This weekend's NCAA District I playoff action fits the proverbial beginning and end pattern so true to playoff series. No matter what your record is, who you have beaten in the regular season, or who you have on the team, once you are in the playoffs you start the season all over again.
Harvard, which blazed its way through the regular season to a super 32-3 record, finds itself in that spot now as it lays down the prestige of this mark against New England powerhouses UMass, Providence and Northeastern.
UMass, the Crimson's opponent today at 4 p.m., comes into the contest with an impressive 21-7 mark and the Yankee Conference championship. In an earlier meeting this year, Harvard eked out a 5-4 win over the Minutemen. "They're going to throw Flannagan against us," John Powers '71, assistant director of Sports Information, said yesterday. "He's 9-0 and obviously their ace."
The UMass game plan features consistent but not heavy hitting and quite good pitching. In fact, the pitching will probably tell the story of the game. Roz Brayton, the Crimson ace, is expected to go up against the Minutemen. Brayton is 6-1 overall and has an .82 ERA.
Harvard will also have a respectable hitting parade going up against UMass, featuring six starters averaging over .300. Ed Durso, second in the EIBL batting standings and all-GBL, leads the procession with a .378 mark. Junior Ric LaCivita, who is coming off a leg injury, and left fielder Hal Smith follow up with .360 and .343 averages, respectively.
This marks the third consecutive year that the Crimson has reached the District I playoffs. In 1971, Harvard swept three straight games to advance to the World Series in Omaha. Last spring the Crimson lost to Connecticut in the final game of the series.
The playoff series is scheduled to be played in Fenway Park in Boston today and tomorrow. The final game will be played on Sunday at Soldiers' Field. Originally, the two losers from Friday were to play Saturday at 10 a.m. and the winners at 1 p.m., but due to an exam conflict, Harvard will play at 10 a.m. Saturday regardless of the outcome of Friday's match.
We're going to have a couple of guys out for the Friday game," LaCivita said. "It shouldn't hurt us too much though. Saturday they rescheduled our game for 10 a.m. so that our guys could play. Seven of us are in Ec 1500 and that has its exam in the afternoon."
In comparison, the dimensions of Fenway Park are in some spots actually shorter than that of Harvard's field. The left and right field lines are listed as about 315 each, but it has been rumored that the left field line is somewhat shorter--by about 25 feet or so.
"After a week of studying for exams, I think most of the guys are a little tired," LaCivita said. "But playing in Fenway, I know that is going to turn us on. The first few innings will be the most important. If we can hold them then, we'll probably take the game."