Harvard vs. Detroit Mercy (2-3)
Harvard vs. Loyola (Ill.) (5-0)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard softball team will open the 2017 campaign this weekend (Feb. 24-26) at the EMU Madeira Beach Invitational in Florida, hosted by Eastern Michigan University. The Crimson will play five games, starting with its season opener on Friday, Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. against Manhattan. Harvard will then play Detroit at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday (Feb. 25), Harvard will play games against Stony Brook (4 p.m.) and Loyola (Ill.) (6:30 p.m.). The Crimson will close the event with a Sunday game against Albany at 9 a.m. All games will take place at the Madeira Beach Recreation Complex.
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.
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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
Manhattan will make its season debut on Friday against Harvard, and is coming off a second place finish in the MAAC in 2016, with a 30-21 mark overall. Manhattan won 30 games for the first time since 1993, and set a program record with 14 MAAC wins. The Jaspers lose one of the greatest players in program history in Elena Bowman, but return a talented team.
Three Jaspers were named to the Preseason All-MAAC Team, including junior outfielder Shannon Puthe, senior designated player Jenn Vazquez, and junior utility player Briana Matazinsky. Puthe led the Jaspers with a .368 batting average and 40 runs scored last season. Vazquez started all 51 games in 2016 and led the Jaspers with 54 hits. Matazinsky led the team with 11 doubles and 36 RBIs while hitting .338 in 2016. IIn the circle, she posted an 11-7 record with 84 strikeouts and a 2.49 ERA.
Harvard is 1-1 in the all-time series against Manhattan.
Detroit is off to a 2-3 start after participating in the Total Control Sports Invitational in Rosemont, Ill. Detroit picked up a win against Fort Wayne (9-1) on Feb. 11, and beat Western Illinois (5-1) in its last game of the tournament on Feb. 12, The Titans were selected to finish eighth in the conference in the preseason coaches' poll. Detroit returns eight letter-winners from a year ago and add nine newcomers in 2017 – with six freshmen and three transfers. Outfielders Laura Villagrana and Cheyenne Willeford look to pick up where they left off from last season. Villagrana ranked second on the team with 45 hits and a .292 batting average, while Willeford led the team in stolen bases (15) a year ago. Sophomore infielder Jordan Manno had one of the best rookie campaigns in Titan history, earning Second Team and All-Freshman Horizon League honors. Manno led Detroit in most offensive categories, including batting average (.320), runs (29), hits (47), doubles (7), on-base percentage (.422) and walks (20).
Harvard and Detroit Mercy have never met in softball.
Scouting Stony Brook
Stony Brook was picked to finish fourth in America East this season. The Seawolves finished 2016 with a 24-22-2 overall record, finishing 11-6 in America East play. Stony Brook returns five starters this season, adding six newcomers. Stony Brook loses Allie Pisciotta, who was an All-ECAC First Team All-Star and the team leader in average (.388) and hits (66) last year. Senior infielder Lexie Shue, who has made 102 starts in 119 games played in her career, and junior infielder Chelsea Evans, who was fourth on the team in hits (44) and added six home runs and 26 RBIs, will serve as captains for Stony Brook.
Harvard is 1-1 in the all-time series against Stony Brook.
Scouting Loyola (Ill.)
Loyola (Ill.) opened the 2017 season at the Total Control Invitational, finishing the event with a perfect 5-0 record to give the program its best start ever. The Ramblers recorded wins against IUPUI, Western Illinois, Green Bay, Detroit, and Fort Wayne at the event. Sophomore Katie Kasubke is off to a flying start with a .500 average, including a team best six hits and three RBI. Freshman outfielder Shannon McGee (.429 average, 5 RBI) also is off to a strong start for Loyola.
Senior outfielder Erica Nagel was Loyola's standout last season, and is a preseason First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. She set a school and Missouri Valley Conference record with a .453 batting average and 72 hits.
Harvard and Loyola (Ill.) have never met in softball.
UAlbany finished second in America East last season with a 34-18 mark, including an 11-5 showing in conference play. UAlbany was one of the league's strongest offensive teams, batting .315 as a team with a .416 on base percentage. Three second-team all-conference selections return for the Great Danes, including senior catcher Liz Snow, senior infielder Mackenzie Cleary, and junior outfielder Donna Conrad. Snow was selected to the FastPitch News 2017 Preseason Top 50 NCAA Softball Hitters list, leading the America East in seven offensive categories in the 2016 season. Cleary led the Great Danes and ranked fourth in the America East with 241 put outs, while Conrad had an impressive on base percentage (.459) including six home runs, two triples, and ten doubles.
Harvard is 0-2 in the all-time series against Albany.