This year's Harvard baseball team just might be another good one if coach Norm Shepard can find an answer to one question: where's the hitting going to come from?
No matter what the answer is, Harvard will win some baseball games this year--the presence of Paul Del Rossi alone assures that. Over two years, the little lefthander has put together the best won-lost mark of any Harvard pitcher since records were first kept 15 years ago. As a sophomore he was 10-1 with a 1.40 earned-run average. Last year the marks were 9-1 and 1.86.
And Del Rossi is not the end of the pitching staff. Back in high school, Tom Rucker threw so hard that the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly offered him a good-sized bonus to play for them. A football injury that left Tom with a sore shoulder temporarily ended his professional hopes and left him a sore-armed pitcher for two years. He won three games, had an 0.72 earned-run average, and looked a lot like a big-league pitching prospect.
Two Pitchers Not Enough
Two Pitchers won't take a team all the way through the Eastern Baseball League season--in one stretch this year the Crimson plays five games in nine days and on the spring vacation Southern tour they play six days in a row.
The third hurler has to come from among Andy Luther, a fast-blooming senior who has impressed Shepard although he hasn't played in two years, John Scott, the top pitcher (4-2) on last year's freshman nine, and junior Jerry Mechling.
Just who's going to catch these wonder men is a question. Football halfback John Dockery, a .390 hitter with the freshmen, might do it, or junior Gary Miller, a second stringer last year, could fill in.
Dockery will probably end up in the lineup somewhere, though, if only because he is a switch hitter. Without him, the Crimson has one left-handed batter in the probable starting lineup--Lee Sargent, the third baseman who hit a less-than-robust .209 last year.
But Sargent was a nifty infielder all season, and the same goes for shortstop Tom Bilodeau (.271) and captain Tom Stephenson (.276) at first base. Somewhere in this group, however, Shepard has to find an outstanding hitter. Stephenson's average is the best of any returning regular, with the departure of Terry Bartolet (.346) and Gavin Gilmor (.319) removing last year's only two .300 hitters.
Nor do the second base candidates--Bobby St., George, Jim Tobin, Mike Sikora, and Skip Falcone--promise much of an addition to Harvard's batting power. St. George, the only one who played much last year, hit in the .230's.
St. George can play the outfield, too. So can Dockery and so, luckily, can Mike Patrick, who became a regular at the end of last season and hit .395 in 38 at-bats. Patrick can hit with power-he'll have to, to make up for the departure of Gilmor and Curly Combs.
During the six-game Southern tour during spring vacation, Shepard has a chance to put together a regular outfield and find a second baseman. Against American University, Hampden-Sidney, Richmond (twice), Lynchburg, and Johns Hopkins, the coach can experiment--his team won five out of five from roughly the same opposition last year.
But the hitting will have to be going be the time the regular season opens on April 7. Even with a team that put together a 17-6 record overall, Harvard managed only a tie for fifth place in the EIBL last year. Navy and Columbia, the co-champs, are strong again, and Princeton and Army think they have contenders. A lot of things will have to work just right if Harvard is going to come close to first place.