Construction Zone: Big Green Builds For a Big Future
Dartmouth's Chloe Madill crosses home plate after teammate Kristen Rumley hit a double in the first inning of the Big Green's home opener in Hanover, N.H., on April 4, 2014. Dartmouth won, 8-1. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth's Kara Curosh, center, flips the ball to teammate Katie McEachern to put out Columbia's Alix Cook early in the game on April 4, 2014. Dartmouth won, 8-1. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
During the Big Green's home opener against Columbia, Dartmouth's Megan Averitt wears a head band to keep warm in Hanover, N.H., on April 4, 2014. Dartmouth won, 8-1. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth's Karen Chaw is congratulated by head coach Rachel Hanson as Chaw rounds the bases following her third-inning home run against Columbia in Hanover, N.H., on April 4, 2014. Dartmouth won, 8-1. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Dartmouth College softball coach Rachel Hanson likes to say that her team’s talent is flexible, a reference to players being able to fill more than one position. This spring, the Big Green hopes to bend the Ivy League to its will.
Coming off last season’s runner-up finish in the Ancient Eight, Hanson and Co. have started the league season a program-best 6-0 and host Pennsylvania today in an important doubleheader. The Quakers clinched the best-of-three Ivy championship series in Philadelphia last year with a one-run victory in Game 3.
“The season’s been amazing so far, starting with going 4-0 on our opening weekend,” said junior pitcher Kristen Rumley, who won the opener of a doubleheader sweep of Columbia on Friday to improve to 10-6. “Mentally, everyone’s focused and ready to win every single day. Physically, we’re solid defensively and we hit well. I’m so stoked to be throwing with these girls behind me.
“This past winter, the standards were higher than they’ve ever been. We put in a lot of work, and it’s clearly showing.”
Dartmouth, now 16-13 overall, won Friday’s opener, 8-1, and the following contest, 4-3. Freshman third baseman Karen Chaw fielded ground balls and stepped on the nearby bag for the final two outs of the game, helping her team out of a late jam as darkness descended over the Big Green’s 3-year-old stadium.
It was the construction of that facility, along with the hiring of fourth-year coach Hanson, that pushed Dartmouth from a solid Ivy League team to a title contender. All but three of the Big Green’s 16 players hail from the softball hotbeds of Texas, Florida and California.
“This field is priceless, because it’s gotten us some players we would have never gotten before, and it makes us so happy to come out here, even for practice,” Rumley said. “Our class set a tone when we came in. We were ready to work and bust our butts and win an Ivy championship, and every class that’s come in after us has had the same drive.”
Hanson said that where she once had to introduce herself and Dartmouth’s program to top club coaches, players and parents in warm-weather states, the Big Green is now more widely known and attracts players who are also desired by Pac-12 and Big 12 teams.
“Recruiting is so much fun because we’re now recruiting from some of the best teams,” she said. “I honestly don’t shy away from going up against anyone. Not to say that we win them all, but I know I can make a strong pitch.
“We’ve got people coming to us now and telling us about top-notch players. Once you get players from certain top-level teams, then people talk and it opens some doors for you.”
Rumley, from Katy, Texas, is again the team’s pitching workhorse, but sophomore Morgan McCalmon won Friday’s second game. Sophomore Alex Jarvis and freshman Ashley Sissel are also options.
Rumley is “a dominant pitcher, and I don’t know that she’s doing anything different this year, but our next (pitchers) up are that much better,” Hanson said. “So I don’t have to ask her to pitch four games in a weekend. Days like today, where we get 5½ really strong innings out of Morgan, that’s what will allow me to have Rums sharp for the Harvard series (at the end of the regular season) or the Ivy League championship series.”
Sophomore infielder Kelsey Miller is batting .403, and classmates McCalmon and shortstop Katie McEachern are next in that category at .383 and .330, the latter having hit six home runs. Rumley is hitting .317 and freshman leadoff hitter Chloe Madill is at .310. Chaw, like Madill a converted infielder from Southern California who often plays in the outfield, has started every game, hit five home runs and has a team-high 21 RBIs.
The team’s only two seniors are second baseman Kara Curosh and catcher Alex St. Romain. Freshman Madeline Damore, a onetime shortstop, has been a find at first base, displaying a nifty glove and a .990 fielding percentage. In the past, Hanson had often played Rumley or another pitcher there, but she can now let them rest and be ready to warm up at a moment’s notice.
Dartmouth hopes to not only outpace Harvard for the Ivy League’s North Division crown, but post the circuit’s best record. That would secure home field advantage for the league title series.
“We haven’t won a championship yet, so it’s still about building,” Hanson said. “I think we have some great pieces in place, but we have to do some more winning before I would put us in that successful category. But what I like about our season so far is that we’ve put ourselves in a good position.
“It’s way harder to dig out of a hole. Penn is going to be wicked tough, but I’m excited for the coming weeks because we’re playing at a good level.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.