Softball Readies for Visits by Cornell and Princeton

Maddy Kaplan leads the team with 29 hits (Envision Sports Media).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  – Harvard softball's week-long homestand continues Friday and Saturday with South Division foes Cornell and Princeton coming to town for a pair of doubleheaders. Friday's clash with rival Cornell will begin at 2 p.m. at Soldiers Field, while the matchup against the Tigers is slated for a 12:30 p.m. start Saturday. Weather-permitting, both series will be broadcast on the Ivy League Digital Network.

The Crimson (10-15, 1-3 Ivy) offense has exploded for 43 runs over its last three contests, including a pair of blowout wins Tuesday at home against Rhode Island. Laura Ricciardone and Taylor Cabe earned the wins in the circle, while Emily Gusse smashed two home runs and drove in six runs.

Gusse heads into the second weekend of Ivy League play as the team-leader in RBI, tallying 15 this season. She is tied with Katherine Lantz and Haley Davis for the team-lead in home runs with three. Freshman Maddy Kaplan continues to fulfill her duties as lead-off hitter, pacing the team with 29 hits and an on-base percentage of .443.

Ricciardone has accounted for half of the Crimson's wins this year, posting a 5-5 record in 12 starts. She boasts a team-high 39 strikeouts, but has the second-lowest ERA at 3.13. Junior Morgan Groom boasts the low ERA on staff at 2.82. She is 3-2 in five starts this season.

Harvard and Cornell will meet for the first time since the 2013 season, as last year's doubleheader was not played due to a series of rainouts. The Crimson maintains a 40-24 advantage over the Big Red, including winning five of the last seven meetings.

Harvard and Princeton have met 67 times since the first meeting back on April 25, 1981. The Tigers won that initial game and hold a 42-25 advantage in the all-time series. Harvard has had the more recent success, victorious in five of the last six games, including a doubleheader sweep in New Jersey last year.

Cornell (8-11, 2-2 Ivy) won three of four out-of-conference games this week after splitting at home with Brown and Yale last weekend. The Big Red swept two games at Morgan State before moving on to knock off Mount St. Mary's. George Washington ended the win streak though, downing Cornell, 8-7, Wednesday.

Freshman Karlie Mellot and junior outfielder Michiko McGivney lead the Big Red offense. Mellot edges McGivney in batting average, .421 to .420, with the latter leading the squad in RBI with 15 and doubles with 10. Junior infielder Emily Weinberg is the team-leader in hits with 25, sporting the third-best average at .397.

No pitcher on the Cornell staff holds an ERA under 5.00. Maddie Orcutt sets the standard at 5.37 to go with a 5-3 record in 11 appearances. Meg Parker is second with a 5.68 ERA, but leads the team in hit batsmen at five.

Princeton (10-13, 2-0 Ivy) enters the weekend on a three-game win streak, but will face Dartmouth in a doubleheader Friday before travelling to Cambridge on Saturday. The Tigers upended Brown twice last weekend by the score of 1-0 and then edged Rider, 5-4, on Tuesday.

Pitching has been the catalyst for success for Princeton's thus far. Opposite of Cornell, the Tigers' pitching staff is made up of five hurlers all with ERAs under 4.00. Ashley LaGuardia has tossed the most innings at 64.1, holding a 4-8 record and a 3.05 ERA. Shanna Christian has started the second-most games this season and carries a 2.78 ERA and a 2-3 record. In brief relief duty (5.2 innings), Erica Nori is yet to allow an earned run and is holding opposing batters to a .182 average.

Offensively, the Tigers' lineup does not have a single player hitting over .300. Alyssa Schmidt is tops at .298 with five doubles, a triple and two homers. Cara Worden has generated a team-high 10 RBI, but is hitting just .224.