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How Sweep It Is: Dartmouth Pounds Harvard for Softball Title

  • Dartmouth College's Chloe Madill (24) touches home plate after hitting a home run Monday at Harvard.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College's Chloe Madill (24) touches home plate after hitting a home run Monday at Harvard.
    Valley News -- Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College pitcher Morgan McCalmon delivers against Harvard on Monday.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College pitcher Morgan McCalmon delivers against Harvard on Monday.
    Valley News -- Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College softball player Kara Curosh celebrates Alex St. Romain's arms Monday after the Big Green swept a doubleheader at Harvard and clinched the North Division championship and the right to host this weekend's Ivy League title series against Pennsylvania.<br/>Valley News -- Greg Fennell

    Dartmouth College softball player Kara Curosh celebrates Alex St. Romain's arms Monday after the Big Green swept a doubleheader at Harvard and clinched the North Division championship and the right to host this weekend's Ivy League title series against Pennsylvania.
    Valley News -- Greg Fennell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College softball coach Rachel Hanson is all smiles after her team swept Harvard in a doubleheader Monday to clinch the Ivy League's North Division title. The Big Green hosts Pennsylvania this weekend for a berth in next month's NCAA tournament.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College softball coach Rachel Hanson is all smiles after her team swept Harvard in a doubleheader Monday to clinch the Ivy League's North Division title. The Big Green hosts Pennsylvania this weekend for a berth in next month's NCAA tournament.
    Valley News -- Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College's Chloe Madill (24) touches home plate after hitting a home run Monday at Harvard.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College pitcher Morgan McCalmon delivers against Harvard on Monday.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College softball player Kara Curosh celebrates Alex St. Romain's arms Monday after the Big Green swept a doubleheader at Harvard and clinched the North Division championship and the right to host this weekend's Ivy League title series against Pennsylvania.<br/>Valley News -- Greg Fennell
  • Dartmouth College softball coach Rachel Hanson is all smiles after her team swept Harvard in a doubleheader Monday to clinch the Ivy League's North Division title. The Big Green hosts Pennsylvania this weekend for a berth in next month's NCAA tournament.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

Boston — Behind a fence adjacent to the Dartmouth College softball team’s dugout Monday was a pile of green-and-black equipment bags. Airline luggage tags fluttered from their handles in the occasional breeze, but the Big Green’s doubleheader sweep of Harvard clinched the North Division championship and means the Big Green will stay home this weekend, facing Pennsylvania in the Ivy League’s best-of-three title series for a second consecutive year.

The Quakers won last season’s matchup in Philadelphia by one run in the third game, but Dartmouth’s players and coaches believe they benefitted from that experience and are looking forward to another crack at the South Division champions.

“Last year we kind of surprised ourselves in getting to this point, but this year we expected it,” said Big Green catcher Alex St. Romain, one of only two seniors on the team. “Now it’s on to the championship, and we know we can win that, too.”

By splitting a doubleheader Sunday in Hanover, Dartmouth entered Monday needing two victories to clinch the division title. There wasn’t much doubt about the first contest, which the Big Green won, 8-2, after leading 3-0 in the first inning and 6-0 in the fifth.

Dartmouth (29-16, 18-2) parlayed three hits and a Harvard error into that first advantage and used solo home runs by Chloe Madill and Morgan McCalmon while doubling it. Madill and McCalmon each had three hits and two RBIs in the contest, and starting pitcher Kristen Rumley allowed five hits and two runs while striking out two batters and walking none.

“It’s easy to relax with an early lead, but we pushed on and kept scoring runs and I was so proud of us,” St. Romain said. “This is the way we were hitting in the beginning of the season. Last weekend we had billions of far, far foul balls, and we knew that if we kept hitting the ball hard, it was going to happen for us.”

Dartmouth jumped out again during the second game, taking a 3-0 lead after two innings and going up 5-0 after its at-bat in the fifth. Harvard (28-15, 14-3) scored twice in the bottom of that frame, but the visitors rallied with four more runs in the sixth for a 9-2 lead and coasted home by that score. Katie McEachern had three hits and two RBIs.

“Good time for our bats to show up again,” said Hanson, whose team got home runs from McEachern and Maddie Damore in the second game. “You have cycles where you do and don’t have hits, and you have to keep competing until they come back.”

Although the Crimson couldn’t make either game close Monday, it was in the driver’s seat after winning Sunday’s opener. The Crimson won 18 consecutive contests at one point this season, and it and the Big Green kept the heat on each other during the last month. The Big Green’s situation wasn’t helped when it lost a game at lowly Brown on April 20.

“We had a one-game margin for error against Harvard and we lost that in the first game (Sunday), but our kids were so mentally resilient and it was so fun watching them play,” Hanson said. “Every great season comes with some adversity.

“You can’t go the whole way with it being daisies and roses, and we dealt with it and were prepared for this weekend. Today was fun, but (Sunday) showed our guts.”

Said St. Romain: “We knew we had to win three out of four games this weekend and after we lost the first one, we could have rolled over. But we fought every single inning, and that’s what makes winning three games in a row over Harvard so sweet.”

Sophomore pitcher Morgan McCalmon (10-4), who struck out 13 Crimson batters during Sunday’s second game, closed out Monday’s first contest and then went 42⁄3 innings in the second tilt, allowing three hits and two runs. She struck out four batters and walked none before giving way to Rumley (16-7).

Dartmouth will take Tuesday off before resuming practice Wednesday. Saturday brings the title series’ first two games in a doubleheader format beginning at 1 p.m. The third game will be played the next day if needed.

St. Romain, who began her college career competing on a windy and sparse diamond in West Lebanon, said she can’t wait to see the program’s three-year old stadium filled with cheering fans.

“This is the way my four years at Dartmouth should end,” she said. “It’s going to be great and I’m so proud of where we came from, playing on little Sachem Field my freshman year and then winning so few games my sophomore year. Now we’re here, and it’s day and night.”

Even as Hanson’s players and their parents laughed, cried and hugged all around her on the outfield grass Monday, she was thinking ahead.

“We have some unfinished business, and we want to take care of it this (coming) weekend,” the coach said. “This was a step along that road.”

Notes: Players, coaches, umpires and a crowd of several hundred fell utterly silent with one out and one strike in the bottom of the fifth inning when a Harvard team manager had collapsed on the dirt in front of the Crimson dugout. The manager remained prone for several minutes before being helped off the field. … Rumley’s parents attended the game and cheered her on by using her childhood nickname of “Squirt.” … Penn has won the last three South Division titles and finished second the three seasons before that. … After a Harvard pitcher issued a walk in the second game, McCalmon popped out of the dugout, twice shouting, “Ball? Party of four?”

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