Sophomore Kasey Lange drove in the game-winning run against the Terrapins Saturday (Photo Courtesy: Richard Mcenery Photography).
SEATTLE, Wash. – Senior pitcher Rachel Brown showed her penchant for strikeouts, fanning 12 batters and leading Harvard softball to its first NCAA tournament win in 14 years, topping Maryland, 3-2 (8) Saturday in the first elimination game of the 2012 NCAA Seattle Regional. With the win, Harvard (34-14) earned the right to face Texas Tech in the final game of Saturday's schedule, while Maryland (34-22) was eliminated from the tournament.
With the score tied at 2-2 in the top of the eighth, Ashley Heritage slapped a one-out infield single over the pitchers head and promptly stole second to get into scoring position. RBI leader Kasey Lange came up with the big swing, lifting a ball to short left-center that dropped in for a double, scoring Heritage with the game-winning run. Brown was in complete control in the bottom of the inning, striking out the side to secure the victory for the Crimson.
After being held hitless through the first four innings, Harvard figured it out in the fifth as Katherine Lantz slotted a single through the right side to lead off the inning. A sac bunt by Allison Scott moved Lantz to second base and veteran Whitney Shaw roped a double into the right-centerfield gap, plating Lantz with Harvard's first run of the tournament. The next batter, Shelbi Olson followed suit, singling just in front of the right fielder, moving pinch-runner Andrea Del Conte to third with just one out. Freshman pinch hitter Emily Gusse came up big in her first NCAA at bat, looping a single over the shortstop's head, bring in Del Conte for a 2-0 lead.
Maryland responded with a vengeance in the bottom of the inning as a Kathy McLaughlin double gave the Terps runners at second and third with two outs. Vangie Galindo followed with a ringing double off the right-centerfield wall, bringing home two runs and knotting the score at 2-2 after five full frames.
Lange led off the top of the sixth with a sharp single up the middle but a trio of groundouts left her stranded on the base paths. Brown made short work of the Terrapins in the bottom of the sixth, picking up her eighth and ninth strikeouts of the game and keeping the score tied at two. Shaw drew a leadoff walk to start the Harvard seventh but the Crimson was unable to bring another run home, heading to the final half inning still tied.
Two Terrapin walks put the Crimson in a jam in the bottom of the seventh but a diving stop by Jane Alexander on a ball up the middle gave Harvard its third out and forced the game into extra frames.
Maryland leadoff hitter started the bottom of the first with a single through the right side but Rachel Brown settled quickly, fanning a pair in the frame and getting around the opening base hit. A walk and an error saw two Terrapins reach base in the second, but another two K's from Brown helped the Crimson escape the jam unscathed.
Harvard started to pick up the timing of Maryland starter Kendra Knight in the top of the fourth as Kasey Lange flied out deep to left centerfield and Jessica Ferri ripped a deep fly that was grabbed by the centerfielder near the warning track.