×

Green Sticks to Form

  • Micah Schroder, of Dartmouth, gets under a fly ball to make the final out of a double header with Brown at the Dartmouth Softball Park in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, May 5, 2018. Dartmouth won both games 9-1 and 8-7. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Taylor Ward, of Dartmouth, slides safely into second base ahead of the tag by Kaitlin Okimoto, of Brown, at the Dartmouth Softball Park in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, May 5, 2018. Dartmouth won 8-7. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Schae Nelson is met by her Dartmouth teammates at home plate after hitting a homerun with bases loaded against Brown in the second game of a double header at the Dartmouth Softball Park in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, May 5, 2018. Dartmouth won 8-7. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, May 05, 2018

Hanover — When the Dartmouth College softball team hosts next weekend’s best-of-three Ivy League championship series, it will bring to bear on archrival Harvard a hot streak, a potent pitching staff and a small creature’s pelt atop a five-foot stick.

Tabitha, as the totem has been nicknamed, is actually a fur-lined leather glove turned inside out and jammed atop a stout tree branch plucked from the Velvet Rocks forest by freshman Shelby Wilkison last month.

“A voodoo stick with a dead animal on the end,” said junior captain Morgan Martinelli by way of description.

The Big Green, long known as a chanting, dancing, loosy-goosy bunch, has taken to performing a circular pregame ceremony with Tabitha. The stick is rhythmically pounded on the dugout floor and waved aloft with vigor. The players carry her to home plate for home-run celebrations.

“Tabitha is going to be fired up for Harvard,” promised Martinelli, whose team clinched home-field advantage for the title series with a 9-1, 8-7 Saturday doubleheader sweep of visiting Brown. “We have the intimidation factor with her.”

The Big Green, 21-16 overall and 15-5 in Ivy play, concludes the regular season today with another game against the Bears. Dartmouth has won six consecutive games and 11 of its last 13 contests and entered the weekend with a league-low ERA of 2.70.

Before the Ivies switched from a two-division setup this season, Harvard had edged Dartmouth for the last two North Division titles. The Big Green claimed the 2013, ’14 and ’15 division crowns and also the league title during the latter of those campaigns. It’s safe to say there’s a pinch of bad blood in the rivalry.

“We know exactly what we’re going to get with Harvard and we know exactly what we need to do,” said Martinelli, a junior whose team lost the first two of three games against the Crimson last month before claiming the series finale. “They’ve always been the team to take it from us in the past, but it’s different this year.”

Dartmouth won Saturday’s first game in six innings. Martinelli belted a two-run home run that ended the contest. The Big Green led the second clash, 5-2, after five frames, but surrendered five runs during the sixth and trailed, 7-5.

The hosts pulled within a run during the bottom of that inning when Tiffany Dyson scored on a passed ball. They regained the lead at 8-7 when Claire Bird smacked a two-run double over Brown’s leaping second baseman. Freshman pitcher Heather Turner, who had started and pitched the game’s first two innings, returned to close out the seventh.

“We had a lot of fight and a gritty performance, and I loved it,” said fourth-year coach Shannon Doepking, whose team began the league season by being mercy-ruled at Pennsylvania. “I think our kids trust the process and trust each other. We’ve been through a lot and it hasn’t always been pretty.”

Senior Breanna Ethridge threw a two-hitter during the first game but was pummeled for six hits and five earned runs during a second-game relief appearance. Wilkison also took a turn in the circle. Last season’s team had to rely almost exclusively on Ethridge, but Doepking now has pitching options, not only with fresh arms but with varying velocity and styles.

“We’ve talked all along about them being a staff and how we’ll need all of them,” said Doepking, noting that she tends to switch hurlers once batters consistently time her pitchers’ deliveries. “You never quite know how hitters are going to respond to what we show.

“Shelby throws 60 to 62 (mph), Bre is in the high 50s and Heather is in the middle 50s. Heather is down in the zone and Bre is up in the zone, so there’s a huge difference in what (opponents are) seeing. You’re trying to find the right fit in any given day, and they’ve accepted their roles.”

Next weekend should present quite a scene. The Big Green benefits from not having to adapt to Harvard’s dirt infield, and Dartmouth’s fans have in the past provided a significant home-field advantage in a stadium with close proximity between the stands and the diamond.

“We thrive at home,” Martinelli said. “We have this cocky energy when we have the (pine) trees behind us, and earning home field puts us in a great position. We have this reputation as a loud, gritty, not always nice team, and our fans next weekend will likely be rowdier than we are.”

Notes: Brown is 11-28 overall and 5-15 in league play. … Ethridge threw a ceremonial pitch to her crouching father, Bernard, between Saturday’s games as part of a celebration of her Dartmouth career. Classmates Bird and Tiffany Dyson were honored during previous home series. … Big Green second baseman Micah Schroder had five hits on Saturday and made a diving catch for the final out of the second game. The sophomore from the Houston area leads Dartmouth with a .371 batting average and has started every game. … Martinelli credited first-year assistant coach Paige McDuffee, a two-time Women’s College World Series participant as a UCLA player, for finding the abandoned glove that aided in the creation of Tabitha the Voodoo Stick.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.