Andrea Del Conte and Harvard visit Brown this weekend (Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – After a week that saw three home games postponed due to weather for Harvard softball (14-15, 5-3 Ivy), the Crimson are set to get back on the field this weekend, traveling to Providence, Rhode Island for a pair of doubleheaders against Brown (9-12, 3-5 Ivy). The four-game set represents the first weekend of division play, as Harvard seeks to capture its first North Division title since 2012. First pitch on both Saturday and Sunday is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
With the rain-outs this week, the Crimson will carry a six-game win streak into the weekend's series against the Bears. Harvard improved to 14-15 overall and overtook sole possession of second place in the North Division last week with an out-of-conference sweep of Rhode Island, followed by sweeps of South Division foes Cornell and Princeton.
Harvard's run differential during its recent six-game win streak stands at 49-8 and includes shutouts of URI and Cornell. Shortstop Emily Gusse led the Crimson offense last week with nine RBI, doubling her season total, and .563 average at the dish. She jacked two home runs and three doubles en route to posting a 1.125 slugging mark. For the year, Gusse is hitting .289 and is the only player to start all 29 games.
Outfielder Andrea Del Conte also had a strong week at the plate, going 8-for-16 (.500), while also walking four times to post a .600 on-base percentage. Speedy on the base paths, Del Conte was 6-for-7 on steal attempts to bring her season total to a team-best 15. Alexa Altchek was great off the bench, posting hits in three of her four pinch-hitting opportunities, driving in six runs.
As successful as the bats were for Harvard, the pitching was equally as effective. Laura Ricciardone improved to 8-5 on the year and dropped her ERA to 2.47, fifth-lowest in the Ivy League, after not allowing an earned run in 19.1 innings of work last week. She earned four of Harvard's wins and gave up just 16 hits to pick up her second Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honor. Taylor Cabe earned Harvard's other two wins, pitching 12.1 frames in which she allowed just one earned run. Hitters struggled against Cabe all week as she limited opposing hitters to a .152 batting average.
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This series with the Crimson will mark the second-consecutive home weekend of Ivy League play for Brown. Last weekend, the Bears stole two games from Penn by scores of 6-1 and 6-5, but were shut down the next day by Columbia, 8-3, 8-0. Brown went on the road on Wednesday, handing Bryant a 2-0 setback in five frames.
The top arm on the Brown pitching staff, freshman Katie Orona tossed all five innings at Bryant, posting seven strikeouts in the shutout to bring her season total to 74 K's and improving her record to 6-4. Her 1.96 ERA stands as the second-best mark in the Ancient Eight. Senior Jessica Cherness has recorded a 3.32 ERA in 46.1 frames, earning a 3-4 record. Cherness, though, has a knack for giving up the long ball, with opposing batters hitting seven off her this season.
Junior infielder Janet Leung has been the most efficient hitter this season for the Bears, leading the team by over .100 points with a .423 average. Her 30 hits are 12 more than outfielder Lauren Hanna's 18 for the team lead, while her six doubles matches rookie Yeran Park for the team high. Hanna paces Brown with eight stolen bases, although Brown has just 19 swipes as a team this year. Park has been the best run-generator for the Bears, driving in her 14 of her teammates.
It'll be the clash of Boston school midweek for the Crimson, as it hosts Boston University at 3 p.m. Tuesday and then visits Boston College on Thursday at 4 p.m. Harvard will then return home to face Yale next weekend.