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Big Green Splits With Cornell

Hanover — Cold, dusk and disappointment descended on the Dartmouth College softball team yesterday evening, but the Big Green could nonetheless see the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite following up a 6-2 victory over visiting Cornell with a 10-9 loss in 10 innings, it’s apparent coach Rachel Hanson’s squad is significantly improved.

“We have a young team, but we don’t play like a young team,’’ said sophomore pitcher Kristen Rumley, who surrendered four hits and no earned runs during the opener and allowed five hits and two runs while hurling the second game’s last five innings. “We have great leaders to show us the way we should be playing.”

Hanson was plucked from Division III obscurity by athletic director Harry Sheehy late in 2010 and handed the program’s reins. She went 17-22 overall and 10-10 in Ivy League play with predecessor Christine Vogt’s players during her first season. Dartmouth faltered to 14-25 and 7-13 last year, but it doesn’t take a scout’s eye to see the Big Green now boasts better talent.

Each member of a six-player freshman class, drawn in part by Dartmouth’s new softball field, played during yesterday’s second game, including starters Morgan McCalmon (pitcher-first base), Kelsey Miller (third base), Katie McEachern (right field) and Brianna Lohmann (left field). Reserves Alex Jarvis (pitcher) and Kathy Dzienkowski (catcher) also saw action.

“We’re better offensively because we have more sticks in the lineup, and Rumley — with a year of growth under her belt is even better than she was last year,’’ said Hanson, who previously coached at the University of Dallas.

“Our freshmen brought in even more of that compete, compete, compete attitude, and we play very steady, without the high highs or the low lows. That’s the biggest difference this year, that despite the situation or the inning, we play the same.”

Dartmouth used 12 hits, including a three-run third inning, to overcome five errors during yesterday’s victory over Cornell, which won the league title in 2009 and 2010 and has won or shared the last four South Division crowns. Rumley, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection last spring, struck out six batters and walked none while senior captain Hillary Hubert had three hits and two RBIs.

The second game was a completely different affair. The Big Red led 3-0, 5-3 and 8-5 before Dartmouth rallied for an 8-8 tie with a three-run fifth inning. The Big Green went ahead 9-8 in the sixth but couldn’t hold the lead in the seventh. During the 10th, Cornell used a leadoff triple and a groundout to score what proved to be the winning run.

“That’s the game sometimes, but we battled and never quit,’’ said Hanson, whose team fell to 13-15 overall and 4-4 in the Ivies, the same record as Cornell. “We scored in every inning until we got to the seventh. We need to clean up some little mental mistakes that can make the difference here and there but I’m proud of my team.”

Hubert again led the Big Green with three hits and two RBIs during the second game, but Rumley was the unsung hero. Throwing 12 innings, she gave her all before running out of gas.

“You get tired and because of that and the cold, you lose your grip and your spin,’’ Rumley said. “You have to just stay focused and understand they’re going to hit the ball and that you have to rely on the defense behind you.”

Said Hanson: “It’s a lot of innings but not a ton. She was tired by the end but still trucking through. That’s what you expect of an ace, that they can keep pitching even when they’re tired.”

Dartmouth is tied with Harvard and Yale atop the four-team North Division standings and hosts Princeton today in a doubleheader starting at 12:30 p.m.

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