Harvard heads to Brown for a key Ivy League North Division series against the Bears. (Gil Talbot)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard softball team (15-16, 6-6 Ivy League) hits the road this weekend for back-to-back doubleheaders against Brown (13-24, 3-9 Ivy League). The games will take place on Saturday and Sunday (April 22-23), with play beginning at 12:30 p.m. each day. The Sunday doubleheader will air on the Ivy League Digital Network.
The Crimson currently sits in second place in the Ivy League North Division, three games behind Dartmouth (9-3 Ivy League). Harvard is coming off a solid weekend, winning three of four games against Ivy League North Division rival Yale. The Crimson dropped a midweek contest to Providence, 8-3, at Soldiers Field on Tuesday afternoon.
Lockhart Showing Power at Plate
Sophomore third baseman Erin Lockhart is enjoying a breakout season at the plate, leading the team with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Last week, Lockhart had a big impact at the plate for Harvard and was flawless in the field on 24 chances at third base. Harvard went 4-1, and Lockhart went 10-for-15 (.667) with four extra base hits (three doubles, HR) and 12 RBI. Including Lockhart's 1-for-4 effort against Providence on Tuesday, the sophomore has now hit safely in seven straight games. She leads the team with 11 extra base hits (seven doubles, four HRs).
Harvard has been one of the top fielding teams in the Ivy League (2nd) the nation (.968, 56th NCAA), which has been particularly evident of late. The Crimson has made just one error over the past five games.
Sophomore Rhianna Rich leads the Ivy League and is 15th in the nation with five triples on the season. Rich had two triples in Harvard's 5-4 (9 inn.) win against Yale on April 16.
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 (.431, 2nd Ivy League) and has recorded a hit in 25 of Harvard's 31 games this season. She also leads the team with eight stolen bases and 23 runs scored on the year. Kaplan is hitting .382 on the year (7th, Ivy League) and is second on the team with nine extra-base hits (all doubles). She is tied with Rich for the team lead with 23 runs on the season and has 14 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 13 games this season. Harvard entered the weekend with two of the top five pitchers in the Ivy League based on ERA, with Sarah Smith (4-3, 3.18 ERA, 3rd Ivy League) leading the way. Kathleen Duncan (3.63 ERA, 6th Ivy League) has been excellent as well.
Brown has set a program record for team home runs in a single season with 29 homers thus far in 2017. Junior Annie McGregor has provided the Bears with power in the middle of the lineup, registering a .336 average, .628 slugging percentage, 23 runs, 38 hits, eight doubles, two triples, seven homers, and 23 RBIs. Junior Katie Orona and sophomore Meghan Wimmer have given the Bears two quality options in the circle. Orona has notched a .354 ERA over 20 appearances, 16 starts, and 87.0 innings with five wins, seven complete games and 37 strikeouts. She ranks fourth in the league in innings, third in starts, sixth in appearances, fifth in complete games, and fifth in ERA.
Wimmer has recorded a 4.05 ERA over 19 appearances, 11 starts, and 86.1 innings with six wins, six complete games, and 36 strikeouts.
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.
The Crimson begin the season with trips to Florida, California, and Hawaii to compete in tournaments hosted by Eastern Michigan, Long Beach State/Cal-Fullerton, and Hawaii. Harvard opens the season at the EMU Madeira Beach Invitational from Feb. 24-26. Then Harvard will head west for the Long Beach State/Cal-Fullerton Invitational from March 10-12. The Crimson will head further west from there for the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu from March 14-18.
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.
RELATED ARTICLE: Softball Welcomes Five as Class of 2020
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.
RELATED ARTICLE: Softball Posts Top-10 GPA in Division 1; 15 Named All-America Scholar Athletes
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.