CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard softball team (8-9) kicks off Ivy League play this weekend with road contests at Penn (9-8) and Columbia (7-13) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Both series were shifted forward one day due to forecasted inclement weather on Friday. Game one of each doubleheader will start at 12:30 p.m. The games at Penn will air on the Ivy League Digital Network.
With Harvard trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the third inning against Holy Cross (3-15) on Tuesday (March 28), play was halted due to rain in the Crimson's home opener. Harvard and Holy Cross will try to find a mutually agreed upon day to continue the game.
Trailing 5-0 in the bottom of the third, the Crimson bats came alive, as junior outfielder Dallas Hogan reached on an infield single with one out and stole second. Then sophomore shortstop Rhianna Rich plated Hogan with a line drive triple all the way to the centerfield fence. Junior outfielder Maddy Kaplan's run scoring groundout cut the Holy Cross lead to three runs. With the rain coming down, Harvard loaded the bases with two outs on a hit-by-pitch and two walks before the game was halted.
Schiffhauer Stars In Hawaii
Sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Schiffhauer was named to the Rainbow Wahine Classic All-Tournament Team after leading Harvard with four RBIs and an on base percentage of .444 in seven games. In Harvard's 7-3 win over Purdue on March 17, Schiffhauer led Harvard with a single and two RBI in the game. Schiffhauer reached base in four of the five games she started during the Hawaii trip.
Rich and Kaplan Off To Good Starts
Sophomore Rhianna Rich, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, junior Maddy Kaplan, last year's Ivy League batting champion, are not surprisingly leading Harvard at the plate so far in 2017. Rich has the team's best batting average (.417, 3rd Ivy League) and has recorded a hit in 14 of Harvard's 17 games this season. She also leads the team with five stolen bases on the year.
Kaplan is hitting .368 on the year and is tied for the team lead with five extra-base hits (all doubles). She has scored a team-best 11 runs on the season and has eight RBIs.
Early Success In The Circle
Early on this season, Harvard has been led by strong pitching performances, as the Crimson has allowed three runs or less in nine games this season. Harvard has two of the top five pitchers in the Ivy League based on ERA, with Sarah Smith (4-1, 2.90 ERA, 3rd Ivy League) leading the way. Taylor Cabe (3.28 ERA, 5th Ivy League) has been excellent as well.
Harvard is set to play 45 games with three early season tournaments on the West Coast and beyond, as well as 13 home games at Soldiers Field.
Harvard returns to the East Coast the following weekend for an event hosted by Marist on March 25-26, where the Crimson will play two games each against Hartford and Marist. The team's home opener will be a non-conference contest against Holy Cross on March 28. Harvard will round out its non-conference schedule with a game at home against BU on April 4, and a road contest at Bryant on April 11. The Crimson kick off Ivy League play on March 31 with two games at Penn.
COMPLETE SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
Harvard will have a lot of experience when it takes the field for the first time this weekend. The Crimson returns 19 letterwinners from a season ago, including six seniors, and 13 of the 24 student-athletes who are sophomores or juniors. Five freshmen join the team with two hailing from California, with the other three calling Missouri, Texas and Virginia home. The class features one pitcher, one catcher, one infielder, one pitcher/infielder and a utility player.
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Harvard's roster is comprised of players from all over the U.S. with 14 states represented. The stretch of the Crimson reaches as far west as Hawaii with sophomore Nicki Nishizawa, as south as Florida with three athletes calling the Sunshine State home and as close to Cambridge as Connecticut with junior Morgan Macchiarulo.
2016 Season Recap
The Crimson posted a 29-17 overall record last season and a 16-4 mark in the Ivy League which was tops in the North Division. An infusion of youth, good pitching, plus an impressive offensive season from sophomore Maddy Kaplan lifted Harvard to its sixth Ivy League North Division Championship and first since 2012. Kaplan, the Ivy League batting champion (.472), led the way for Harvard's offensive, while freshman Rhianna Rich, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, led the conference in hits (61) and had a .433 average in league games. Senior Morgan Groom was outstanding (10-4, 2.30 ERA) in the circle for the Crimson, earning Ivy League Pitcher of the Year honors.
All-Ivy Selections Back For More
Harvard placed seven players on All-Ivy League teams in 2016, and will lose just two to graduation – Morgan Groom and second team All-Ivy selection Zoe Galindo, who was Harvard's starting centerfielder and co-captain last year. Returning for the Crimson will be three All-Ivy first team selections – senior second baseman and co-captain Giana Panariello, sophomore third baseman Meagan Lantz, and junior outfielder Maddy Kaplan. Second team All-Ivy selections – sophomore shortstop Rhianna Rich and sophomore catcher Elizabeth Shively – will also lead an experienced Harvard team.
The Harvard softball team was recognized last year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) as one of the Top-10 Academic Teams in NCAA Division I, posting the eighth-highest GPA nationally.
Last season, the Crimson posted a 3.590 GPA over the fall and spring semester of 2015-16, the highest mark of any school in the Ivy League. Harvard's accomplishment stands out in the Ivy League, as the Crimson joined Yale (40th) as the only conference institutions among the top-50 in the nation in team GPA. In addition, 15 student-athletes from the 2015-16 team were honored as NFCA All-America Scholar Athletes for earning GPAs of at least 3.5 last year. Harvard's 15 selections match last year's number as the most the Crimson have had in recent years. Harvard outpaced the Ivy League with Columbia having nine selections as the second-highest Ancient Eight school on the list.
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The Quakers played seven times within a six-day span and came through with a 5-2 record. Penn enters Ivy play with an overall mark of 9-8. Alexis Sargent, who was named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week for a second time on Monday, put together three complete-game efforts, going 2-1 with 26 strikeouts and a 1.33 ERA. Sargent leads the Ivy League in wins (5), strikeouts (60) and ERA (2.27). Offensively, Sarah Cwiertnia led the way during Penn's homestand, posting team-highs in both average (.435) and RBI (8) in the seven contests. The sophomore now leads the Ivy League in RBI with 18, while ranking fifth in the conference in total batting (.386).
Columbia has hit 15 home runs in 20 games, ranking among the top 25 percent of teams in the NCAA in home runs per game (0.75). Junior Madison Gott leads the power attack with five home runs on the campaign. Gott is also among the top 60 in the NCAA in batting average (.429) and inside the top 70 in slugging percentage (.730).
In the circle, rookies Madison Canby and Erin Gallo have combined to start each of the last six games. Gallo owns a team-best 2.78 ERA in 22 2/3 innings pitched. Canby has seen the most work of any of Columbia's pitchers this season, tossing 53 2/3 innings and striking out 29.
Ivy League Digital Network
The Ivy League Digital Network returns for a fourth 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.