Harvard Misses Out on Its Place in the Sun
The Baseball Notebook
As if things weren't bad enough.
It started when the Harvard base ball team fell short of its third straight Eastern League championship by losing to Princeton Saturday, 5-1.
It got a lot worse yesterday, when the NCAA announced the Division I regional pairing. The Tigers, get this are going to Miami, not rainy Orono Maine, where Harvard played the last two years.
Maine lost the ECAC North tournament to La Salle. So the Eastern League Champion, which should have been-no, could have been-Harvard, gets to travel to Florida for the Weekend.
If it's any consolation, the Tigers (29-10) probably won't last long. They play host Miami (56-14) in the first round of the four-team double-elimination tournament.
Of the 38 teams with a shot at making the eight-team College World Series Princeton is arguably the premier academic institution. Arguably, because Stanford, cal, Michigan and Virginia are all still in the hunt for the national championship.
The crimson had a great year, going 29-9 for an impressive .763 winning percentage. Only 11 of the 38 regional invitees had better winning percentages, and only a few noninvitees had better records-Navy (27-5-1, .833) and Baylor (42-11, .792), for example.
Don't feel too cheated, though Harvard, like most northeastern schools, plays one of the easiest Division I schedules in the country. Most of the teams that made it to the regionals are clearly better than the Crimson. Only Western Carolina (35-33) and Lamar (32-22) have winning percentages below 600.
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The Vierra-Rivera-McNamara era is over.
The most successful class of baseball players to hit Cambridge in 10 years fell one game shy of becoming the first back-to-back-to-back champions since the Class of '74 took four straight titles.
The nine seniors on the Harvard baseball team won 27 games as sophomores, 28 games as juniors and 29 games this season. All told, the Crimson went 84-23-1 for a .782 winning percentage over the past three years.
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Will it continue?
Losing nine seniors off a 21-man team has to hurt. The graduates include tour players who have started regularly for two or more years, and the team's two top pitchers over the past three seasons.
soon-to-be alumnus Charlie Marchese went 20-1 in his final three seasons, earning Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honors in 1984. Mortarboard-wearer Jeff Musselman went 21 6 in a Crimson jersey. This season Musselman and Marchese accounted for more than half of Harvard's victories.
Four of this year's top six hitters were seniors, and seniors accounted for 19 of the squad's 32 homers. Four-year starter Tony DiCesare will be hard to replace at shortstop, as will first baseman Elliott Rivera, Harvard's single-season RBI record-holder. DH Mickey Maspons, last year's Eastern League batting champion, was also arguably the second best catcher in the league.
For next year, Nahigian needs to find some hitting (at DH and first base) and a shortstop Two of his three outfielders return, and freshman Frank Caprio proved himself capable of taking over from the graduating Jay McNamara in left. With both Rivera and Chris Schindler graduating, the Crimson will have absolutely no experience at first base.
Bobby Kay and Mike Pakalnis can each play second, third or short. Nahigian desperately needs one more infielder, preferably a natural shortstop.
Catcher Jim DePalo returns, but he'll need a back-up. That could be freshman Frank Morelli, used primarily as a bullpen catcher this year.
Nahigian's pitching staff will contain a lot of unproven potential. Sophomore Chris Marchok enjoyed a fine year, posting a 6-1 record with a 2.76 ERA. The rest of the pitching staff was plagued with sore arms and inconsistent outings.
In 24 innings of work, junior Doug Sutton (2-1, 1.88) looked strong, but his history of arm trouble came back to haunt him. Sophomores Jim Chenevey and George Sorbara have shown potential, but Chenevey still has control problems and Sorbara--an excellent reliever as a freshman--was unreliable this year.
Junior Cecil Cox remains an unknown quantity, with the ability to now down opposing batters, but nagging control problems. Sophomore Mike Press will try to bounce back from the shoulder injury that knocked him out one week into this season.
Gaping holes in the lineup, on the mound and at shortstop will make it difficult for the Crimson to remain one of the top powers in the Eastern League.
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Don't count'em out, though
Two years ago Harvard lost its top four hitters, its second best starter and its ace reliever. The result last year's Eastern League pennant.
The losses from the batting order this year are mild in comparison to those of 1983 Five players with the proven ability to hit 300 (Paul Vallone, Chris McAndrews, Bobby Kay, Jim DePalo, Frank Caprio and Mike Pakalnis) will take the field for Harvard next year. When the eventual-champion Crimson took the field last year, only two players (Mickey Maspons and Elliott Rivera) had ever hit 300.
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Next year's team will be a base-running clinic.
The 1985 squad stole 80 bases in 94 attempts, and the three leading base stealers return next year Chris McAndrews (19 thefts in 21 attempts). Jim DePalo (17 in 19) and Bobby Kay (14 in 16) are the best baserunners Harvard's had in years.
After pilfering 46 pillows in 1982 and 1983 combined, the Crimson ran wild, with 75 steals in 91 attempts last year. Look for the figures to climb higher next season, when the team could be in more close games.
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Stat Wrap: The team batted .322. Vallone led the team in hitting (.370). followed by Vierra (.361). Rivera (.351) and McNamara (.349). McNamara led the team in homers (five), while Vierra led in doubles (12), extra base hits (17) and slugging percentage (.713). Rivera led in total bases (88, one more than Vierra), hits (46). RBI (39) and at-bats (131), Mickey Maspons led in runs scored (129), DePalo in walks (37) and Kay in sacrifice (10).
Harvard continued to be disciplined at the place drawing more than seven walks per nine inning.
The pitching staff posted a 3.84 ERA, half a run off last year's total. Musselman (9-2) won more games than any Harvard pitcher since Larry Brown '79 went 10-1 in 1978. Musselman's 77 strikeouts in 70 innings is one better than Brown's 76 in 85 frames. Musselman allowed only 48 hits and walked just 28 batters, 10 of them in his first game.
Musselman and Marchese are certainly in a class with Brown. Their career records are remarkably similar: Marchese 22-5, Brown 23-6, and Musselman 21-6.
Musselman and Marchese finished with exactly the same number of career strikeouts, 183.
Harvard doesn't keep record of strikeouts (for a career, a seasons or a game), so there's no way of Knowing how Marchese and Musselman compare to some of the great Crimson hurlers of the past.
NCAA Regional Pairings
at Columbia, S.C.
Old Dominion vs. Western Carolina
South Carolina vs. La Salle
Rider vs. St. John's
South I Regional
at Mississippi St.
Mississippi St. vs. W. Virginia
Michigan vs. New Orleans
South II Regional
at Tallahasse, Fla.
Arkansas vs. E. Kentucky
Florida St. vs. Gerorge Mason
Gerorgia Tech vs. Central Michigan
at Stillwater, Okia.
Olkahoma St. vs. Minnesota
Oral Roberts vs. Wichita St.
at Austin, Texas
Texas vs. Grambling
Oklahoma vs. Lamar
Louisiana St. vs. Houston
at Coral Gables, Fla.
Miami vs. Princeton
Florida vs. Virginia
West I Regional
at Stanford. Calif.
Stanford vs. Oregon St.
Pepperdine vs. Nebraska
West II Regional
at Fresno, Calif.
Fresno St. vs. California
Brigham Young vs. Arizona