This past weekend, Princeton softball (21–16 overall, 14–4 Ivy League) welcomed the Harvard Crimson (23–14–1, 13–5) to Strubing Field, in a matchup featuring the top teams in the conference. Earning the hard-fought series win, the Tigers took the Friday opener before splitting the Saturday doubleheader. More importantly, the Tigers’ Friday win secured their spot in the Ivy League Championship.
Game one saw the Tigers’ ace, senior starting pitcher Alexis Laudenslager, matched up against Crimson first-year pitcher Riley Flynn. Coming out strong through the first three innings, Laudenslager held the Crimson hitless while Flynn had only allowed three hits.
With the game still scoreless in the fifth, the Tigers’ offense broke through in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff double from senior pinch hitter Lauren Murphy, senior left fielder Serena Starks advanced Murphy to third with a single. From there, junior shortstop Grace Jackson’s RBI groundout put the Tigers out in front 1–0.
Later on offense, the Tigers doubled their lead with a home run from first-year third baseman Julia Dumais. In the sixth, a double from junior Cate Bade and a walk from sophomore center fielder Lauren Sablone put two runners on base for Starks. With a single to left field, Starks extended the Tigers’ lead to 4–0.
In the top of the seventh, Laudenslager worked around a walk to close out the game for a solid Tigers’ win. The senior finished with nine strikeouts across a full seven innings of work.
This win was enough to punch the Tigers’ ticket to the Ivy League Championship, where they will look to repeat as Ivy League Champions.
The Saturday doubleheader took place on Senior Day, where the Tigers celebrated the Class of 2023.
“My fellow seniors and I started our college athletic careers two years later than expected,” Laudenslager told The Daily Princetonian. “We have experienced some of the worst parts of our lives and lowest points in our athletic careers together. And yet, last season we managed to achieve some of the highest points in our athletic careers because of the team culture we’ve helped to build.”
“Senior Day was a tribute to all that we have been through — good, bad, and everything in between. I have loved my time playing for Princeton softball and feel proud of what my class was able to achieve here,” Laudenslager continued.
For the opener on Saturday, Laudenslager was back in the circle for the Tigers, this time matched up against Crimson sophomore Anna Reed.
Both teams got on the board in the first inning, courtesy of a Crimson sac fly and an RBI single from Princeton senior designated player Adrienne Chang.
After surrendering a run in the first, Laudenslager made quick work of the Crimson second, working a 1–2–3 inning to get the Tigers back on offense.
With two outs, senior catcher Ashley McDonald tripled to bring home Sablone in the bottom of the second. From there, Starks beat out an infield hit, which brought home McDonald. The rally gave the Tigers a 3–1 lead heading into the third.
In the home half of the third, sophomore first baseman Sofia Marsalo extended the lead to 4–1, singling home sophomore second baseman Allison Ha.
Opening up the game for the Tigers in the fourth, Ha blooped a two-run single above the shortstop’s head with the bases loaded. Then, with two outs, Marsalo hit a ball just past the outstretched glove of the Crimson shortstop, which scored two runners and stretched the Tigers’ lead to 8–1.
The Crimson threatened to gain momentum in the fifth, but with a strikeout, Laudenslager limited a Crimson rally to just two runs in the inning.
With Harvard mounting a comeback in the sixth, junior Molly Chambers entered the game in relief for Laudenslager with the bases full. Chambers walked the first batter she faced, which cut the lead to 8–4 with no outs in the inning. However, from there, the junior buckled down and limited the damage to a sacrifice fly, maintaining the Tigers’ lead.
Chambers made quick work of the seventh inning, securing a series win for the Tigers.
“This weekend, my pitching goal was to throw a lot of strikes,” Laudenslager told the ‘Prince.’ “Doing this helped to keep my pitch count on Friday low despite throwing the full seven innings. Saturday, my arm didn’t feel as fresh and my movement wasn’t as sharp, but I knew that if I continued to throw strikes, my defense would make plays behind me.”
Eyeing a sweep, the Tigers turned to first-year pitcher Brielle Wright, who matched up against sophomore Katie Arrambide for the Crimson.
The first inning spelled trouble from the get-go when the Crimson loaded the bases with no outs. From there, a hit by pitch and a walk saw the Crimson plate two runners before the Tigers had even recorded their first out. This prompted an early pitching change for the Tigers, as sophomore Meghan Harrington entered to try to escape the inning.
Harrington did well to record two outs with a sac fly and a groundout, but the Crimson managed a two-run single to extend their lead to 5–0 in the first inning.
In the second, the Crimson added another run with an RBI single down the left-field line.
Down 6–0, the Tigers began to mount a comeback. A pair of RBI singles in the second cut the deficit to 6–2 in favor of the Crimson.
The third, fourth, and fifth saw each pitcher hold the opposition scoreless. In the top of the sixth, a lead-off walk led the Tigers to make their second pitching change, replacing Harrington with Chambers. The junior was unfazed by the inherited runner, as she got out of the sixth without surrendering a run.
When Chambers worked a scoreless seventh, the Tigers entered the last half-inning down four runs.
A Sablone lead-off single, as well as Starks reaching base on an error, put two Tigers in scoring position. Then, junior Caitlin Bish reached base on another error by the Crimson, which cut the lead to three runs. After a Crimson pitching change, Ha reached on yet another run-scoring throwing error, as the Crimson’s defense left the door wide open for an improbable Tigers comeback.
The next batter was Adrienne Chang, who hit a sac fly to cut the deficit to one. The Tigers’ comeback effort came up just short after a fielder’s choice and a strikeout saw the Crimson narrowly escape game three with a 6–5 win.
This win for the Crimson secured their spot in the Ivy League Championship. However, the Tigers control their destiny for winning the Ivy League, as they currently sit atop the conference standings with a 14–4 record, a loss, and a win ahead of second-place Harvard.
“Our team has big ambitions and a lot of them involve the postseason,” Laudenslager said. “Securing our spot in the conference tournament brings us one step closer to making it to Regionals and competing on the national stage.”
The Tigers next face the Villanova Wildcats (29–18 overall, 13–5 Big East) on April 25.
Tony Owens is a contributor to the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
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