It's a Double: Dartmouth Softball Going to ICS, Too
Dartmouth College softball player Morgan McCalmon thrusts a fist skyward yesterday while celebrating an extra-inning 5-4 win at Harvard that secured the Ivy League’s North Division title. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Katie McEachhern (21) gets ready to cross the plate following her game-winning solo home run in the eighth inning. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Harvard’s Kasey Lange, right, tags out Dartmouth’s Kathy Dzienkowski in the opening game of yesterday’s Big Green doubleheader sweep. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Boston — Harvard installed yellow softball bases for its Ivy League doubleheader with visiting Dartmouth yesterday, part of a fundraising tribute on behalf of Boston Marathon bombing victims.
The Crimson, however, was left green with envy after the Big Green used an extra-innings home run from freshman Katie McEachern to win the first game, 5-4. That victory clinched the North Division title and a berth in the league championship series for the visitors, who finished the regular season at 25-18 overall and 15-5 in Ivy play after a 13-1 triumph in yesterday’s second contest.
Dartmouth has played varsity softball since 1995, but this weekend will mark just its second trip to the league’s best-of-three title matchup when it visits South Division champion Pennsylvania. The series victor earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Big Green, which split two meetings this season with the Quakers, lost to Cornell during its previous Ivy championship appearance in 2009.
Since the Ivy League began division play in 2007, no visiting softball team has won the title series, a statistic that left Big Green coach Rachel Hanson unperturbed.
“We’ll have to change that, won’t we?” said the grinning bench boss. “We roughed up (Penn’s) No. 1 (pitcher) once already at their place this season, and we can do it again.”
The Big Green and Harvard split a twinbill in Hanover on Saturday, meaning the Crimson had to sweep yesterday’s games to win the division. The hosts led 4-3 after five innings of the first contest, but Alex St. Romain, Katie Adams and Megan Averitt singled to start the seventh and Kristen Rumley did as well, driving in St. Romain for a 4-4 tie.
McEachern, starting at shortstop in place of injured junior Kara Curosh, knocked her team-high 10th home run over the left-field fence in the eighth. The freshman from San Diego didn’t realize she’d gotten all of the pitch, however, so she put her head down and ran as hard as she could.
“I thought, ‘Dang it! Another pop-up,’ ” McEachern said with a laugh. “So I sprinted to first and looked up and it was over the fence. Then I jogged around second, and then I started sprinting again because I wanted to get back to my teammates.”
Said Hanson: “That kid can smoke the ball. The second it came off the bat, I knew it was gone.”
Big Green pitcher Morgan McCalmon, who relieved tiring starter Rumley in the fourth inning, struck out the side in the eighth to clinch the victory. The freshman righthander allowed only one run and struck out 10 Crimson batters.
“The confidence boost came from my team,’’ said McCalmon, who hails from Norman, Okla. “The fact that they kept fighting even when we were down gave me the momentum to do the same. I fed off of that.”
Hanson said her team’s even-keeled approach has been vital throughout the season. Dartmouth trailed at Yale, 8-1, during an earlier league game before rallying for a 10-8 victory.
“I have many new gray hairs after today, but we’ve come back several times this year,’’ she said. “This team never lays down and quits. We just play the same all the time, never having big up or down moments, and it always leaves us a chance to win ballgames.”
The Big Green’s lineup features five freshmen and two sophomores who play regularly, a clear benefit of the team’s state-of-the-art, two-year old stadium and the intensity and upbeat approach brought by Hanson when she landed her current job in 2010. She previously guided worked at the University of Dallas, a Division III program.
Hanson was the first coaching hire made at Dartmouth by newly-arrived Athletic Director Harry Sheehy and she went 17-22 and 14-25 during her first two seasons in Hanover.
“We want to coach up the kids here so they have their starting spots, but then we work really hard at recruiting fresh talent that can take it away from them,” Hanson said. “We have a lot of competition on this team and anybody and everybody can contribute. I love that.”
McEachern, who won a national championship with her club team while in high school, is the type of recruit Dartmouth rarely landed in the past. She has never seen the rather desolate plain in West Lebanon where the Big Green played in windy isolation until last year. She is fourth on the team in batting at .331, first in RBIs with 37 and has started 41 of the 42 games in which she’s appeared at a variety of positions.
“Our class didn’t come in playing like freshmen,” said McEachern, whose grandfather, John Beckett, was the Most Valuable Player of the 1917 Rose Bowl football game for Oregon. “We’ve just been killing it and we mesh really well with the team, so by now we play without even thinking about it.”
Notes: Harvard (22-22, 12-8) won the North Division title the past three years and the Ivy League title the past two seasons. … Dartmouth finished second in the division five of the past six seasons. … Dartmouth won 4-1 and lost 3-1 at Penn on March 30. The teams also split a doubleheader in Hanover last season. The Quakers are 28-17 and 16-4.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.