CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard softball team is set to leave the mountains of snow and cold weather behind, heading to the Sunshine State to compete in the EMU Madeira Beach Spring Invitational. The Crimson is set to play five games in the Gulf Coast town, beginning with its season-opener Friday, Feb. 20 against Wichita State at 6:30 p.m.
SCOUTING THE CRIMSON
Captains Laura Ricciardone and Katherine Appelbe lead an experienced squad into 2015. Harvard returns 16 letterwinners from a squad that posted a 28-15-1 overall record and a 14-3-1 mark in the Ivy League. Five newcomers join the roster in the form of three outfielders, one infielder and a catcher.
In addition to Ricciardone and Appelbe, three more seniors return to the field after earning All-Ivy League accolades last year. Ricciardone and second baseman Katherine Lantz procured first team accolades. In the circle, Ricciardone led all conference pitchers with a 1.53 ERA and six shutouts, while tying for the league lead with 18 victories. Lantz led all Harvard players with 12 doubles last season, while ranking third in batting average (.326), RBI (22) and hits (43).
Shortstop Emily Gusse and outfielder Andrea Del Conte were second team selections. Gusse played all 44 games at short for Harvard, driving in the second most runs on the team (24), while shining on defense with a .951 fielding percentage and just seven errors all year. Harvard finished last season as the top base-stealing team in the Ancient Eight and leading that charge was Del Conte with 17 swipes. Adrienne Hume rounded out the Harvard selections with an honorable mention nod, as one of four Harvard players with at least 20 RBI on the season (21). She also played solid first base, committing just four errors on the season and boasting a .989 field percentage.
Despite the plethora of returning talent, Harvard will need to fill the positions voided by the departures of All-Ivy League players Kasey Lange at third base and Shelbi Olson in the outfield. Lange was a four-time unanimous first team selection during her career and led the team in batting average (.353), RBI (29) and home runs (six) last season. Olson garnered an honorable mention nod last season after leading the Crimson with 50 hits.
Harvard's 48 game schedule begins with 25 games on the road. The second weekend of competition sees the Crimson head to South Carolina for the Winthrop Invitational. Eleven games await Harvard in California during spring break before returning to the Northeast to begin Ivy League play at Columbia March 27. Harvard opens its home season April 3 against Cornell and closes out the regular season at Soldiers Field on April 26 versus Dartmouth.
SCOUTING WICHITA STATE
The Shockers sport a 6-3 record since opening the season on February 6 with a 3-2 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Wichita State competed last weekend in the Texas Classic in Austin, going 3-1 with wins over Colorado State, Texas and IPFW.
Four pitchers have gotten the call for Wichita State this season, posting a cumulative ERA of 4.27. Katie Malone has tossed the most innings, 23.2, with a team-leading 16 strikeouts. Of the four position players to start each game this season, outfielder Brittany Fortner has the highest batting average at .400. Her seven RBI trails only Cacy Williams' nine.
Similar to the Crimson, the Wildcats will be opening the season in Madeira Beach. Harvard and Villanova opened the season against each other in 2014 at the Florida Gulf Coast Tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, with the Wildcats edging out a 2-1 decision. Villanova finished last season 18-34 and 5-16 in Big East play.
Sophomore Lauren Herschberg returns to the Wildcats after a successful rookie season that saw her lead the team with a .291 batting average, 46 hits and 13 doubles. Junior Katie Poppe was a workhorse on the hill, making 41 appearances and earning a 2.05 ERA and a 13-25 record a year ago.
The Blazers are 5-4 with two weeks of competition under its belt this season. Taking part in Texas A&M Corpus Christi's Tournament last weekend, UAB downed the host school and swept Wisconsin to go 3-1 following a loss to South Dakota.
Junior infielder Caitlin Attfield paces the Blazers' offense with a 484 average and 15 hits. She is also 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts. Megan Smith has thrown 30.2 innings in seven appearances, striking out 27. She enters this weekend with a 5.02 ERA and a .317 batting average against.
SCOUTING TEXAS STATE
The Bobcats are .500 through their first 10 ballgames. Hosting the Hampton Inn & Suites Tournament to begin the year, Texas State knocked off Sam Houston State twice and defeated Northern Illinois to go 3-2. Bobcat Softball Stadium hosted its second straight tournament the following weekend, with the host school going 2-3 with a pair of wins over Texas Tech.
Freshman shortstop Ariel Ortiz has made an immediate impact in the Bobcats' lineup, leading her team with a .429 average, seven doubles, three long balls and nine RBI. Randi Rupp has been tasked in the circle with 46 innings already this season. She carries a 3.50 ERA, .246 batting average against and 53 K's.
SCOUTING ROBERT MORRIS
The Colonials are 2-2 after opening the season last week at the CSU Dome Tournament in Ohio. Robert Morris blanked Toledo, 9-0, in the season-opener and added a 3-1 toppling of Niagara.
RMU swept the first Northeast Conference weekly honors following its performance at CSU. Senior Alexis Schwartzmiller batted .455 with a 1.000 slugging percentage to take Player of the Week. Senior Nicole Sleith earned pitcher accolades by compiling a 1.21 ERA in 17.1 innings. Freshman Olivia Lorusso earned Rookie of the Week honors going .417 at the dish with a .462 on-base percentage during her first tournament at the collegiate level.