Crimson Edges Cornell, 1-0, for NCAA Bid
Righthander Bill Kelly fired a two-hitter yesterday at Soldiers' Field as the Crimson nine defeated Cornell, 1-0, for the Eastern League title and a bid to the NCAA New England regional playoffs.
The championship contest was purely a pitchers' duel as Cornell right-hander John Geise matched Kelly by holding Harvard to only six hits through seven innings. But back-to-back hits by Dan DeMichele and Pete Varney and an error by second baseman Bob Witkoski cost the Big Red the game.
UMass also qualified for the NCAA District 1 playoff as it split a double header with UConn yesterday and won the Yankee Conference championship.
The District 1 selection committee may select a third independent for a three-way round-robin playoff or it can sponsor a lone or best-of-three game series between Harvard and UMass. Tinker Connelly, head of the selection committee, was not available for comment last night. Because Harvard is also in the Greater Boston League, Boston University and Boston College, two top independent candidates, cannot be offered a bid.
The Crimson, 23-6 for the year, will complete its regular season schedule when it hosts B.U. today. Having clinched both the GBL and EIBL titles, a victory today would give the Crimson its first 24-win season since 1927.
Yesterday's triumph was a master-piece of defense as Harvard did not commit an error until the victory was sealed in the ninth. Kelly completely dominated the Big Red batting line-up and only allowed two runners to reach second base.
Geise and Kelly were in control of the opening innings and through three frames, only 20 batters went to the plate. Harvard threatened brieflyin the first when fielder Jim Pilky dropped a DeMichele fly ball for a double. But Geise got out of trouble when Varney flew out to deep left-center.
While Kelly stifled Cornell's offense, disappointments riddled the Crimson attack for the next four innings. In the second, Pete Bernhard and Hal Smith hit towering drives to centerfield, but both were caught for long outs. In the third. Vince McGugan beat out an infield single and stole second, but he was left stranded as Dave Ignacio struck out.
Without its hitting attack. Harvard tried to use its speed to score in the fourth and fifth. Varney singled in the fourth with only one out, but he was caught stealing second by several feet. In the fifth, Mike Thomas doubled down the left field line and headed home on a single to right by Kelly. But the throw from the outfield cut Thomas down easily. Harvard remained conservative on the base paths for the rest of the game.
After two out in the sixth, Harvard got the first, and only, break of the game. DeMichele hit a solid single to center and Varney followed with a drive to the right-center fence. DeMichele held at third, but Witkoski booted the cut-off play from the outfield and DeMichele beat the throw to the plate by a stride.
Cornell threatened for the first time in the eighth when lead-off batter Pilky walked and stole second. But Kelly bore down and got the next two batters on infield outs that did not advance the runner. Wlikeski ended the threat with a line shot right at short stop Art Serrano.
Harvard almost broke the game open in the eighth against relief pitcher Rob Nelson. Kelly started the charge with a single to left and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by McGugan, a single by Ignacio, and a sacrifice fly by DeMichele. After a talk with coach Ted Throen. Nelson walked Varney intentionally and got Bernard to ground out to first.
Hanging on to just a one-run lead. Harvard showed its nervousness in the ninth. The first batter got a break when Varney dropped a foul pop-up, but the Cornell hitter then lined out to second. Cornell got a second break when Pete Bernhard dropped a routine foul ball and that batter eventually walked.
The potential winning run was Cornell's big hitter. Pete Watzka, who had the Big Red's only two hits of the day. Watzka hit a deep drive to center, but Ignacio made a running catch of the fly. Pinch-hitter Joe Meo provided the crowning glory to Kelly's performance when he struck out for the final out.