As the softball team played its first games in its own division this weekend, Bruno (10-15, 4-8 Ivy) hoped to make a run at the North title and earn a spot in the Ivy League championship game.
Unfortunately for the Bears, two narrow losses and a blowout to Harvard all but ended their title aspirations. But Brown came back strong in the fourth game of the series with the Crimson (17-16, 8-4) and avoided the sweep.
Katie Orona ’18, who has been the Bears’ ace all season, let up a first-inning run in the first game Saturday but did not look back after that. The first-year struck out three, walked three and only allowed one run through seven innings. Unfortunately for the Bears, the offense was stalled by the Crimson’s flamethrowing starter and reigning Ivy League Co-Pitcher of the Week, Laura Ricciardone.
But the Bears were able to strike in the bottom half of the seventh, as Janet Leung ’16 got on base after an error by Ricciardone and scored when Emily Springfield ’18 singled her home. The junior made a fantastic slide past the outstretched Harvard catcher, who missed the tag as Leung slid around her and tapped home plate.
Harvard jumped on Orona in the first half of the extra inning, getting two runs on two hits. Brown went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, losing the first game 3-1.
Jessica Cherness ’15 took the hill for the second game and was instantly pounced on by an eager Harvard lineup. The senior gave up three earned runs in two innings and then was pulled for Leah Nakashima ’17 in the top of the third. The sophomore did not have her best outing, giving up five runs — all unearned — in two and a third innings.
The offense stalled again, as Springfield contributed the team’s only RBI for the second straight game, and the Bears fell 9-1 in five innings.
“We were in that first game, and it was crushing to lose an extra-inning game, but we were right there the whole way,” said Head Coach Katie Flynn. “We struggled in that second game yesterday because the loss kind of took the air out of our tires.”
Sunday’s first game was as heartbreaking as Saturday’s first but featured a lot more offense from both sides. Ricciardone and Orona started their second games of the weekend, and both offenses took advantage. Julia Schoenwald ’17 started the game off for the Bears, smacking a three-run double to give Bruno a 4-0 advantage after the bottom of the first. Ricciardone gave herself some run support shortly thereafter, hitting a three-run bomb to deep center.
The two teams traded blows, but Harvard struck the last couple in the fifth and sixth innings to take the lead and hold it. Taylor Cabe, who pitched the second game on Saturday, came in to relieve Ricciardone and, after a hiccup in her first inning, settled down to close the door on the Bears’ hopes for a win. Harvard took the third game 10-8.
After starting and going the distance against Bryant in a nonconference game Wednesday and then throwing upwards of 130 pitches in her first start Saturday, it seemed like overuse played a factor for Orona, who let up a career high 10 runs on 15 hits Sunday.
“It’s definitely a fatigue factor,” Flynn said. “She’s been our workhorse all year, and they made some adjustments against her changeup, and we didn’t play particularly great defense behind her.”
Brown finally struck gold in the second game on Sunday, as Nakashima pitched a gem — striking out three and walking none in seven innings of work.
“Leah was fantastic,” Flynn said. “That’s the Leah that we saw towards the end of last year. She was hitting her spots and using her defense. She throws a five-hitter and no walks against a Harvard team — that’s an outstanding start. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Morgan Groom started the game impressively for Harvard but was pulled after back-to-back home runs by Trista Chavez ’15 and Sarah Syrop ’17. Annie McGregor ’18 forced a huge walk with the bases loaded against Cabe, while Leung provided some unnecessary insurance in the bottom of the sixth with a one-out single. The game ended 4-2 in favor of Bruno, which took home its only win of the weekend in the final slate against the Crimson.
After scoring a combined two runs Saturday, the offensive production in the final two games of the series for Bruno was particularly impressive, especially against one of the top pitchers in the Ivy League.
“Playing four games against the same team is tough, so to knock Ricciardone out of the game was huge,” Flynn said. “For Trista to come through with a big home run and Sarah to go back-to-back and then to tack on one or two more runs later in the game, it’s fantastic.”
The Bears will play a nonleague game against Providence Wednesday and then head to Dartmouth for a four game series against the conference’s best team.