NEW YORK -- The Columbia softball team dropped a pair of 4-2 decisions to Harvard in an Ivy League doubleheader at Baker Athletics Complex on Sunday. With the losses, the Lions fall to 8-19 overall and 0-4 in conference play while the Crimson improve to 18-10 and 4-0 in Ivy League competition.
The Lions got off to a hot start in the first, as sophomore Jennifer Bergeron started things off with a one-out walk. Senior Karen Tulig followed with a hard-hit grounder that went for an infield single to put runners on first and second.
Tulig's classmate, Anne Marie Skylis, stepped to the plate and ripped a 1-0 offering from Crimson pitcher Rachel Brown through the left side for a run-scoring single to put the Lions on top, 1-0.
With runners on the corners and one down, Columbia attempted a suicide squeeze but Brown threw a pitch well wide of the strike zone that sophomore Christie Taylor could not make contact with.
Tulig was already halfway down the third-base line when the pitch was caught by Harvard catcher Allison Scott, who began a rundown that eventually led to Tulig being tagged out. Brown struck out the Columbia batter to end the inning shortly thereafter.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, first-year Prophet Gaspard worked through the second inning easily before running into trouble in the third. The frame started harmlessly with a routine out to lead things off. But three consecutive Columbia errors loaded the base with just one down.
The miscues would prove costly as Crimson third baseman Kasey Lange belted a grand slam over the center-field wall to give Harvard a 4-1 lead. Lange was a menace at the plate all afternoon, going a perfect 3-for-3 in game one with two doubles and the home run.
In fact, Lange was pretty much the only offense the Crimson could muster as she accounted for three of Harvard's four hits on the day, with the other base hit being Whitney Shaw's single that immediately followed the grand slam.
Gaspard was able to hold the Crimson off the board for the rest of the third and over the next two innings before junior Jessica Rakonza came in to pitch two perfect innings in relief.
After Rakonza's first scoreless frame, the Lions threatened to get closer as Tulig dinked a double into centerfield with two outs. Brown was up to the task, as she retired the next batter to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor led off and blasted a solo home run to left to pull Columbia to within 4-2. But that's as close as it would get as Brown set the Lions down in order the rest of the way.
Much like Columbia did in the first game, Harvard jumped out quickly in the second half of the doubleheader as Ellen Macadam led off with a solo home run to left that gave the Crimson an early 1-0 lead.
Rakonza came in from the bullpen after two batters and got out of the inning. Offensively, the Lions had three hits in the bottom half of the frame but could not scratch home a run. First-year Emily Snodgrass beat out an infield single to lead off, but was gunned down trying to steal for the first out.
After a strikeout by Harvard pitcher Laura Ricciardone, Tulig and Skylis had back-to-back singles to put a pair on with two away. Taylor dug in to the batter's box and looped a soft pop up that looked like it was destined to drop until Harvard shortstop Jane Alexander made an unbelievable diving catch behind second base to end Columbia's threat.
Two scoreless innings would follow, until the Crimson added to its lead in the top of the fourth. Lange was once again in the middle of the action, as she led the inning off with a hard-hit ball up the middle that ricocheted off of Rakonza's leg and into left field for a double. Another two-base hit, this one from Allison Scott, bumped the Harvard lead to 2-0.
The Crimson advantage would double in the top of the fifth, as Lange drove home two more with a bases-loaded single to right field after Macadam and Regan preceded her with singles of their own.
With the score 4-0, Ricciardone kept the Lions off the board until the seventh. An error on the Harvard left fielder on a Snodgrass single allowed sophomore Alison Lam to score, after she had reached on a fielder's choice. An infield single from Bergeron scored Snodgrass, and put the score at 4-2 with two outs in the inning.
Tulig stepped to the plate and grounded one up the middle. Macadam ranged far to her right and made the play, flipping to her teammate Alexander to get the force and close the game.
Tulig finished the day with three hits, while Rakonza allowed just one earned runs over seven innings pitched in relief. Taylor, Skylis and Snodgrass all had two hits over the two games for Columbia.
Columbia returns to non-conference action on Tuesday, April 5 as it travels to Fairfield for a doubleheader.