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Dartmouth Stays in the Game: Walk-Off Homer Nets Split

  • Dartmouth College's Kelsey Miller, center and with an arm draped on her shoulder, is congratulated Sunday after hitting a walk-off home run to beat visiting Harvard in the second game of an Ivy League doubleheader. The victory and the split it salvaged, sends the Big Green to Boston on Monday for another twinbill with the Crimson and with the league's North Division title on the line.<br/>Mark Washburn photograph

    Dartmouth College's Kelsey Miller, center and with an arm draped on her shoulder, is congratulated Sunday after hitting a walk-off home run to beat visiting Harvard in the second game of an Ivy League doubleheader. The victory and the split it salvaged, sends the Big Green to Boston on Monday for another twinbill with the Crimson and with the league's North Division title on the line.
    Mark Washburn photograph

  • Dartmouth College's Karen Chaw (9) tags out Harvard's Katherine Lantz at first base on Saturday during the teams' Ivy League doubleheader in Hanover.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College's Karen Chaw (9) tags out Harvard's Katherine Lantz at first base on Saturday during the teams' Ivy League doubleheader in Hanover.
    Valley News -- Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College's Kara Curosh can't hold a relay throw from the outfield Saturday as Harvard's Andrea Del Conte slides into second base during the teams' Ivy League doubleheader in Hanover.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College's Kara Curosh can't hold a relay throw from the outfield Saturday as Harvard's Andrea Del Conte slides into second base during the teams' Ivy League doubleheader in Hanover.
    Valley News -- Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College softball players and fans, including Big Green football coach Buddy Teevens, top row, watch Ivy League doubleheader action Saturday against visiting Harvard. The holding aloft of three fingers signals a count of 0-and-3 on a Dartmouth batter.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College softball players and fans, including Big Green football coach Buddy Teevens, top row, watch Ivy League doubleheader action Saturday against visiting Harvard. The holding aloft of three fingers signals a count of 0-and-3 on a Dartmouth batter.
    Valley News -- Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College's Kelsey Miller, center and with an arm draped on her shoulder, is congratulated Sunday after hitting a walk-off home run to beat visiting Harvard in the second game of an Ivy League doubleheader. The victory and the split it salvaged, sends the Big Green to Boston on Monday for another twinbill with the Crimson and with the league's North Division title on the line.<br/>Mark Washburn photograph
  • Dartmouth College's Karen Chaw (9) tags out Harvard's Katherine Lantz at first base on Saturday during the teams' Ivy League doubleheader in Hanover.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College's Kara Curosh can't hold a relay throw from the outfield Saturday as Harvard's Andrea Del Conte slides into second base during the teams' Ivy League doubleheader in Hanover.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College softball players and fans, including Big Green football coach Buddy Teevens, top row, watch Ivy League doubleheader action Saturday against visiting Harvard. The holding aloft of three fingers signals a count of 0-and-3 on a Dartmouth batter.<br/>Valley News -- Tris Wykes

Hanover — Almost exactly three years ago, the Dartmouth College softball team moved into its new stadium in the shadow of Balch Hill. During one of the first practices there, a recruit from Texas arrived wearing a letter jacket and with her mother in tow, watching the workout from the front row of seats and leaning over the railing to exchange greetings with players and coaches.

On Sunday, Kelsey Miller, that onetime prospect and now the Big Green’s starting third baseman, cranked a walk-off home run to defeat archrival Harvard, 2-1, circled the bases and walked back toward that same railing, over which screaming fans were bent nearly double. Miller’s blast, on the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning, salvaged a doubleheader split with the Crimson and set up an intriguing rematch today in Boston.

“Everyone, when they come to a school to play ball, dreams of winning games like this,” said Miller, a sophomore who hails from the Dallas suburb of Mansfield. “I’m just glad I was able to get the last hit for us.”

Dartmouth, which improved to 27-16 overall and 16-2 in Ivy League play, can clinch its second consecutive North Division title with two victories today. Should Harvard (28-13, 14-1) win both those games, it would still need another victory during what’s shaping up to be an unusual ending to the league’s regular season schedule.

Earlier this season, Harvard not only had a doubleheader at Cornell (18-26, 8-10) rained out, but also a home game against Pennsylvania (18-19, 13-6), during which the teams were tied, 8-8, after six innings.

If Harvard wins twice today, it would still need another victory during its last three games, which are makeups of its rainouts, to win the division. If the Crimson splits today, it will need to win all of its last three contests to claim the division crown, or claim two of those last three games to tie Dartmouth atop the division and force a playoff with the Big Green in Hanover on a date to be determined.

A Dartmouth spokesperson said Sunday night that the league office had not determined when Harvard’s last three games will be played. Will the league championship series, which matches the North and South Division champions, be played this coming weekend or not until May 10-11? Stay tuned.

“Our theme all season has been compete as well as we can and let the chips fall where they may,” said fourth-year Dartmouth coach Rachel Hanson. “There are defining moments of the season, and tomorrow is one of them. If we compete well, win or lose, I’ll walk away a proud coach.

“If we continue to hit and pitch the way we did today, we give ourselves every opportunity of seizing wins in both games.”

Sunday’s first game was scoreless until the top of the eighth inning, when the Crimson produced a 2-0 advantage. The leadoff batter reached first on a fielding error by second baseman Kara Curosh, then took second on a one-out single. A double brought in one run and pushed a runner to third, from where she scored on a wild pitch. Dartmouth managed a hit but no runs in the bottom of the eighth.

“Those things happen, and it wasn’t from a lack of effort and it wasn’t a mental mistake,” Hanson said of Curosh, who had a hit and scored a run during the second game. “She just missed it, but props to her for bouncing back. She’s an emotional leader on this team.”

Kristen Rumley, Dartmouth’s starting pitcher, allowed seven hits and two runs, one of them earned, while striking out eight batters and walking one.

The second game saw Harvard take a 1-0 lead in the second before falling into a tie in the sixth, after Curosh singled up the middle, took second on an outfield error and scored on a Katie McEachern double. That set the stage for Miller, who knocked the first pitch from Laura Ricciardone over the right field fence for her fourth home run.

Ricciardone “was coming out with a lot of strikes and attacking batters, so my plan going in was to swing at the first couple of pitches,” said Miller, whose .371 batting average is second on her team.

Said Hanson: “Ricciardone doesn’t walk people, and (Miller) was locked in on that first pitch. She’s delivered all year long, and for her to come through in the clutch like that was a great way to end the day.”

Morgan McCalmon, Dartmouth’s pitcher during the second game, struck out 13 and walked none while allowing three hits and an earned run.

Despite the fact that Dartmouth’s regular season will come down to four hours on a single day, Hanson said she didn’t anticipate any significant nerves.

“We don’t get too emotionally wound up because we know we’ve put in our work and take care of our business,” she said. “I’m so confident that this team will come out tomorrow and compete well that, I promise you, I’ll sleep like a baby tonight.”

Notes: Dartmouth honored its seniors, catcher Alex St. Romain and Curosh, after the second game. In a classy gesture acknowledged by Hanson, the Crimson’s players and coaches stood at attention along the first-base line during the ceremony. … St. Romain will begin work in South Africa in the field of environmental studies later this year, and Curosh is a double major in economic and Italian who will work for an investment firm upon graduation. … Dartmouth and Harvard will finish in the division’s top two slots for the eighth consecutive season. … Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens took in several innings of play, slipping into the top row of the third-base bleachers. The softball coaches’ offices are on the third floor of Floren Varsity House, down the hall from those of their gridiron counterparts. … Harvard had won 18 consecutive games before losing to Boston University on Thursday. … The Crimson has won six Ivy titles under 20th-year coach Jenny Allard.

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