It wasn't pretty, it wasn't scrappy, it wasn't especially well-pitched, but most importantly, yesterday's 14-10 shootout with Connecticut wasn't a loss for the Harvard baseball team.
The Crimson--now 4-0 overall--carries a 1-0 Greater Boston League (GBL) record into today's 2 p.m. showdown at defending GBL champion Tufts. Harvard will probably face better pitching than it did yesterday.
UConn pitchers donated 10 walks and several letter-high change-ups to the Crimson cause. The generosity came quickly, as Harvard parleyed six walks and just three hits into an eight-run, 12-batter first inning.
That should have locked it up, but some strong Husky hitting and an even stronger wind heading out to center field closed the gap to 8-6, and the slugfest was on.
Harvard got hits from all but one spot in the lineup, but sophomore outfielder Paul Vallone and freshman catcher Jim DePalo slammed home the biggest contributions.
Because Crimson Coach Alex Nahigian bats Vallone ninth, he gets a lot of fastballs. Yesterday Vallone bounced one fastball off the fence for a double, snacked another 360 feet for a two-run homer and slapped a third into night field for a base hit.
"Coach tells us to always look fastball, then adjust for the curve. Vallone said after his three-for-five, six-rb, performance. He choked up on the bat, followed some tips from Assistant Coach Barry Sullivan and just waited for the fastball. And when it came?
"He killed it, that's all," said senior Gaylord Lyman.
Meanwhile, the DePalo streak continued, as Harvard's freshman catcher hammered an rbi double and a solo homer in two of his three atbats. In four college games, DePalo has two round trips and 11 rbi's off nine-for-16(.563) hitting. Yesterday he also stole third base.
The two offensive stars also teamed for the day's most spectacular defensive play. After Jerry LaPenta's pinch-hit home run brought the Huskies to within two runs in the top of the seventh, Connecticut filled the bases with one out.
Left fielder Rick Veneziano flied to right. Vallone made the catch and launched a strike towards the plate. DePalo, a former high school running back, blocked the oncoming Ed McMillan from the plate, grabbed Vallone's throw on the fly and completed the double play.
Said Nahigian after the game. "The guy hasn't touched the plate yet [DePalo] really blocked the hell out of the plate."
Aside from the flare-up in the seventh, which was exacerbated by a fielding error, freshman right hander Mike Presz pitched five solid innings of relief.
The Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League (EIBL)--the Ivies plus Army and Navy--is the focus of Harvard's season. Nahigian is using the early non-EIBL games to get a look at his staff, so he'll be able to choose the right starters for his league-opening series with Navy and Princeton next weekend. Sophomore Doug Sutton will probably get the chance to show his stuff against Tufts today.
Last year, Harvard dropped a 6-3 decision to the Jumbos at Soldiers Field. The game was for the GBL title, but for Harvard, the game was just a midweek tuneup between two rugged weekends of EIBL play.
This year's contest comes before the start of Harvard's Eastern League slate, but the Crimson attitude hasn't changed; the focus is clearly on the Eastern League, not the GBL.
"At this point in the season," said Crimson Captain Bruce Weller, "We just want to win every game we can and get some momentum for the [Eastern] league games." Game-Winning RBI--Maspons, E-Kockenmeister, Franceschini, Lyman 2, DiCesare, LOB--Connecticut 11, Harvard 8, 2B--DePalo, Maspons, Vallone, Veneziano, Ford, Sarantides, HR--Weller, DePalo, Vallone, Crowley, LaPenta. DP--Harvard 1. SB--Kay 2, DePalo, Rivera, Oliphant, CS--Kay SF--Crowley.
Game-Winning RBI--Maspons, E-Kockenmeister, Franceschini, Lyman 2, DiCesare, LOB--Connecticut 11, Harvard 8, 2B--DePalo, Maspons, Vallone, Veneziano, Ford, Sarantides, HR--Weller, DePalo, Vallone, Crowley, LaPenta. DP--Harvard 1. SB--Kay 2, DePalo, Rivera, Oliphant, CS--Kay SF--Crowley.