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Penn center fielder Deb Kowalchuk went 5-for-14 this weekend. She went 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored in yesterday's nightcap against visiting Harvard. (Jennifer Winston/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

The Penn softball team had a decidedly unlucky opening to its Ivy season. The Quakers let three leads slip through their fingers, as they were swept by Harvard and Dartmouth in a pair of doubleheaders. The Red and Blue started their Ivy League season 0-4 (10-19 overall) by dropping two close games to Dartmouth (6-7, 1-3) before falling victim to the strong pitching and offense of Harvard (7-9, 3-1). In its first game against the Big Green, Penn was forced into its third extra-inning contest in as many games. They had to go eight and nine innings in their twinbill with Lehigh Wednesday. For Penn, the frustrating aspect of this extra-inning game is that it could have been avoided. The Red and Blue rushed out of the gate with five unanswered runs in the first four innings. Penn second baseman Jamie Pallas knocked in two runs, and center fielder Deb Kowalchuk chipped in with an RBI single. These runs all came off last season's Ivy League Pitcher of the year, Christine Quattrocchi, who eventually settled down to get the win in eight innings. Dartmouth figured out Penn freshman pitcher Nicki Borgstadt in the fourth, putting three runs on the board. Penn third baseman Jen Moore later knocked home Clarisa Apostol with a double, but Dartmouth's bats woke up once again in the seventh when the Big Green scored four more to send the game into extra innings. Dartmouth's Sarah Damon tagged a home run off Borgstadt in the eighth -- giving the Big Green a come-from-behind win. "We played really hard and hit well, but a couple errors in the game cost us," Moore said. In the nightcap, Penn got off to another strong start, as Moore knocked home Crista Farrell in the first. Dartmouth would later take the lead in the fourth, and Penn was unable to score again in the 3-1 loss. Penn sophomore Becky Ranta struck out six, but took the loss because of poor run support. "The second game we just didn't hit well," Moore said. On Sunday, Ranta and Borgstadt stepped into the circle once more for Penn, this time against defending Ivy champion Harvard. Both had trouble with the potent Crimson lineup, as they gave up a combined 16 runs on the day. Harvard pitcher Tiffany Whitton was dominant in the first game, yielding only Penn shortstop Farrell's RBI single while cruising to a 7-1 victory. In the second game, Penn jumped out to another early lead when Kowalchuk doubled and later crossed home plate on a passed ball. Kowalchuk and freshman Erin O'Brien would later drive in a run each, but Harvard's hitters put together a few big innings to spoil Ranta's second complete game of the weekend, 9-3. Penn scored all three of its runs off of Harvard senior Chelsea Thoke, who is Harvard's career strikeout leader and a former Ivy League Player of the Year. "We've actually done really well off of Thoke the past few years, so we certainly weren't intimidated with her on the mound," Moore said. Harvard, who split with Princeton on Saturday, is now 3-1 in the Ivies. "We had a very good series against Princeton. It was a competitive doubleheader," Harvard coach Jenny Allard said. "The difference today against Penn was more people coming through in the lineup. "Penn did a great job and played a clean game defensively, but we just hit the ball more. They kept both games close for several innings." Penn will have a non-Ivy breather against Dartmouth Wednesday, but will have to regroup before traveling to Brown and Yale next weekend. "This will probably be our toughest Ivy weekend," Moore said. "Oh-and-four is a tough way to start."

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