Despite a 3-4 record, the Harvard men's baseball team is off and running. Literally.
The Crimson stole 16 bases last week. Not bad when you consider that the 1982 Harvard team had 21 steals all year.
Leading the way in base thievery this season is junior second baseman Bob Kay, last year's team leader. Now six-of-eight on the basepaths. Kay is just off the pace he needs to break Howard Burn's single-season record of 34 (set way back in 1927).
And what about the national record? Don't worry. Kay would need to average 2.8 steals per game in his next 30 outings to break Lance Johnson's single-season mark of 89 stolen bases, Johnson, who played for South Alabama, set the record last year...with the help of a 69-game season.
Harvard has a 37-game schedule, but rain invariably means that a few scheduled games don't get played.
Length of season is the large factor separating Eastern baseball from the powerhouses of the sunbelt states. To appreciate the Crimson's 3-4 showing at last week's Riverside Baseball Invitational, consider the number of games the other schools had already played.
Arizona State had 41 outings under its belt before it look the field against Harvard. UCLA and San Diego State had played 38 games, U.C. Riverside had played 22, Missouri 29, Air Force 13, and Oregon State 12.
Of course, one can overstate the importance of game experience. Oregon State won the tournament.
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The tough competition isn't over for Harvard. After today's Greater Boston League outing at B.C., the Crimson faces its toughest Eastern League weekend of the year when it travels for winbills at Navy Friday and Princeton Saturday.
For those uninitiated is the alphabet group of New England baseball, the EIBL (Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League) is the eight Ivy schools plus Army and Navy, while the GBL (Greater Boston League) consist of Harvard, MIT, B.C., Northeastern, in Branders and Tufts.
The Crimson concentrates on the EIBL games, not only because the league is stronger, but because the EIBL champ earns an automatic berth to the NCAA Northeast Regional. The GBL games usually played on weekdays, provide some competition and keep the team in playing shape.
Navy and Princeton (along with Cornell) are the teams who stand between Harvard and a third straight EIBL crown. How big is the threat? The Crimson lost only two players off last year's team, which won the league by three and a half games.
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Because of the way the EIBL schedule works--back to-back weekend doubleheaders--Crimson Coach Alex Nahigian needs to pick a four-man starting rotation. Last year, Charlie Marchese, Jeff Musselman, Mike Presz and Chris Marchok started Harvard's EIBL games.
This season, the pitching staff is more balances and Nahieian has the enviable task of choosing among excellent hurlet, Marchese, the staff ace, and Musselman, who pitched nine great innings against Maine at the regionals last year, will surely be among the starters, Presz, who has never lost a game at Harvard, will probably be throwing on weekends as well.
Choosing the other starter would be a less straightforward task. Based on last week's games. Jim Chenevey and Cecil Cox appear likely candidates.
Whoever doesn't start will be available for relief, with George Sorbara playing bullpen ace, and Doug Sutton right behind him.