After a 2-6 start to the season, the Harvard baseball team climbed briefly back to .500. Down in Clinton, S.C., a week and a half ago, the Crimson swept a four-game series at Presbyterian to run its record to 6-6 and drop the Blue Hose to 5-12.
The keys to the sweep? Confidence, a belief that they can win close games, and late-inning runs—a lot of them. In fact, Harvard’s ability to put on the backburners and generate scoring explosions late in games buoyed the team.
On Friday, the Crimson scored three in the eighth inning for some needed insurance runs in an 11-5 series-opening victory. Friday’s nightcap ended up being a quiet 2-1 victory, but Saturday’s opener saw Harvard run wild on the basepaths late as the team scored seven times in the ninth and tenth frames to take a 7-5 comeback win. The Crimson kept the foot on the gas in the series-closer, putting up five runs in the penultimate inning to cruise to a 10-5 victory.
“We have a newfound confidence that hasn’t really been there the past couple of years,” junior center fielder Ben Skinner said. “We expect to win. We expect to score runs late. We have a lot of fight this year...when the game’s on the line in the end, we’re expecting to get those big hits. We’ve been coming through in some clutch situations, which is a lot of fun for us.”
HARVARD 10, PRESBYTERIAN 5 (6 INNINGS)
Seven different Harvard players tallied RBIs, junior pitcher Kevin Stone went the distance on the mound, and the Crimson used a five-run fifth to run away with a 10-5 win in the series capper on Saturday afternoon.
“I think Presbyterian is a team that is equivalent, or, at the least, a good representation of what a pretty solid Ivy League baseball team would look like,” junior catcher Jake Allen said. “I think [the sweep] was a pretty big deal for our confidence and our overall outlook for the rest of the season.”
Allen went 2-for-4 at the plate, batted in two runners, and scored a run. The productive day at the leadoff spot capped off a 4-for-9 weekend for the Charlottesville, Va., native. Behind the plate, Allen also guided Stone, last year’s team wins pitching leader, to a win for a 2-1 record.
Harvard jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the third, and even after the Blue Hose tied it up in the bottom half of the third, cracked the game open with seven straight runs for a 10-3 lead to pull away. Juniors Matt Rothenberg and John MacLean went yard back-to-back in the fourth inning to get it started.
HARVARD 7, PRESBYTERIAN 5 (10 INNINGS)
In the wildest game of the series, Harvard was shut out until the very last inning, but exploded for seven runs in the ninth and tenth to take the win.
With the team down 3-0 with two outs left to work with, sophomore Jake Suddleson got it started with a double. A batter later, the Presbyterian defense fell apart. Five Crimson runners reached base in a row with two outs in the inning, helped out by an error, and Harvard left the top of the ninth with a 4-3 lead.
“Our team, as a whole, showed a lot of fight,” said Skinner, who belted a two-RBI double to deal the most damage during the comeback. “We’re looking forward to Ivy League season, where we can use our experiences winning late in games now and hopefully keep that momentum going and be able to turn that into some wins in the Ivy League.”
Presbyterian tied it up at four in the bottom of the ninth, but the Crimson stuck with it, scoring three more in the top of the tenth for the decisive lead.
HARVARD 2, PRESBYTERIAN 1
A quiet 2-1 Harvard win in the Friday nightcap featured a costly error for the Blue Hose and a rookie starting on the mound for the Crimson.
Freshman righty Buddy Hayward, a two-way player out of Plantation, Fla., made his first career start for Harvard, pitching six innings of five-hit ball and giving up no earned runs. The rookie struck out six and walked just one in an impressive day of work.
Sophomore Hunter Bigge took over for the last inning, giving up just a walk and no hits to get the save.
On the offensive side, the Crimson benefited from an error leading to a run in the first inning, and tacked on another run on an Allen RBI single in the second to take a 2-0 lead after two frames. The early tallies held up, as the Blue Hose only crossed the plate once for an unearned run in the third.
HARVARD 11, PRESBYTERIAN 5
Spring Break got off to a good start for Harvard, as the Crimson broke through in the fifth and sixth innings to post two straight crooked numbers. The resultant 8-2 scoreline lead held up for an 11-5 rout.
Junior first baseman Patrick McColl had a career game at the plate, driving in five runs on a bases-clearing double in the fifth and a two-run double in the sixth. McColl’s impact on the team as a middle-of-the-order hitter can’t be underestimated, as he leads the team with 17 RBIs on the season.
Sophomore Chad Minato walked twice and scored three times, and Skinner also walked twice and score twice.
Harvard outhit Presbyterian 13 to 10 and was cleaner in the field, committing just one error to Presbyterian’s three.
—Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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