Going into this past weekend, the Cornell softball team knew that it would have to play its best ball to stay atop the Ivy League standings. While the team did not play flawlessly, it played well enough to split two doubleheaders against Ivy foes Dartmouth and Harvard.
Friday’s doubleheader against Dartmouth featured a battle of two red-hot teams, both looking to remain unbeaten in the Ivy League. Riding a ten game winning streak into the affair, Cornell continued its dominance with an 11-3 thrashing in the first game. As has been the case all year long, freshman Kate Varde led the hit parade, belting three homeruns to extend her school record to twelve, and tying an NCAA record for most homers in a season by a freshman. The three round-trippers also tied a single game school record.
In addition to Varde, fellow freshmen Erin Sweeney and Melissa Cannon also went yard and had two hits apiece. There was balance throughout the lineup, as nine players had at least one hit, knocking around Dartmouth starter Christina Quattrocchi.
“We just hit the ball all over the field,” captain Charlotte Brombach noted. “Everyone produced.”
While Quattrocchi, last year’s Ivy League Rookie Pitcher of the Year, struggled, this year’s leading candidate for the award, Cornell freshman Sarah Sterman was up to task. She won her team high 11th game of the season by allowing just three runs on seven hits in a complete game effort.
As well as the Red swung the bat in the opener, however, it could not carry any momentum into the nightcap, losing a 1-0 pitcher’s duel. Once again, the Red badly out-hit the Green, but could not capitalize with runners in scoring position, stranding 14 runners on base.
Dartmouth scored the lone run of the game in the third inning. Erica Morgenstein drew a walk to lead off the inning. Playing small-ball, Carrie Sekela moved Morgenstein over to second on a sacrifice. With the runner on second, Sarah Damon provided the clutch hit, driving in the run with an RBI single.
The one run was more than enough for Dartmouth’s Lisa Caruso. Although she gave up seven hits, she never gave up the big hit, and had an uncanny ability to work out of the tough situations. The Red’s Nicole Zitarelli was the tough-luck loser. She pitched a complete game and surrendered just three hits while striking out ten.
“[Lisa Caruso] had a lot of movement, and it was tough for us,” Brombach stated. “We still put the ball in play, but the inability to come through hurt us.”
On Saturday, the Red traveled to Cambridge, Mass. to face the defending league champion, Harvard. To stay in contention for this year’s crown, Harvard desperately needed to salvage at least one win. The Crimson got off to a good start on the day with a 7-3 victory in game one.
Harvard struck early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second off of Sterman. Cornell answered in the top half of the third with a solo homerun from the bat of Sweeney, cutting the deficit to 3-1. However, the defending champs immediately took control of the game by snatching back the momentum in the bottom half of the inning, scoring two runs. Cornell cut the margin to 6-3 in the sixth inning on runs-scoring hits by Brombach and Cannon, but would get no closer.
Harvard pitcher Chelsea Thoke was the story of the game, allowing just one run in five innings of work. The 1999 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year also provided offensive clout for the Crimson, launching a two-run bomb in the three-run second inning. Sterman took the loss, giving up three earned runs in 3.1 innings. The generally steady defense did not do Sterman any favors by committing four errors.
“Chelsea really handled us,” Brombach added. “She’s just a very good pitcher.”
In the second game, Cornell looked to ace Zitarelli to be the stopper, and she delivered a 2-1 win. She kept the Crimson offense under wraps, allowing just one run on five hits in her second complete game outing of the weekend.
“Before the game, Coach Blood talked about the magnitude of the game, so I knew it was an important game,” Zitarelli commented. “I was a little nervous heading in.”
There were no signs of her trepidation on the mound, however, as she kept Harvard batters off balance for the entire day.
“We wanted to stay away from their power so we stayed on the outside corner,” Zitarelli explained. “We got ahead of the batters and then didn’t give them much to hit.”
Offensively, junior slugger Kristen Hricenak gave Zitarelli all the support she needed with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. After a single by Cannon, Hricenak teed off on an offering from Harvard’s Tiffany Whitten to give the Red a 2-0 advantage.
“Hricenak’s homerun really set the tone for the game,” Brombach added.
In the bottom of the inning, Harvard picked up steam, scoring an unearned run. However, Zitarelli proved too tough on this day, shutting the door on any comeback hopes. She allowed just two hits in the final three innings, securing the victory.
“After losing the first game, the team had great determination. I knew in my heart that we’d win that second game,” Brombach stated.
Even after the two losses this past weekend, Cornell remains first in the standings with an 8-2 mark. Dartmouth is second at 6-2 and Harvard is third at 5-3. Cornell’s season hangs in the balance this coming weekend, when it finishes its Ivy campaign with doubleheaders at home against Penn and Princeton. If Cornell runs the table, it is promised at least a share of the Ivy title.
Archived article by Alex Ip