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Crimson Title: Harvard Sweeps Dartmouth for NCAA Berth

  • Dartmouth College right fielder McKenna Gray dives unsuccessfully Saturday in a bid to catch a Harvard pop fly. The teams met in the Ivy League championship series, hosted by Dartmouth. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College softball pitcher Heather Turner, second from right, agonizes Saturday while Harvard is recognized for winning the Ivy League championship series. With Turner from left, are Abby Shipley, Schae Nelson and Micah Schroder. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College catcher Claire Bird receives a relay throw Saturday while Harvard's Dallas Hogan slides in safely as part of the Crimson's five-run, seventh-inning rally during the teams' first game. Visiting Harvard won both contests and the Ivy League championship series. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College's Loghan Thomas, left, approaches excited softball teammates at home plate after hitting a home run Saturday against Harvard. The visiting Crimson swept the day's two games and claimed the Ivy League championship series. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College's Delaney Marshall jumps to touch "Tabitha" a softball team totem comprised of a stick and an inside-out leather glove, during player introductions prior to Saturday's games with visiting Harvard. Sophia Ausmus is at left and assistant coach Paige McDuffee is in the background. The visiting Crimson won by 6-4 and 4-1 scores and claimed the Ivy League championship series. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hanover — Saturday’s Ivy League softball championship series was a best-of-three affair during which Dartmouth College was far from top form. Visiting Harvard swept the regular-season champion, 6-4, 4-1, to capture the Ancient Eight’s automatic NCAA tournament berth.

The Crimson produced a two-out, five-run rally against reliever Heather Turner during the first game’s seventh and final inning. The freshman from Laguna Hills, Calif., known for keeping the ball low and in the park, surrendered four runs during the comeback. Two were earned and two came on a home run.

Turner (10-6) started the second game and allowed seven hits and four runs, all earned. She struck out no batters and walked one during a 3⅓-inning performance. Dartmouth’s offense never got into gear.

“Harvard hit the ball,” fourth-year Dartmouth coach Shannon Doepking said. “We could go back and forth on what could have or should have happened in a million different ways, but I’m going to give credit where credit is due. They came out and were resilient and had timely hitting and just got it done. We didn’t.”

Dartmouth postgame blues were compounded by an awkward, 15-minute delay after the second game. Harvard (23-16) was presented the Ivy League championship trophy and brought virtually all its fans on to the field to take photos and pass the small, mounted statue around. The Big Green’s players were left to stew along the first-base line.

The Ivy League, which abandoned a two-division format and went with one set of standings for the current season, declared only last week that the regular-season’s first-place finisher and the title series winner, if they were different teams, would be declared co-Ivy League champions. But the existing trophy wasn’t present for Dartmouth’s clinching victory in its penultimate, regular-season game and no series championship trophy has been created.

How much thought went into this graceless situation?

“Not much,” admitted Ivy League associate executive director Megan McHugo Morrison, a Norwich native and former Hanover High student who oversees the league’s NCAA compliance, governance and championships.

Smiles were understandably hard to come by when Dartmouth (22-18) finally was handed the trophy. The Big Green’s players will eventually have championship rings and fond remembrances of a season that began with them being picked to finish fifth in the Ivies. That’s in the distance, however, when your arch-rival is celebrating on your field.

“We’ve come a long ways and that’s something we can be very proud of,” said Doepking, who also guided Dartmouth to the ILCS in 2015. “I think we’re going to be back here next year and we’ll take a lot of opportunities to think about what just happened to us. This one should sting. It should definitely sting.”

Dartmouth took a 1-0 lead during the first game’s third inning when Schae Nelson stroked a run-scoring single. Harvard tied the score during the fourth, but during the bottom half of that frame, the Big Green’s Taylor Ward delivered an RBI double and Loghan Thomas smacked a two-run home run for a 4-1 lead.

Harvard trailed by that score with two outs in the seventh before Meagan Lantz’s two-run home run off a too-high changeup pulled the Crimson within 4-3. A two-run single chased Turner from the circle and fellow freshman Shelby Wilkison later allowed a run-scoring single. Dartmouth walked four batters and committed four errors in the game.

“The last time we played Harvard, Heather held them to almost nothing,” Doepking said. “I was very confident in her and if I had it to do all over again, I’d probably do the exact same thing. That was a tough situation to get put in as a freshman, but being put in during the (sixth) inning versus starting a game is very different, so I took my chance to see what she would do with a fresh, new game.”

Said Dartmouth co-captain Morgan Martinelli: “We could have ended that seventh inning multiple times. We let them in the door and they went right through it. They have a knack of kicking us when we’re weak.”

Per series rules, Dartmouth was the visiting team during the afternoon’s second contest, and it fell behind, 2-0, after an inning. The Big Green managed one hit through four frames, by which time its deficit was 4-0.

Senior pitcher Breanna Ethridge, who started the first game, tossed 2⅔ innings of hitless, scoreless relief but the hosts’ lone run came during the seventh on Claire Bird’s RBI single. Harvard’s Sarah Smith threw a five-hitter with four strikeouts and no walks.

“I don’t know what her stuff was doing, but it wasn’t touching our bat,” Doepking said. “We have been a very good offensive team and that just wasn’t the case today.”

Dartmouth graduates only Ethridge, Bird and outfielder Tiffany Dyson. And if its players need any extra motivation during the coming months, they can recall Harvard’s boisterous joy during that postgame wait.

“It always sucks to watch someone else celebrate on your field,” Doepking said. “But experience is something you can’t teach. You need to be in these moments and realize where we went wrong. We’ll be better because of it.”

Notes: Harvard appeared in its third consecutive ILCS but won for the first time since 2012.… Dartmouth had a seven-game winning streak snapped, while Harvard entered having lost four of its previous five contests. … The Big Green is 2-2 in the ILCS. … The Crimson hosted last year’s ILCS but lost to Princeton, making the Tigers the first Ivy team to win the title series on the road. … No official attendance was given, but an estimated 300 fans were present. A smattering sat in bleachers placed down the right field line and behind the right-center field fence. … Sudden and alarming noises outside the stadium’s bathrooms drew concern from onlookers and led an usher to jog into the women’s room during the second game’s third inning. It turned out Dartmouth reserve Jade Bravo, scurrying for a quick break, had skidded across the concrete on her metal spikes and slid into a wall. The sophomore was unhurt. … In an unfortunate connection, Harvard features two players from hometowns that have suffered mass school shootings. Lantz is from Parkland, Fla., and Morgan Macchiarulo is from Newtown, Conn.

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