Dartmouth Softball Sweeps Yale, Is Undefeated in Ivies
Umpire Michael Hamilton calls Dartmouth College runner Maddie Damore safe with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning during Saturday's first game against visiting Yale. Dartmouth won, 3-2, with Kristen Rumley pitching 8 1/3 innings and driving in Damore on the deciding play. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College pitcher Kristen Rumley winds up during the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against visiting Yale. The junior allowed four hits and two earned runs during 8 1/3 inning in the first game. She also drove in the winning run in a 3-2 victory. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — The Dartmouth College softball team is halfway home in the Ivy League race and hasn’t lost yet. The latest steps came Saturday during a doubleheader sweep of Yale and courtesy of junior Kristen Rumley and freshman Maddie Damore.
Rumley had five hits at the plate and allowed four hits and two runs during 81⁄3 innings of pitching in game one. Her ninth-inning single drove in a sliding Damore with the winning run in a 3-2 triumph.
On most days, that would earn a player top billing. However, Damore stole the spotlight by blasting three home runs and driving in seven teammates during game two. The effort propelled a 10-1 victory, lengthened Dartmouth’s winning streak to 11 games and pushed its Ivy League record to 10-0.
Up next is a doubleheader today against those same Bulldogs (5-25, 1-9), followed by four road games at Brown (2-24, 0-10).
The regular season concludes with home-and-home doubleheaders against Harvard (19-11, 5-0) on April 26-27.
Despite what seems like a fairly promising path toward a second consecutive berth in the league title series and a shot at an NCAA tournament slot, Dartmouth coach Rachel Hanson cautioned against overconfidence.
“We walk into every game like it’s the first game of the season and we’re 0-0,” she said. “We acknowledge (the winning streak) because people are talking about it, but we haven’t won anything yet and we have something to prove.”
What’s been proven so far is that the hiring of Hanson four years ago by athletic director Harry Sheehy was a stroke of genius. The Texan had no Dartmouth or Ivy League ties and was toiling in relative obscurity at the University of Dallas, an NCAA Division III program, when she applied for what was not exactly a plum position.
The Big Green was 56-52 under previous coach Christine Vogt and just 4-6 in Ivy play her last year. The team played off campus at West Lebanon’s Sachem Field, a windy, dreary setting that made recruits raise incredulous eyebrows. Now, with a gleaming, three-year old stadium and Hanson’s eye for talent and powers of persuasion, Dartmouth is in the catbird seat.
“The first time I saw (Damore) play, she hit a grand slam,” said Hanson, who batted the rookie ninth Saturday in an effort to lessen what she saw as No. 26’s self-imposed pressure. “So I knew she was capable of power. But she hadn’t been taking authoritative cuts and I told her to just worry about getting on base, about having a quality at-bat.”
Mission accomplished. Damore hammered a three-run homer to left field in the fourth inning, a two-run shot just inside the left foul pole in the fifth and knocked another two-run blast out to left-center in the sixth. The last tater ended the game by calling into play the NCAA’s mercy rule, used when one team is ahead by eight or more runs during or after the fifth inning.
Why would Yale possibly give Damore a decent pitch in the sixth? No one seemed to know.
“I was pretty surprised,” Hanson said.
Added Damore: “I wasn’t expecting anything to hit, but I was looking for it, just in case.”
A native of suburban San Jose, Calif., Damore is something of a hockey fan, so she understood the celebratory implications when a cluster of Dartmouth fans tossed baseball caps toward her after the game. Call it a home-run hat trick, if you will.
“She was so relaxed at the plate and not trying to force anything,” Hanson said of Damore, the first Ivy player to hit three home runs in a game since 2002 and the first freshman to do so since 2001. She is the 63rd player to perform such a feat in NCAA history.
“That first one gave us a huge lift,” Hanson added. “We were still grinding in a 1-1 game at that point and hadn’t played to our ability in the game before. Then that happens and we realize that we can still hit.”
The first game was certainly a struggle for Dartmouth, which left 10 runners on base and saw a 2-0 lead dissolve into a tie during the seventh inning. The Big Green stranded two runners with a chance to win during its half of the seventh and went down in order in the eighth before its final rally.
Freshman Alyssa Jorgensen knocked a pinch-hit single up the middle, followed by a similar swat from Damore. Jorgensen was forced out at third on the next play, but Rumley then delivered a single to left field and Damore beat the diving tag of Yale catcher Sarah Onorato.
“It was a great way to win, but we have to get better,” Hanson said. “We looked defensive at the plate and we were fouling off some not-so-good pitches, then having to chase even worse ones.”
The only chasing being done in game two was by youngsters scrambling to pluck Damore’s home run balls out of snow banks beyond the outfield fences. But, just like her coach, the first baseman isn’t worried about her team getting cocky.
“I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that,” Damore said. “We keep each other pretty level-headed.”
Notes: Second-year Yale coach Jenn Goodwin was Dartmouth’s interim softball coach in 2004 and also served as director of operations for the Big Green women’s basketball team. The Bulldogs are 15-62 overall and 6-24 in Ivy play under Goodwin’s guidance. … Damore received a big, postgame hug from Yale freshman Carolyn McGuire, a former high school teammate. Damore said she was briefly interested in joining McGuire on the Bulldogs roster before committing to Dartmouth. … Lindsey Efflandt, Yale’s game one starter, fell to 0-11 this season. Dartmouth’s Morgan McCalmon, a sophomore who came on to record the last two outs of game one and who allowed seven hits and one run during game two, improved to 7-3.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.