met in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007 in Hempstead, New York when the Danes edged out a 1-0 win.
The Dolphins have played all but two games at home to date and hold a 6-5 record. Jacksonville hosted the Dolphin Invitational last weekend, topping Pittsburgh, Penn State and Georgetown to go 3-2. It's only two games not on its home diamond were at No. 1 Florida Feb. 17 when it was swept by the Gators, 6-0 and 10-0.
Sophomore Danielle Baker is the lone JU hitter averaging over .300 at .345. She has a team-high 10 hits and eight RBI. Senior Victoria Brown has handled the bulk of the pitching duties, going 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA. Junior Paige Curtis has also tossed 20 innings and has a 5.95 ERA.
Harvard and Jacksonville had met once prior, with the Dolphins earning a 5-1 victory back on March 1, 2013.