Taylor Cabe has 14 wins this season, second-most in the Ivy League (Fran Ruchalski).
Harvard (28-15, 16-4 Ivy) vs. Princeton (21-25, 14-6 Ivy)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – With the climatic regular season in the rear view, the North Division champion Harvard softball team (28-15, 16-4 Ivy) will host South Division champ Princeton (21-25, 14-6 Ivy) this weekend in the best-of-three 2016 Ivy League Championship Series at Soldiers Field.
The series can be seen in its entirety on the Ivy League Digital Network. Play begins Saturday, May 7 at 1 p.m. with a doubleheader and continues with game three on Sunday at the same time, if necessary.
How Harvard Got Here
Heading into the final series of the regular season, Harvard needed to take three of four games from Dartmouth to capture the North Division title. The Crimson took the first two games in a doubleheader sweep Saturday at home, but had to wait a couple extra days to play the last two matchups as Sunday's originally scheduled two-game set in Hanover was rained out.
The teams instead met Tuesday afternoon at the Dartmouth Softball Complex. The Big Green rallied to win the first game with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, giving each team a 15-4 conference record and making the final game of the season a winner-take-all matchup for the North Division crown. Harvard exacted its revenge in the second game, scoring four runs in the top of the seventh to overcome a one-run deficit and take the clinching game, 8-5.
How Princeton Got Here
The Tigers won its final seven games of the season on its way to a 14-6 conference record, finishing as the lone team in the South Division to post a winning record against the Ivy League. Princeton closed out its regular season winning the final three games of its series at Columbia and then swept Cornell in a home-and-home series.
Ivy League Championship Series History
The Ivy League has been conducting the Ivy League Championship Series between the North and South Division champions since 2007. With its North title this season, Harvard has now finished atop its division six times and has earned the right to host the series as the team with the best conference record for the fourth time.
The host school has won the championship series every year, with Harvard taking home The Johnson-Crowley Trophy when it hosted in 2007, 2011 and 2012.
This weekend's Ivy League Championship Series pits the two most decorated programs in terms of conference championships against one another. Princeton has won a league-best 17 titles, including 16 outright, since the Ivy League began recognizing a champion in 1980. Harvard ranks second with six conference titles, five of those outright. Princeton last won the Ancient Eight in 2008 when it beat the Crimson in two games at the Class of 1985 Field. That is the lone title for the Tigers during the Championship Series era. Harvard's most recent championship came in 2012 when it swept Penn at Soldiers Field. The Crimson also beat the Quakers when it won the conference title in 2007 and beat Cornell in 2011, all in two game sweeps at Soldiers Field.
What's on the Line
The winner of this year's Ivy League Championship Series will punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament as the conference's automatic bid. Princeton and Harvard have accounted for 13 of the league's 22 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, with the Tigers going to the Big Dance eight times and Harvard five. Harvard reached the NCAAs in 1998, 2000, 2007, 2011 and most recently, 2012. At the 2012 tournament, the Crimson reached the regional final at Washington after beating Maryland and Texas Tech. Princeton's last NCAA appearance came in 2008.
Harvard is an unblemished 12-0 at Soldiers Field this season with 10 of those victories coming in the Ivy League. Boston College (March 29) and Maine (April 14) are the two out-of-conference wins at home.
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Kaplan The Great
Sophomore Maddy Kaplan has proven to be an indispensable piece of the Crimson lineup during her first two seasons. The Santa Monica, California native leads the Ivy League with a .446 average this season. That mark currently stands as the fourth-best single-season batting average in program history among hitters with 50 or more at bats. Kaplan's career average of .392 in 237 at bats ranks as the third-highest mark in Harvard history among qualified hitters.
Rookies Rhianna Rich and Meagan Lantz continue to show why the left side of the Harvard infield has a bright future. While the duo has just seven combined errors all season, it is their work at the plate that has really garnered attention. Both players have recorded at least 50 hits this season, giving Harvard the only pair of teammates to accomplish that. Rich paces the conference with 59, and is one shy of the league-lead with four triples. Her .393 batting average ranks third in the Ancient Eight. Lantz has stepped in and provided a power bat for the Crimson, jacking seven homers this season, tied for third in league, while her 36 RBI is tied for second. Her .333 batting average is good for 13th in the conference.
A breakdown of the Ivy League offensive statistics is a good indicator of why the Crimson posted the best record in the conference this season. Harvard leads, or is tied for the lead, in eight offensive categories. Most notable, Harvard has the league's top batting average by 35 points with a .315 average. The Crimson is also the lone team with over 200 RBI at 219, while also recording 30 more hits (380) than second-place Princeton, in 51 less at bats.
Top Notch Pitching
Harvard's primary starters this season, senior Morgan Groom and junior Taylor Cabe rank among the top hurlers in the Ivy League this season. Groom is just shy of the league-lead with her 2.30 ERA, but paces the Ancient Eight with a 6.69 strikeouts per game mark. Cabe's 14 wins this season is good for second in the Ivy League, while her 3.12 ERA is eighth-best. Entering the weekend, Groom has pitched 97.1 innings, one more than Cabe.
Follow the Leader
Who holds the top statistical marks for the Crimson this year?
A Look Back
Harvard and Princeton split its doubleheader back on April 2 in New Jersey. The Tigers took the opening game by a score of 2-0, but the Crimson bounced back with a 1-0 shutout of its own in game two. Taylor Cabe tossed one of her eight complete games this year, giving up just five hits and striking out five.
Harvard trails Princeton in the all-time series, 28-43, but recent history has favored the Crimson with the home team of the Championship Series posting a 12-3 mark in the last 15 matchups.
The Tigers finished the regular season with a 21-25 overall record and a 14-6 record in the Ivy. As previously mentioned, Princeton closed out the year with seven-straight wins, putting up a 52-14 run differential in that span.
Freshman Kaylee Grant has been the top offensive threat this season, leading the Tigers with a .347 batting average and 25 RBI. She is tied for third in the conference with seven homers, one ahead of senior Skype Jerpbak. Jerpback is third on the team with a .330 average. Sophomore Danielle Dockx paces the Tigers with nine doubles, while rookie Kaitlyn Waslawski leads the Ivy with 21 stolen bases.
Princeton's two starting pitchers, senior Shanna Christian and sophomore Ashley La Guardia both enter the weekend with a 3.63 ERA. La Guardia has accrued nine wins this season and struck out 50 batters and walked 53, while Christian has sat down 66 and sports a 4-9 record.
Ivy League Digital Network
The Ivy League Digital Network returns for a third season as the home for all live streaming and on-demand video content for each of the conference's eight institutions. Broadcast in full HD and featuring a live score bug and play-by-play and color commentary, the Ivy League Digital Network provides fans with unprecedented access to the Ancient Eight.
Multiple subscription options are available to fans, including school-specific and league-wide passes. To learn more about the Ivy League Digital Network or to sign-up today, click here.
Use the Social Stream on GoCrimson.com to stay connected with the Crimson on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube this year. The Social Stream brings the conversation from all four platforms into one convenient location, allowing fans of all Harvard Athletics teams to monitor the action in real time.