Champion of the sporting life Ross Chapman went to a softball game and lived to tell the tale, sustained only by fevered visions of you, dear reader.
A few squandered offensive opportunities left the Lions low after game one, but a powerful pitching performance by Tessa Kroll helped the Columbia softball team split a cold doubleheader yesterday with the Harvard Crimson.
The Columbia Softball Field (one of the few unnamed fields at Baker) is nestled behind the Columbia Field Hockey Venue and overlooks the Robertson Baseball Field. About 150 people’s worth of bleacher seats sit behind the home dugout, and friends, family, and fans of Harvard and Columbia came out despite the weather for both teams’ Ivy opener. The field is definitely the simplest of all the facilities at Baker – Wi-Fi and restrooms aren’t easily accessible for fans, but the proximity to the players certainly makes up for that. The dugouts were just the right size for the pumped up and often loud teams, and the separation in the middle of the bleachers sufficiently segregated the Crimson faithful from the Columbia fans.
Columbia jumped out to an early lead when Alix Cook chopped an infield single to lead off the first. A sacrifice bunt later, Cook’s sister Kerry ripped a line drive to the gap in right center field to drive in the run and secure the 1-0 score that would hold until the fifth inning. Columbia’s Tonia Wu was strong early, striking out consecutive batters in the second inning and holding Harvard without a strong hit until the fifth. Unfortunately, Harvard’s Laura Ricciardione was even better, retiring 11 straight after Cook’s double.
Stuff heated up in the fifth for both squads. Giana Panariello of the Crimson hit a high fly to right center which bounced off of the outfield wall before finally going over it, just narrowly supplying Harvard with their first run of the game. Columbia had a great chance to break the game open in the next half inning when Taylor Troutt forced an error by the second baseman and Mackensy Lakian, after failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt, pulled a low line drive down the first base line. With that, there were two in scoring position and none out for the 8, 9, and 1 hitters of the Lions. But after Harvard’s third baseman Jillian Leslie made a sliding catch into the dugout to put one out on the board, Ricciardione got the next two hitters to pop up harmlessly.
This missed opportunity immediately stung when Catherine Calloway stroked a double to center to start the top of the sixth. Her pinch runner, Dallas Hogan, immediately stole third. Madison Gott, Columbia’s shortstop, made a nice crossbody play on a hot ground ball to hold Hogan at third, but the next hitter batted the ball to Gott again, and she couldn’t handle it as well. Tonia Wu hit the next batter, and the bases were loaded with just one out. The next long at bat resulted in a lineout to short, which brought Panariello up to the plate again. On a 2-2 outside fastball, Panariello shot the ball down the first base line, driving in two and giving Harvard the 3-1 lead.
Kerry Cook and Tonia Wu showed life in the bottom of the inning, knocking back to back singles. With two outs, Troutt hit a single to center, and while Cook scored, Wu got caught watching the play and ended up out after a rundown to end the inning. Wu went back to the mound and shut down Harvard in their last at bats, but Columbia couldn’t get a hit in the bottom of the inning. Harvard won the first game of the doubleheader, 3-2.
The second game of the day featured a powerful, but not entirely clean, performance from Tessa Kroll on the mound for Columbia. She gave up only two hits but walked three batters in her complete game shutout. Five straight batters reached base for the Lions in the bottom of fifth, knocking out the starting pitcher in the process. Columbia scored in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to get the bounceback 3-0 win against Harvard.
Both teams go to 1-1 in Ivy play, and the Lions host Dartmouth today for another doubleheader. This tight schedule makes the complete game performances of Wu and Kroll especially important, as the bullpen will be well stocked against the Big Green. If the Lions clean up some mental mistakes and play with the same tenacity against Dartmouth, good things are in store for this season.
In other Columbia sporting news this weekend: