If you play baseball for a school specializing in math and science, a proper understanding of angles, parabolic curves, and the like should make sacrifice bunts one of the easier fundamentals to master.
Not at MIT.
The Engineers' inability to bunt successfully cost them a couple of games on Wednesday, as Harvard swept its cross-town opponent, 4-2 and 3-2.
With its fifth win in six games, the Crimson extended its record to 15-8 overall and 5-1 in the Greater Boston League. MIT fell to 7-14 and 1-4.
Harvard 4, MIT 2
The Engineers put runners on first and second base with none out in four of the seven innings, but the sacrifice bunt worked on only one of those occasions--and that time by accident.
MIT did jump out to a 1-0 lead off Paul Vallone in the first frame when Ken Switzer drove in Kip Fern from third on an infield grounder.
But Switzer popped up a sacrifice in the third inning, and his bunt attempt in a similar situation in the fifth forced the lead runner at third.
Fern was the first to advance the runners; in the sixth, he tried to avoid an inside pitch by reliever Ed Toland, but the ball happened to strike the bat and landed in fair territory for an eventual sacrifice.
Harvard's relief pitching also accounted for MIT's failure to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Toland (1-0), who relieved Vallone in the second inning, stranded seven runners in his three and two-thirds innings of pitching. With the bases loaded in the third, he struck out Mike Mountz to end the inning, and with two on and two out in the fifth, he "K"ed Mike Griffin.
Reliever Jim Chenevey entered the contest in the sixth after Toland gave up two hits and the inadvertent sacrifice. Despite walking a a batter and throwing a wild pitch--which allowed a runner to score the team's second run--Chenevey retired the side, striking out Rich Zermani and Craig Poole.
Chenevey's two additional strikeouts in the next inning raised his season total to 13 punch-outs in just seven and one-third innings. His ERA dropped to 1.23.
The Harvard offense, meanwhile, sputtered early against Engineer pitcher Mark Carroll. In the second, catcher Jim DePalo was cut down attempting to score on a double by Chris McAndrews. Moments later, McAndrews, trying to steal third base, was thrown out by catcher Tim Day. In the following inning, Dave Jamieson--batting with a Harvard teammate on first--lined out into a double play.
But the Crimson erased the Engineers' 1-0 lead in the fifth, when a single by Frank Caprio (two-for-three in the game) eluded leftfielder Poole and rolled to the fence--allowing baserunners DePalo, McAndrews and even the speedy Caprio to score on the play. Caprio was credited with a single and RBI, while Poole was charged with a three-base error.
Although MIT narrowed the lead to one run on Chenevey's wild pitch, Harvard's designated hitter Frank Morelli added an insurance run with a homer over the right-field fence--his fourth dinger of the year.
Harvard 3, MIT 2
Harvard pitcher Kevin Curtin, rebounding from a rocky performance against Columbia last weekend, hurled his first complete game of the year to give the batsmen the nightcap.
In his seven innings of work, Curtin allowed two runs, struck out six batters and surrendered just one walk--to the first batter of the game.
"[Curtin] is an outstanding college pitcher," MIT Coach Fran O'Brien said. "He has a great breaking pitch, and he had great control of his game."
Not until the fifth inning, when Poole hit a ground-rule double, did an MIT player reach second base. Poole advanced to third on a fly ball and scored on Marc Friend's grounder, cutting MIT's deficit at the time to two runs.
Harvard tallied twice in the second, on successive doubles by Jamieson and Vallone, and a RBI single by DePalo.
Jamieson, who collected two hits in the game and three on the day, continued his recent hitting binge. The third baseman entered last week's Boston College contest with a .167 batting average, but eight hits in his last 18 at-bats have raised his average to a respectable .271.
"I have more confidence," the left-handed batter said. "The coach is keeping me in, even against left-handed pitchers."
Vallone, too, contributed with two hits and two walks in the nightcap. After receiving a base on balls in the fifth, Vallone advanced to second on Bob Kay's sacrifice, moved to third on a grounder, and scored on a wild pitch to make the score 3-0.
The Engineers' trouble with sacrifice bunts returned to haunt them in the closing frames of the nightcap.
After Curtin yielded singles to Zermani and Poole, Henry Hoeh fouled off one sacrifice attempt, missed at another, and eventually pulled back on a pitch that landed in the strike zone for a called third strike.
Curtin struck out Friend in the following confrontation, but Hoeh's failure to sacrifice the runners over loomed large when Mountz's RBI single drove Zermani in from second base.
But with the score 3-2 and two runners on base, Curtin got the pinch-hitter Griffin to pop out.