Sweep of Penn Gives Softball Second Straight Ivy Title, NCAA Berth

Harvard clinched its sixth Ivy League title with a sweep of Penn Friday (Kevin Burns).

The Harvard softball team swept the visiting University of Pennsylvania Quakers Friday afternoon to claim the Ivy League Championship Series, two games to none and advance to the NCAA Championship. Harvard won Game 1, 1-0, and finished off Penn by a score of 5-2 in the nightcap.

The title is Harvard's sixth in team history, all of which have come under head coach Jenny Allard. It is Harvard's second sweep of Penn in the Ivy Championship Series, the first time being the inaugural series in 2007. It is the fourth time a championship series has been decided in just two games.

Game 1 pitted the league's top two pitchers, Penn's Alexis Borden and Harvard's Rachel Brown, against each other and it proved to be as much of a pitcher's duel as expected. Brown and Borden silenced the opposing bats through three full innings as neither team was able to record a hit. Elysse Gorney broke the hitless streak with a one-out double in the top of the fourth but a fly out and pop out cut the rally short. Harvard took a small-ball approach in the bottom of the inning, moving Jane Alexander to third after a leadoff single, but a Borden strikeout kept the game scoreless.

Harvard was finally able to break through in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a pair of hits and a Penn miscue. Ashley Heritage and Alexander logged consecutive walks to start the inning and RBI leader Kasey Lange came to the plate with two on and one out. Lange punched an infield single and the Penn second baseman made an errant throw to try to cut down Alexander at second, allowing Heritage to score the game's only run. Stephanie Regan followed with a single that caromed off third base to load the bases, but a fly out and ground out kept the score at 1-0. Kayla Dahlerbruch reached on a one-out single in the seventh, but Kasey Lange snared a Brooke Coloma line drive and threw to first to complete the game-ending double play.

Brown picked up her 19th win of the season, twirling a three-hit shutout with four strikeouts and no walks.  

The bats came alive for the Crimson in Game 2 as Harvard collected a pair of hits in the top of the first and another in the second, threatening but not scoring in the innings. Laura Ricciardone was in command in the circle, not allowing a hit in the first two frames. The Crimson jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third as Shelbi Olson and Emily Gusse collected singles, Katherine Lantz walked and Adrienne Hume earned the first RBI of the series with a bases-loaded walk. Whitney Shaw followed with a fly ball to left that was deep enough to score pinch-runner Camilla Gibson from third.

The small-ball approach paid off again for Harvard in the top of the fifth when Gibson led off with a single and Lantz moved her into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Hume picked up her second RBI of the game, connecting on a single through the middle that brought in Gibson from second. Georgia Guttadauro led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and came in to score Penn's first run on a tough Harvard error.

The Crimson padded its lead in the sixth as a double by Olson and singles from Lange, Regan and Lantz saw Harvard bring in two more runs to take a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the inning. An RBI groundout from Dahlerbruch brought the Quakers to within three at 5-2, but that is as close as they would get. Rachel Brown played the closer role for the Crimson and struck out the final Penn batter to clinch the series for Harvard.

The Crimson banged out 12 hits in Game 2 with Olson, Regan and Hume all recording two apiece. Ricciardone earned her 14th victory of the 2012 season and Brown collected her second save of the year in two innings of relief.

Harvard now awaits the NCAA selection show Sunday night at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.