Softball Welcomes Yale to Soldiers Field, Hosts Senior Day on Sunday

Harvard will recognize its Class of 2015 prior to Sunday's games (Harvard Athletic Communications).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard softball (17-18, 8-4 Ivy) enters the home stretch of the season with nine games scheduled, beginning with a four-game set this weekend at Soldiers Field against rival Yale. A pair of doubleheaders are slated for Saturday and Sunday, with first pitch both days etched for 12:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to come out early on Sunday, as Harvard will honor the Class of 2015 in a brief Senior Day ceremony.

With just two weekends remaining in the regular season, the participants for the 2015 Ivy League Championship Series remains up in the air. In the North Division, Dartmouth maintains a three-game lead over Harvard with an 11-1 conference record and hosts Brown this weekend. Harvard, at 8-4, is second in the standings, four games ahead of the Bears.

In the South Division, a three-team battle is going strong. Princeton and Penn are both two games above .500, with the Tigers posting a 6-4 (.600) record, while the Quakers stand at 7-5 (.583). Columbia is two games under .500 at 5-7.

The winners of each division will meet May 2-3 at the site of team with the best record in a best-of-three series to determine the Ivy League champion.

Harvard holds an eye-popping 62-18 advantage in the all-time series over Yale and has not lost to the Bulldogs since April 12, 2009. Harvard's current win streak stands at 22 games. Since 2000, the Crimson has a 41-5 advantage over its archrival.

The Crimson will look to get back in the win column after suffering losses in its last three games. Harvard was riding a nine-game win streak before Brown knocked off the Crimson in the final game of last weekend's series, 4-2. Midweek, Harvard dropped games to Beantown rivals, Boston University and Boston College. In each of those three losses, Harvard had the lead first before its opponent mounted a comeback.

The primary source of offensive production for Harvard has come from its middle infielders. Seniors Emily Gusse and Katie Lantz account for 45 of Harvard's 145 RBI, or 31 percent. Gusse's 23 ranks fifth in the Ancient Eight, while Lantz's team-high batting average of .384 is good for fifth in that category. Another senior, Andrea Del Conte, has shown how dangerous she can be when she gets on base. With 18 steals this season, she leads the Ivy League by seven over Brown's Laura Hanna and Columbia's Kayla Shimoda.

As a pitching staff, the Crimson's combined ERA of 3.38 ranks third in the League, while its 171 strikeouts trail only Penn's 188. Three Harvard hurlers rank amongst the Ancient Eight's top-12 pitchers in ERA. Senior Laura Ricciardone ranks fifth at 2.63, while Morgan Groom is eighth at 3.19 and Taylor Cabe comes in 12th at 3.66. Ricciardone's nine wins is the second-highest count, two back of Dartmouth's Kristen Rumley.

The Bulldogs are 3-7 in their last 10 contests, but were able to snap a five-game losing skid on Wednesday, winning the second game of a double dip at home against Sacred Heart, 4-3. With a 2-8 record in Ivy League action, Yale is in fourth place in the North Division.

As a team, Yale ranks seventh in the Ivy League with a .240 batting average and is last with a .297 slugging mark and just seven stolen bases. Sophomore Camille Weisenbach has had an admirable season, hitting at a .333 clip, tied for 13th in the conference. Her 14 RBI is also the team-high. Classmate Sydney Glover paces Yale with 24 hits, edging out the 22 by Weisenbach and senior Hannah Brennan.

Similar to its offensive counterpart, the Yale pitching staff ranks second-to-last with a 5.05 ERA. Freshman Francesca Casalino has buoyed the staff, ranking seventh in the conference with a 3.17 ERA. She paces Yale with 75 innings pitched, 76 strikeouts and a 5-6 record. Her 7.09 strikeouts per game ratio is behind only the 7.43 mark set forth by Penn's Alexis Borden.