Twice as Nice: Dartmouth Repeats as Ivy Softball Champ

Sunday, May 03, 2015
Hanover — Saturday’s softball games at Dartmouth College began with an opponent’s home run hit so hard that it shattered a tree branch. They ended with Big Green coach Shannon Doepking happily fishing ice cubes out of her shorts.

In between, the hosts won the Ivy League championship series for a second consecutive season, clinching a berth in the 64-team NCAA tournament, which begins May 15 at 16 regional sites around the country. Dartmouth prevailed, 2-1, over Pennsylvania in the first game and 1-0 in the second, facing the Quakers at this stage for a third consecutive season.

“This is absolutely incredible and we couldn’t be more happy in this moment,” said Alyssa Jorgensen, the sophomore second baseman whose walk-off single won the first contest. “This team is extremely resilient and even if other teams get up early, we don’t let it get us down.

“It was a huge advantage not to go into the second game feeling that pressure, like you’re in a corner. You can just play like you have the rest of the season.”

The second game saw Kristen Rumley, usually Dartmouth’s pitching star, drive in a run in the first inning and Morgan McCalmon take over from there. The junior tossed a four-hitter, striking out eight batters and walking just one.

“Morgan’s going to fight toe-to-toe with whoever’s up there and for her to complete that game is huge for her confidence,” Doepking said. “She’s such a nice complement to Rums, who throws it down in the zone and slower. Morgan throws up in the zone and a little harder and it throws teams off. They can’t prepare for both.

“I think Penn prepared for Rums and Morgan threw them a curveball, literally.”

The Quakers were rolling early, however, with ace Alexis Borden looking overpowering and teammate Alexis Sargent crushing a solo home run to left field. The ball soared about 15 feet over the fence and snapped a branch off a pine tree.

Dartmouth (25-16) tied the game in the fifth, when Kelsey Miller led off with a single and Chloe Madill was hit by a pitch. A Borden fielding error loaded the bases and pinch-hitter Madison Smith produced a sacrifice fly.

In the seventh, Lourlin Lara smacked a leadoff single, followed by another from Katie McEachern. Jorgensen, who appeared in only 14 games as a freshman, but has played in 29 this spring, then knocked a ball just over the left fielder’s head to win the game. The product of suburban Dallas had been moved from the batting order’s ninth spot to its second and was looking to “slap hit,” using a running start out of the batter’s box and a short swing. However, she wound up taking a bigger hack than planned.

“If they leave the ball high in the zone and you can get your hands through it, that’s what you do,” she said. “It felt pretty good off the bat, but I had to wait and see how the left fielder played it.”

Said Doepking: “I had told her to put something on the ground, and the last thing I wanted was something in the air. But that was probably the hardest-hit ball she’s had all season and she came through in the clutch.”

Rumley allowed six hits while striking out five Quakers and walking none. She is 15-10 with a 1.99 ERA.

“Rums has so much confidence in herself and that calms her defense down,” Jorgensen said. “We know she’s going to make pitches every single inning.”

The past two seasons, there’s been a bit of a drop-off between Rumley’s dominance and McCalmon’s performances, but that gap is shrinking. A physically imposing product of Norman, Okla., McCalmon overcame a wrist injury and biceps pain this season and is now 10-2 with a 2.43 ERA.

“She’s gotten better each year and just from the beginning of this season,” Rumley said. “Today she proved how far she’s come. She showed how tough she was and I’m so happy for her.”

Dartmouth was designated the visiting team for the second game and struck for its run during the first inning. Leadoff hitter McEachern was struck by a pitch and Jorgensen walked, followed by a Rumley single that scored McEachern. From there, McCalmon outdueled Borden, who allowed seven hits as her team fell to 22-20.

“We knew it was going to come down to timely hitting and we got it when we needed it,” said Doepking, who was drenched with a cooler of ice water shortly after the final out. “Who would have thought one run would have done it in the (second game)?”

Dartmouth’s players and coaches will gather May 10 to find out where the NCAA will send them for their next games. Last season’s trip to regional play ended quickly with 8-0 losses to host Arizona State and San Diego State.

“We were kind of star-struck because it was our first time in that setting and we faced some huge pitchers,” said Rumley, whose team began this season with an upset of No. 16 Auburn and later lost by a run at No. 25 Texas. “But at the beginning of this year, we proved we can play with anyone. Now, we have to go out and show that wasn’t a fluke.”

Said Jorgensen: “Last year, we were just excited to be there. But this season, when we made our goals, our number one goal wasn’t to win an Ivy League championship, it was to win a regional. We’ll be so excited wherever we go and our expectation is to advance into super regionals.”

Notes: Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon attended the games. … Jorgensen’s online biography details her hope to become an author or screenplay writer. … Scuttlebutt around the press box was that Dartmouth could wind up in a regional hosted by the likes of UCLA, Auburn, Minnesota, Florida State or Louisiana-Lafayette. Those are the teams ranked No. 7-11 in the current top 20. The Ivy League figures to be rated strongly enough that it will avoid being placed in a regional hosted by the likes of Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Louisiana State, the top five teams in those rankings. … The host school has won all nine Ivy League championship series. … McEachern leads the Ivies with a .449 batting average and entered the weekend sixth in NCAA Division I in times hit by a pitch (16) and seventh in on-base percentage (.603). … The title series appearance was Dartmouth’s fourth. … The Big Green leads the teams’ series, 27-22.

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