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Penn Has the Stopper to Keep Dartmouth from Softball Title

Dartmouth freshman Katie McEachern takes some cuts as she awaits a seventh-inning at-bat in the Big Green’s 3-2 loss to Penn yesterday at Philadephia’s Penn Park. The Quakers took their first Ivy League title since 1981 with the win, along with the league’s automatic NCAA bid. (Valley News - Greg Fennell)

Dartmouth freshman Katie McEachern takes some cuts as she awaits a seventh-inning at-bat in the Big Green’s 3-2 loss to Penn yesterday at Philadephia’s Penn Park. The Quakers took their first Ivy League title since 1981 with the win, along with the league’s automatic NCAA bid. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »

Philadelphia — Dartmouth College softball coach Rachel Hanson can’t say the opportunities weren’t there.

Stifled by Penn pitcher Alexis Borden in Saturday’s opening Ivy Championship Series game, the Big Green had the right-hander on the ropes early and often in yesterday’s deciding best-of-three series contest. The sophomore held it together, however, and used a two-run homer from junior Kayla Dahlerbruch for a 3-2 win over the Big Green at Penn Park for the league title and its automatic NCAA tournament berth.

Borden scattered eight hits, walked two and struck out eight in a complete-game effort for Penn’s first league championship since 1981 and the second in program history. More importantly, the Big Green (26-20) left eight runners on base, four of them in scoring position, including one each in the fifth and sixth innings.

Penn (30-18) took Saturday’s opener on a Borden one-hitter, 1-0. Dartmouth forced yesterday’s game with a 6-2 victory in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader.

“Great start for us; we came out ready to play, ready to hit,” Hanson said. “We pushed across a run in the first inning, which was big. We had opportunities there and didn’t quite pull through, but had good at-bats. We just kept battling, and Borden kept improving as the game went on.”

Borden struck out the side in the top of the first, but nearly dug herself a deep hole in the process.

With one down, Dartmouth’s Kristen Rumley singled, Hillary Hubert walked and Katie McEachern singled to right to load the bases. Borden got the Big Green’s Katie Adams to swing at a third strike only to walk Morgan McCalmon to force home the visitors’ first run. Despite four full counts and 37 first-frame throws, Borden whiffed designated hitter Kathy Dzienkowski to get out of further trouble.

A one-out double from No. 9 hitter Kelsey Miller upped Dartmouth’s edge to 2-0 an inning later. Rumley drove the freshman home with a single to left, but again Borden minimized the damage with an inning-closing Hubert fly out.

“She’s a great pitcher,” Penn coach Leslie King said. “She’s very, very talented. She’s got three, four quality pitches that she can throw any time for strikes, so we have a lot of confidence in her. …

“Alexis does a great job of getting out of trouble. She kind of bears down when she gets behind, and when she gets runners on base she’s even tougher. We’ve been through that a significant amount of times this year, so we weren’t overly concerned.”

Hanson also hoped to ride Rumley, her ace, to Dartmouth’s first league championship. Penn nicked her just enough to prevail.

The Quakers got on the board in the home second on a Jessica Melendez two-out double followed by an RBI single from Georgia Guttadauro. The big blow came in the fourth: Samantha Erosa doubled to open the frame and scored on Dahlerbruch’s two-run blast.

Hanson pulled Rumley at that point in favor of McCalmon, who limited the Quakers to two hits over the final 2 2∕3 innings.

But the damage had been done.

“We knew that Penn is a good hitting team and would eventually catch up to Kristen, make adjustments,” the Dartmouth coach said. “We had confidence in Morgan’s ability to come in, so when they had that big hit, that was when we decided to make the switch.”

The Big Green knocked on Borden’s door twice late without an answer. Borden fanned Adams to end a two-on, two-out threat in the fifth. McCalmon and pinch hitter Brianna Lohmann singled to open the sixth, an incursion Penn extinguished by forcing McCalmon at third base on an Alex St. Romain sacrifice bunt attempt.

Borden retired the last six Dartmouth batters she faced to end the game.

“It’s easy to look back and say what if,” Hanson said. “But I’m proud of the way they played. I’m proud of the game plan we put together and the way we played overall. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.