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Softball opens league play hosting Harvard and Dartmouth

A couple season firsts are on tap for Princeton this weekend: It is the opening weekend of conference play with games against Harvard and Dartmouth, and the Tigers (5-15 overall, 0-0 Ivy League) will hopefully be playing their first games at Class of 1895 Field. The Crimson (11-11, 0-0) visit for a doubleheader Friday before the Big Green (10-13, 0-0) comes to town for another two games Saturday.

Princeton’s performance thus far has mirrored the weather that’s kept it from playing any games on dirt outside Florida and California. The Tigers have the worst win percentage of any team in the South division of the conference and lead only Brown and Yale from the North. Their hitting has been particularly lethargic, averaging just 2.35 runs per game. They bat .216, 7th in the league, and slug .271, last in the league. Princeton’s pitching is marginally better as it ranks a close sixth with an ERA of 4.65. Tiger pitchers strike out 4.04 batters per game, good for sixth best in the league, but rank last in WHIP ((walks + hits) / innings pitched) at 1.765. One bright spot for them has been freshman pitcher Erica Nori, whose 1.89 ERA ranks her second in the league. Princeton does not have a clear team leader individually on offense. Senior outfielder Maddie Cousens hits .286, best on the team, while junior outfielder Rachel Rendina leads in on-base percentage at .388. Freshman outfielder Marissa Reynolds bats just .200, but half her hits are for extra bases and she leads the team in slugging as a result. She’s also batted in seven runs, tied for highest on the team, and scored five herself, tied for third.

Harvard has put together a pretty good season thus far against quality opponents. It scored an impressive win on February 28, beating then No. 21 Louisiana State University 1-0 in a 12-inning pitcher’s duel. That game was no fluke; the Crimson have the best pitching and fielding in the Ivy League. Its pitchers rank first by a good margin with a 2.38 ERA and hold opposing hitters to a .252 batting average, second best in the conference. Unsurprisingly, the Crimson has a trio of top pitchers in Morgan Groom, Laura Ricciardone and Taylor Cabe, who all have ERAs at 2.44 or better. Harvard is also best in the league in several fielding categories, including fielding percentage, double plays turned, putouts and assists. The Crimson has a decent offense to go with its strong defense. It hits .258 and scores 4.14 runs per game, both top three marks among the Ancient Eight. It is especially quick on the basepaths, leading the league by far in stolen bases and ranking 31st in the country for that statistic. Harvard is led by a pair of seniors who both rank among the league leaders in batting average and on base percentage. Infielder Kasey Lange hits .347 and get on base 41.2 percent of the times and outfielder Shelbi Olsen hits .342 and has an OBP of .405. Lange is tied for third in the league with three homers and slugs a strong .547 accordingly.

Dartmouth is the league’s No. 2 team, according to the NCAA’s RPI ratings, as its ranking of 191 trails only Harvard’s 131. Princeton, for reference, is ranked No. 5 in the league at 256th out of 293 total Division I teams. The Big Green, last year’s conference runner up, is a very well-balanced squad, ranking among the top three in most statistical categories. It ranks third in scoring with 4.09 runs per game and bats .277. Dartmouth hits well for power with a league-best 15 home runs and 39 doubles. Its pitchers allow 3.42 earned runs per seven innings, third best in the conference. It seems to be boom or bust for the Big Green hurlers, who lead the league in home runs allowed, with 15, but also average a league-best 7.15 strikeouts per game. Dartmouth owns the league’s best all around hitter in sophomore utility Kelsey Miller. She leads the conference in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage with rates of .429, .500 and .651. She’s also scored a league-best 17 runs and is a perfect five for five on stolen base attempts. Last year’s Ivy League pitcher of the year, junior Kristen Rumley, has picked up right where she left off with a solid 2.51 ERA, despite pitching far and away the most innings in the league.

 

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