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Dartmouth cherishes first NCAA softball appearance

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On the official box score, the Dartmouth softball team’s first experience in the NCAA Tournament may have ended with something called the mercy rule, but there were no signs of disappointment in the Big Green’s clubhouse following the game.

Seeded ninth in the nation and winners of two of the past six national championships, the Arizona State Sun Devils (45-10-1) used a six-run fifth inning to defeat the Big Green (31-18), 8-0 on the opening day of the Tempe Regional Friday.

“I’m so proud of our team, our girls battled their guts out there today,” fourth-year Dartmouth coach Rachel Hanson said. “I’m really proud of how they competed, they have great hitters, they started pouring it on in the fifth, it escalated pretty quickly, but I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

After 20 seasons of softball on the Hanover, N.H., campus, the prestigious school of 4,200 won the Ivy League championship for the first time and was sentenced to a matchup with a core of seniors seeking their fourth-straight College World Series appearance.

“The consistency of their hitting, the level, we haven’t seen a lineup that stacked and deep this year,” Hanson said of ASU. “We played some good teams, Cal Poly really hit the ball well. They’re (ASU) at a little different level, there’s a reason why they’re in the top 10 in the country.”

Dartmouth is the second-youngest team in the tournament behind Central Florida, with no seniors and four juniors, and the 31-year-old Hanson has turned around a team that went 14-27 in 2010 to winning the Ivy League’s North Division in consecutive years and an 18-2 conference record this season.

“It was fun to just earn this opportunity,” Hanson said. “This is a very precise plan we’ve had over four years, we planned to be here, it’s the next level now, we won the Ivy championship, now we want to continue to play in the postseason.”

Fresh off being named first-team All-Pacific-12 and in the top 10 for Player of the Year candidates, Dallas Escobedo took the mound for ASU Friday with a 15-2 career postseason record at home and a 1.35 ERA.

“She was exactly what we thought she’d be,” Hanson said of Escobedo. “We need to get our timing down, she’s a little faster than what we’ve seen, I think laying off the rise ball, that discipline was huge, she keeps you off balance.”

Dartmouth junior centerfielder Megan Averitt collected the only hit of the afternoon off Escobedo Friday, a one-out single in the top of the third.

“We were exceptionally excited to be here,” Averitt said. “We always wanted to come and compete, we wanted to give our best, and I think we did that today. We represented the Ivy League in the way that we did. It was an honor to play against Dallas and Arizona State, we really enjoyed it.”

Kristen Rumley (18-8) took the defeat Friday, but the junior from Katy, Texas, was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Year and holds the school record for wins, strikeouts and innings pitched.

“We’re super excited to be here,” Rumley said. “We’re just enjoying it, I’m so glad that we stayed around the first five innings giving Arizona State a run for their money, so I’m super proud of our team.”

The Big Green continues its season against San Diego State (39-18) in the first elimination game of the region, following the ASU –Michigan game, which begins at 3 p.m. Saturday at Farrington Stadium.

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