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‘Boom’: Harvard Captures Second Straight Series Win Against Dartmouth

Oh Captain My Captain: Jake Berger squares up for an at-bat against Dartmouth last weekend.
Oh Captain My Captain: Jake Berger squares up for an at-bat against Dartmouth last weekend. By Daniel Morales Rosales

As senior outfielder Ben Rounds rounded third in the bottom of the eighth inning last Saturday, the entire Harvard baseball team (11-22, 7-8 Ivy) was already out of the dugout. Having practiced the routine once before that game, the Crimson’s players knew the drill. Once he stepped on the plate, his teammates encircled him, jumped, and yelled “Boom!” with perfect synchronization.

It wasn’t the last time that the Crimson would celebrate in front of the dugout.

The senior outfielder’s sixth run of the season put the finishing touches on a 9-2 series-opening victory and previewed the power display the team would put on for the rest of the series, blasting five home runs to take two-of-three from Dartmouth and put itself back in Ivy League contention. After narrowly dropping the middle game last Sunday 6-5, the Crimson rallied back to take the decider 13-5, the team’s second consecutive series victory after dropping its first seven.

“Even with a tough start to the Ivies, we’ve been continuing to put work in, and we’re in a great spot right now,” said sophomore pitcher and two-way phenom Callan Fang, who threw seven and two-thirds strong innings in the decider. “Locker room vibes are as high as ever.”

The Crimson took significant offensive strides against Dartmouth relative to its preceding conference match-ups. Against Princeton last weekend, the Harvard line-up left runs on the table, stranding 17 runners on base through the first two games of the series, before finally breaking through with a 14-run bonanza in the matinee. Against the Big Green, the Crimson waged consistently good at-bats and garnered its highest run total in a series thus far.

It also received exceptionally strong starting pitching in games one and three from Fang and junior ace Sean Matson. With a combined 2.71 ERA in their last five outings, the two have been key to the team’s mid-season turnaround, with Harvard winning seven of those ten games. The two will be essential to the team’s potential postseason run, if the Crimson can make the conference tournament that kicks off in three weeks time.

Harvard 9, Dartmouth 2

Matson started the first game, allowing a lead-off double to the Big Green’s Tyler Robinson but working out of the inning thanks to a puzzling base-running decision by Robinson, who took off from second with two outs on a pitch that got away from junior catcher Will Lybrook. The ball didn’t roll far enough, though, and Lybrook gunned down Robinson at third to end the threat.

Dartmouth drew first blood, with the lead-off man taking a free pass from Matson to start the second and then coming around to score after two consecutive singles with one out. Dartmouth’s Taer Rodriguez laid down a sac bunt to move the runners over to second and third with two outs, but Matson escaped the inning with a strikeout to limit the damage.

The 1-0 lead was the only one that the Big Green would have all day though, as the Crimson’s offense exploded in the bottom of the third. Fang, playing as the designated hitter and hitting lead-off, walked to start the inning. After a pop-out from junior outfielder George Cooper, the Crimson rapped off three consecutive hits.

Rounds started the action, grounding a single through the right side of the infield. Then, senior captain and third baseman Jake Berger bounced a ball through the left side, scoring Fang and Rounds. Lybrook came up to bat, with the Crimson leading 2-1. Lybrook, who has hit safely in 16 of the 20 games he has started this year, crushed an 0-1 pitch to left. The ball flew over the left field wall into the trees, giving the Crimson a 4-1 lead and kicking off a weekend to remember for the Atlanta, Ga. native.

But the Crimson wasn’t done just yet. After a groundout and a walk, senior outfielder Peter Messervy punched a ball into right, putting two runners on with two outs. Shortstop Jack Rickheim came up with the chance to make Georgia proud — the freshman, like Lybrook, is also an Atlanta native. The rookie, whose walk-up song is the Glenn Campbell classic “Southern Nights,” delivered, roping a single to center to score Messervy and senior first baseman Chris Snopek. At the end of the peachy inning, Harvard had a decisive 6-1 lead.

Matson protected the lead dutifully, pitching scoreless innings in the third, fourth, and fifth while scattering just one hit. Meanwhile, the Crimson tacked on another run in the fourth, when Cooper tore into the first pitch of the inning from Big Green starter Mac Burke. The free-swinging Harvard-Westlake product seemed to have his second home run of the year, but the ball bounced off the wall, about three feet to the right of the “N” in “Crimson.” Three batters later, Lybrook induced a throwing error from Dartmouth shortstop Eliot Krewson, who fielded the ground ball and bounced the throw to first, allowing Cooper to score. The Crimson led 7-1.

In the sixth, Matson benefitted from some clutch fielding from Messervy to end his start on a high note. After allowing his second run of the day on a single to center, a balk, and an RBI single to right, Dartmouth left fielder Jackson Hower took a 2-1 pitch and lined it toward the gap in left center. Moving at full speed, Messervy ranged to his right and made a running catch to end the inning, preserving the 7-2 lead. Matson finished with two runs on six hits and five strikeouts.

At that point, Head Coach Bill Decker handed the ball to freshman righty Truman Pauley, who secured his first save of the year with three scoreless innings of relief work. Along with fellow rookie Will Burns, Pauley has helped eat innings in a long-relief and occasional spot starter role for the Crimson this season.

Meanwhile, Harvard continued to pester the Big Green in the eighth. First, junior outfielder Matt Giberti engineered a run when he came into the game to pinch-run for Fang, who singled to start the inning. Giberti swiped second, moved to third on a fly-out, then scampered home when Dartmouth reliever Joseph Chambers buried a breaking ball in the dirt that got away from the catcher. Rounds was the next man up, and he golfed his sixth homer of the year to right, ending a nine-pitch at-bat with gusto and extending the lead to 9-2.

With a seven-run cushion, Pauley struck out Hower to start the ninth and then walked Rodriguez. Dartmouth second baseman Ethan Brown chopped a grounder up the middle, where it was fielded by sophomore second baseman Jordan Kang. Kang made a nifty glove-flip to Rickheim, who fired to first to complete the 5-6-3 double play and tie a bow on the Crimson’s victory.

Harvard 5, Dartmouth 6

In the first game of the Sunday doubleheader, Harvard looked to carry over its dominance from Saturday to secure the series. After getting the starting nod, Burns got off to a quick start with a scoreless first inning, which included two swinging strikeouts. In the top of the second inning, the rookie allowed two walks, both of them coming on full counts. With two outs, he recorded another impressive strikeout, retiring the side. In the third inning, Burns found a rhythm and retired three straight batters for his only one-two-three inning of the day.

Harvard’s offense struggled to get going in the early stages of the game, with only one hit the first time through the lineup. In the top of the fourth, the Big Green’s bats came alive. Back to back singles followed by a walk gave Dartmouth bases loaded with only one out. Burns then allowed a grand slam to give the Big Green the 4-0 lead. After walking the next batter, Burns then committed a throwing error to move the runner to second base. In the next plate appearance, senior first baseman Chris Snopek made a fielding error, which plated another Dartmouth run and gave them a 5-0 lead. As in previous series, Harvard’s defensive miscues stung.

Despite the large deficit, Harvard’s offense started clawing back in the bottom half of the inning. Rounds walked, and then moved to third on a single from Berger. Lybrook grounded into a double play, but not before plating Rounds and narrowing the deficit to 5-1.

In the top of the fifth inning, Burns allowed his second home run of the night, this time over the left field fence, giving the Big Green a 6-1 advantage. However, the Crimson continued to demonstrate its resilience in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and nobody on, freshman shortstop Jack Rickheim doubled to left field. Fang, the leadoff batter and DH again, singled through a hole in the right side of the infield, scoring Rickheim and cutting Dartmouth’s lead to 6-2.

Needing some strong pitching to stay in the game, Harvard turned to senior reliever Uday Narottam. Narottam got through the top of the sixth with only one hit allowed, keeping the Crimson in striking distance. In the bottom of the sixth, with Lybrook on second base and two outs, sophomore outfielder Max Lane, pinch hitting for Kang, singled to center field and scored Lybrook, slicing the deficit to 6-3. In the top of the seventh, Narottam continued his strong outing and delivered another scoreless inning, only allowing one hit.

In the bottom of the seventh, Harvard went one-two-three. Narottam’s strong pitching performance extended into the top of the eighth, with a one-two-three inning capping off an impressive relief outing from the senior. In the bottom of the eighth, with only four outs left to find three runs, Berger doubled down the left field line. Lybrook then added on to his stellar weekend, lifting a home run over the center field wall and nearly evening the score at 6-5.

In the top of the ninth, junior pitcher Tanner Smith took Narottam’s place and prevented the Big Green from expanding its lead. With its back against the wall and every game mattering for Ivy League positioning, the Crimson was unable to put a man on base in the bottom of the ninth, giving Dartmouth a vital 6-5 victory and making the second game of the doubleheader critical.

Harvard 13, Dartmouth 5

In the rubber match, Harvard moved Fang from the plate to the mound, pinning the team’s hopes of a series win on the sophomore’s shoulders. Fang responded to the challenge with a strong first inning. After allowing a leadoff single, Fang struck out a batter and then induced a ground ball double play. In the top of the second, a walk, wild pitch, and a single handed the Big Green runners on first and third with no outs. A subsequent RBI groundout put Dartmouth up 1-0. Fang then retired the next two batters to end the inning. Despite loading the bases in the bottom of the second, the Crimson was unable to get on the board after Lane struck out swinging.

In the top of the third, the Big Green continued to test Fang. With one out, Fang gave up a single followed by a home run over the right field wall, putting Dartmouth up 3-0. After allowing another double, Fang settled in and retired the next two batters. Moving into the bottom half of the inning, Harvard’s offense needed some big hits to keep the team in the game. Rickheim started off the rally by walking on four pitches. Cooper then blasted a home run to right field, narrowing the gap to just 3-2. Later in the inning, Lybrook found the barrel of the bat again, sending another towering home run over the wall in right field and knotting the score at three.

With his offense providing a spark, Fang carried over the momentum into the top of the fourth. After a fly-out, he struck out the next two batters looking. In the top of the fifth, Fang continued wringing batters up, striking out the side and fooling Dartmouth’s hitters. Fang’s off-speed pitches were especially impactful the second time through the order.

“I really got back into a groove in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings,” the sophomore said. “Getting ahead with off-speed stuff was super important and great to keep the team in it.”

As Fang got better throughout the game, so did the Crimson’s offense. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Cooper singled to right field. A Rounds’ walk followed by a single from Berger gave Harvard bases loaded with no outs, a prime opportunity to take control of the game. Lybrook, whose offense had already powered the Crimson through the weekend, singled to right field and drove in Cooper and Rounds, advancing Berger to third. Junior catcher Sawyer Feller then singled to right field, scoring Berger and moving Lybrook over to second. Later in the inning, Snopek hit another RBI single and extended Harvard’s lead to 8-3.

In the top of the sixth, Fang continued dominating the Big Green lineup, recording another one-two-three inning. In the bottom half of the frame, the Crimson’s offense continued rolling. Rounds and Berger led the inning off with back to back singles. Lybrook was beaned, giving the Crimson bases loaded and no outs yet again. This time, a wild pitch advanced each of the runners 90 feet, which meant that Rounds scored and gave Harvard a 9-3 lead. Kang doubled down the right field line, piling on two more runs and giving the Crimson an 11-3 advantage heading into the seventh inning. In the top of the seventh, Fang recorded another one-two-three inning, adding two more swinging strikeouts and demonstrating improved command over his pitches.

In the top of the eighth, Fang struck out two more batters to end his afternoon. With 7.2 innings of work, 109 pitches, and 11 strikeouts, Fang gave Harvard the quality start it needed to win the series. He walked off the field to a series of cheers from Harvard’s home fans. In the bottom of the eighth, Feller scored on a wild pitch and Lane hit another RBI single to extend the Crimson’s lead to double digits at 13-3. In the final inning, junior pitcher Cole Cleary, relieving Kang, gave up two runs but was able to close out the game with a swinging strikeout.

Now, with two series left against the teams it trails in the race for the last spot in the Ivy League tournament, Penn (15-20, 7-8) and Yale (13-20, 7-8), Harvard more or less controls its own destiny. With a winning formula firmly established in the Dartmouth series — strong starting pitching from Matson and Fang and a lineup that can rake one-to-nine when it's hot — the Crimson has the tools to make a late-season run.

The series against the Quakers will start with an 11:30 a.m. first pitch later today, the first game of a Saturday doubleheader on Senior Day, the team’s chance to honor its team veterans.

“Looking forward, I think we’re trying to stay in the moment and enjoy these last couple weeks together, especially with the seniors,” Fang said, of the season’s close. “We’re just trying to enjoy every day and make a push for the postseason.”

—Staff writer Jack Silvers can be reached at

—Staff writer Praveen Kumar can be reached at

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