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Baseball Kicks Off Ivy League Play at Columbia, Wins One of Three

Then-junior Ben Rounds rounds the bases in a Baseball Beanpot tournament game last season. Rounds has been a key contributor to the Crimson's lineup so far in his senior season.
Then-junior Ben Rounds rounds the bases in a Baseball Beanpot tournament game last season. Rounds has been a key contributor to the Crimson's lineup so far in his senior season. By Courtesy of Philip Tor/Harvard Athletics

Coming off of a tough spring break trip, the Harvard baseball team (3-13, 1-2 Ivy) kicked off Ivy League play against Columbia (6-12, 2-1 Ivy). The Crimson, who swept the Lions in 2023, looked to start off on a strong note in conference play. The teams started off the series with a doubleheader on Friday, winning one of two before dropping the matinee on Sunday.

“The games we had this weekend were the most competitive three we’ve had all year,” said junior pitcher and staff ace Sean Matson. Yet the Crimson is still waiting for its efforts to show up in the win-loss column.

Harvard 2, Columbia 3

In the first game of the day, Harvard threatened to score in the top of the first inning with two outs, putting runners on first and third with a walk by senior designated hitter Ben Rounds and a single by senior third baseman Jake Berger. Senior first baseman Chris Snopek struck out to end Harvard’s opportunity and keep the game scoreless. Pitching for the Crimson was Matson, who started the game off strong by striking out the leadoff batter and only allowing one on base in the bottom of the first inning.

Columbia pitcher Derek Yoo and Matson both settled into their rhythms and delivered one-two-three frames in the second inning. Yoo carried his momentum through the top of the third inning with another one-two-three effort against sophomore outfielder Max Lane, junior outfielder Matt Giberti, and junior infielder George Cooper. In the bottom of the third, the Lions threatened to strike first. After striking out the leadoff batter, Matson allowed two walks with a groundout in between. With runners on first and second with two outs, Matson struck out Columbia center fielder Skye Selinsky to keep the game scoreless.

In the top of the fourth inning, freshman shortstop Tyler Shulman singled to center with two outs, advancing Berger to second base. Junior catcher Sawyer Feller reached on a fielder’s choice, but Shulman was tagged out at second, cutting short another opportunity for the Crimson to score. In the bottom-half of the inning, Columbia first baseman Jack Cooper reached first base on an error by Berger. A subsequent single gave Columbia runners on first and second, putting the Lions in a great position to take the lead. After a groundout advanced the runners to second and third, Matson allowed a single to left fielder Cole Fellows, which plated both runners and gave Columbia a 2-0 lead. The Fellows at-bat would end up being Matson’s last of the day.

“I thought it was a productive start,” said Matson, summing up his outing, which consisted of five innings of work and two runs allowed, one of them earned. “I wish I could have given the team a little bit more, with a hundred pitches. I should be able to give us seven or eight.”

Harvard’s offense continued to struggle in the fifth inning. Despite a single and a stolen base from Giberti, the offense had two strikeouts and a flyout, leaving Giberti stranded on base. Matson rebounded with a strong bottom half of the inning, which included a strikeout and a lineout to center field. The Crimson’s offense found life in the top of the sixth. To lead off the inning, Rounds doubled to left center field. Berger then singled to center, narrowing the Lions’ lead to 2-1. After Yoo was pulled from the game, Shulman and Feller both struck out looking, ending Harvard’s rally.

Junior pitcher Cole Cleary relieved Matson to start the bottom half of the sixth. After allowing a groundout and then two walks, he got two flyouts to end the inning. In the seventh inning, both offenses stagnated and failed to put a runner on base, sending the game to the eighth inning, with Columbia still clinging on to a narrow 2-1 lead.

In the top of the eighth inning, Rounds hit another double down the left field line with one out. However, the Crimson couldn’t capitalize with a runner in scoring position, keeping the score 2-1. In the bottom of the eighth, Cleary continued a strong relief outing, striking out two batters and forcing a flyout. With Harvard’s backs against the wall in the top of the ninth and two outs with no runners on, junior utility player William Lybrook, pinch hitting for sophomore infielder Jordan Kang, doubled to right field to keep the Crimson alive. Lane then reached first base after a throwing error by Columbia’s shortstop, which advanced Lybrook to third. Giberti then hit an RBI single to left field, scoring Lybrook, advancing Lane to second, and tying the game at 2-2. Cooper then flew out to center field to end the top half of the inning.

In the bottom half of the ninth, senior pitcher Uday Narottam relieved Cleary, who pitched three innings. After a leadoff single, Narottam allowed a sac bunt followed by an intentional walk, giving the Lions a prime opportunity to win the game with the bases loaded and no outs. Columbia’s first baseman, Jack Cooper, hit a walk-off single to center field and gave the Crimson another painful road loss, along with its first Ivy League loss of the season.

Harvard 8, Columbia 5

Later in the day, Harvard looked to bounce back and even up the series against the Lions, with sophomore pitcher Callan Fang taking the mound for the Crimson. In the first inning, both teams went one-two-three. In the top of the second inning, Lybrook hit a double with one out. Cooper then plated Lybrook with an RBI single to left field, giving Harvard the first run and an early 1-0 lead. Fang continued his early dominance in the bottom half of the inning with three consecutive flyouts and no runners allowed on base.

The Crimson’s bats stayed quiet in the top of the third inning, with two strikeouts and a lineout. In the bottom of the third, Fang allowed a leadoff single and a walk, giving Columbia runners on first and second bases with no outs. After a sac bunt moved runners to second and third, an RBI groundout put Columbia on the board and evened the score at 1-1. Both pitchers remained strong throughout the fourth and fifth innings, with neither team recording a hit.

In the top of the sixth inning, Harvard’s bats continued to stagnate and failed to put a runner on base. In the bottom half of the inning, Fang hit the leadoff batter with a pitch. With two outs, a wild pitch advanced the runner to second base. A throwing error by freshman shortstop Jack Rickheim gave the Lions a 2-1 lead, meaning that the Crimson needed their bats to heat up. In the top of the seventh and in need of a spark, Rounds led the inning off with a home run to center field, tying the game up at 2-2. The homer was his third of the year, putting him on track to exceed the career-high six round-trippers that he collected last season.

With the game tied again, the Crimson worked to seize the advantage. After Berger struck out looking, Lybrook singled to right field, followed by a fly out from senior outfielder Peter Messervy. Then, Cooper hit a bunt single, advancing Lybrook to second base. With two outs in the inning, Shulman walked, giving Harvard bases loaded and two outs. In a crucial moment, Lane hit an important triple down the right field line, plating Lybrook, Cooper, and Shulman and giving the Crimson a 5-2 lead heading into the seventh inning stretch.

In the bottom half of the inning, freshman pitcher Andrew Abler pitched in relief of Fang, whose night ended with six strong innings of work. With one out in the inning, Abler hit a batter with a pitch. Berger made a throwing error on a fielder’s choice hit by the next batter, Miles Blackwell, which put Columbia runners on first and second bases. The Lions’ second baseman, Hunter Snyder, came in clutch with an RBI double, narrowing Harvard’s lead to 5-3. After a walk gave the Lions bases loaded and one out, junior pitcher Tanner Smith came into the game to replace Abler. Smith allowed a single in his first batter faced, which tied the game at 5-5. Smith limited the damage with a strikeout and a flyout keeping the game at an even score.

Senior southpaw Uday Narrotam delivers to the plate in a game against Princeton last season. Narrotam allowed the game-winning run against Columbia in the first game of last Friday's doubleheader.
Senior southpaw Uday Narrotam delivers to the plate in a game against Princeton last season. Narrotam allowed the game-winning run against Columbia in the first game of last Friday's doubleheader. By Cory K. Gorczycki

In the top of the eighth inning, Harvard’s bats once again came to life in a crucial moment. To lead off the inning, Snopek hit a home run to left field, giving the Crimson a 6-5 lead. Rounds then walked and advanced to second after a single from Berger. Lybrook lined out to right field, but Rounds tagged up and advanced to third base, giving Harvard runners on first and third with only one out. Messervy extended the Crimson’s lead to 7-5 after an RBI single scored Rounds. Cooper then tripled to center field, scoring Berger. However, Messervy was tagged out at home after trying to score on the play. Nonetheless, Cooper’s big hit gave Harvard a commanding 8-5 lead entering the bottom half of the inning.

Smith cruised through the bottom of the eighth inning, facing only three batters and striking one of them out. In the top of the ninth inning, the Crimson went one-two-three. With a chance to seal the game’s fate, Smith struck out three batters in the bottom of the ninth, capping off an impressive outing from the junior pitcher, and giving him his second win of the season.

Harvard 4, Columbia 6

Harvard sent freshman Truman Pauley out to the mound on Sunday to make his second start of the season, hoping that he could improve on his inconsistent game two weeks earlier against Eastern Tennessee State, and lead the Crimson to its first series victory on the season. For the Lions, sophomore righty Thomas Santana got the nod, making his first start of the season.

In the top of the first, Rounds reached on a throwing error but was then thrown out trying to steal second, his first caught stealing of the season. In the bottom of the frame, the Lions struck against Pauley early. Snyder, hitting in the lead-off spot for the Lions, turned on a 3-1 fastball down the middle, sending the ball soaring over the wall in right field for a 1-0 Columbia lead. The sequence of that at-bat — Pauley falling behind in the count and then struggling to recover — was an omen for the rest of the freshman’s start.

In that vein, Pauley walked the next batter, Cole Hage, on four pitches. Hage is usually a threat to run — the senior from Fargo, N.D. stole ten bags last year, pacing the Ivy League — and run he did, swiping second. After another walk, Anton Lazits came up for the Lions with two on and one out. Lazits hit a low line drive toward the middle of the infield, where it glanced off Shulman’s glove at short and rolled into center field for a base hit, scoring Hage. The Lions had a 2-0 lead, and Pauley was laboring.

It looked like the freshman might escape the inning at that score, when Columbia’s Cole Fellows hit a ground ball to senior first baseman Chris Snopek, who fired to second for the force-out. Shulman’s throw back to first wasn’t in time to turn two, though. With the Lions’ Sam Miller at-bat, the Lions executed a perfect double steal: Fellows broke for second, eliciting a throw from catcher William Lybrook. By the time that Cooper caught the ball, the second baseman saw Lazits streaking toward home from third. However, Cooper’s throw home was off the mark, and Lazits slid in to extend the Lions lead to 3-0. A groundout to Shulman ended the inning, finally letting Pauley rest.

With Santana on the mound for the top of the second, the Crimson generated some action on the base paths with a hit-by-pitch and a walk. However, the threat was neutralized when Columbia’s first baseman, Jack Cooper, made a fantastic diving snag to bring in a line drive from Shulman with two outs. Santana confused the Crimson’s batters throughout the afternoon, denying the Crimson its first hit until the top of the fifth inning.

By contrast, Pauley continued to struggle with his control. With one out, he issued his third walk of the day, losing catcher Owen Estabrook on a 3-2 count. After a force-out to first — on another ground ball that almost became two — Hage came up to bat, hoping to extend the inning. On the first pitch of the at-bat, he hit a line drive double into left-center field, putting runners on second and third with two away. The next batter, Skye Selinsky, followed Hage’s lead, roping Pauley’s first pitch into the left field corner to score Estabrook and Hage. Pauley ended the bleeding by coaxing a groundout from the next batter, but the Lions’ lead had grown to 5-0.

Santana continued to protect the Columbia lead in the third and fourth innings, working around a couple Crimson base runners to keep Harvard both hitless and scoreless. In the fourth, the Crimson dugout held its breath when Lybrook took a pitch to the helmet and knelt down next to the plate for a few minutes. Lybrook eventually walked off the field, but he was pinch-run for by Feller. Santana shook off the momentary interruption and proceeded to strike out the next two Crimson batters to end the inning.

The Lions continued to get on base consistently against Pauley, but after allowing five runs in the first two innings, the freshman settled in, making clutch pitches when he needed them. In the third, this took the form of inducing three-straight fly outs after a lead-off double from Lazits. In the fourth, he stranded Snyder and Hage on base by getting a two-out ground out from Cooper. Pauley’s day was finished at the end of that inning, with 90 pitches thrown.

In the top of the fifth, the Crimson finally broke through. Shulman led off the inning with a four-pitch walk followed by the first Crimson hit of the afternoon from Lane. Lane’s sharp grounder was corralled by the shortstop Miller, who had no play. Just like that, Santana’s no-hitter was kaput and so was his start: Columbia Coach Brett Boretti pulled the sophomore and put in senior reliever Brandon Madrigal.

Unfortunately for Madrigal, Lane’s single meant that the top of the Harvard order had its first chance to do damage. Giberti singled through the right side to load the bases for Snopek. The senior rolled over on a pitch from Madrial though, producing a weak ground ball that third baseman Eric Jeon fielded and fired home for the force-out. The next man up was Rounds, who lived up to his reputation as the Crimson’s most dominant hitter, taking a 2-1 pitch from Madrigal and driving it into the gap in left field, displaying his easy power by going the other way. The bases cleared, Rounds made it to second, and the Crimson was back in the game. Harvard took advantage of a Lions miscue later in the inning, when a low fastball from Madrial got under the glove of Estabrook and rolled to the backstop, allowing Rounds — who had moved over to third on a groundout — to come home and score, narrowing the Columbia lead to 5-4.

With Santana out and Madrigal looking vulnerable, the Crimson had hope that it could complete the comeback. But baseball is a fickle game, and after its booming fifth inning, the Harvard bats went silent again. After the bases-clearing double from Rounds, Madrigal bore down, only allowing one more Crimson hit the rest of the game in the form of a two-out single from Giberti in the eighth, which was later neutralized by a Shulman strike out. Though the Crimson had opportunities in the seventh, on account of sloppy fielding from Columbia, Madrigal retired the heart of the Crimson order to shut down the threat.

Freshman reliever Will Burns, who was roughed up in his last outing at Western Carolina, gave the Crimson three and two-thirds solid innings of relief work, only allowing the Lions to tack on one insurance run in the eighth on a sac fly from Cooper. Ultimately, though, the Crimson’s inability to generate consistent pressure on Santana or Madrigal outside of the fifth inning doomed its chances in the series decider. It also solidified an early deficit in the Ivy League standings from the Crimson, with UPenn sweeping its first conference match-up against Brown and leading the Ancient Eight with its 11-10 record overall.

“Everybody on the team has kind of focused on the long term goal of being on top of the Ivy League,” said Matson said. “I think we’re just a little bit away from being the best in the Ivy League.”

Now, the Crimson will look to bounce back from the series loss to the Lions, as well as a mid-week game that it dropped against Holy Cross, 17-7. It will welcome the Brown Bears to Cambridge on Saturday for its first homestand, hoping that the familiar environment and the Bears’ struggles early in the season will allow it to seize its first series win of the season. The first game of the Saturday doubleheader will kick off at 11:30 a.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.

—Staff writer Jack Silvers can be reached at

—Staff writer Praveen Kumar can be reached at

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