The Harvard baseball team is having a small problem.
It's not pitching. No one would argue that the Crimson hurlers aren't having a solid season.
And it isn't hitting. With Captain Dan McConaghy batting over .400 and senior Rich Renninger swinging .350, the bases haven't been barren for the Crimson.
Harvard's problem is with the baseball gods.
Twice the Crimson saw itself in a 2-2 game yesterday at Soldiers Field, and twice it watched the Elis get blessed with the big hits. The Crimson bats were cursed in the clutch as Yale swept the doubleheader, 7-4, 9-6.
"We're doing most things right," junior Dave O'Connell said. "We should be winning games, but we're not getting the big hits right now. It seems like the baseball gods aren't with us."
It looked like Harvard (5-9-1 overall, 1-3 EIBL) was on the right track in the fifth inning of game one. Looks were deceiving.
With the game tied, 2-2, O'Connell--who played his seventh straight flawless game at shortstop--cracked the first pitch of the inning into left for a single. Eli starter John Bonfield overthrew second on a Tom Konjoyan sacrifice to advance O'Connell to second and then walked second sacker Jim Mrowka to load the bases with no outs.
Say goodbye to Bonfield. In comes reliever Greg Ager to undo the damage. And Ager did the job.
Ager got Marcel Durand to ground to short to force O'Connell out at the plate, then Ager forced Renninger to hit into a double play to end the inning.
"We're just not getting any key hits, and the other teams are," said senior Greg Ubert, who started on the mound for the Crimson.
Ubert saw one of those key hits in the top of the sixth in the form of a bases-loaded triple to put Yale up, 5-2.
In the bottom of the inning, sophomore Ted Decareau set his sights on the 375-ft. sign in centerfield--and drove home two runs with his third homer of the season. But Yale (8-16 overall, 2-6 EIBL) opened it up in the seventh with two more runs, and Harvard didn't recover.
Game Two, Deja Vu
With the score knotted, 2-2, in the fifth inning, the Eli bats started ringing again. Yale scored on a Mrowka error to go up by one run, then loaded up the bases and cracked consecutive two-run singles for a 7-2 lead.
Harvard rallied with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning, but the Elis responded with two of their own in the top of the sixth to keep a five-run lead.
But the Crimson still didn't give up. Renninger capped his four-hit day with a single to load up the bases in the top of the seventh. McConaghy cracked an RBI single and Durand sacrificed as the Crimson pulled within two, 9-6.
But the gods who had smiled on Decareau in game one paid him back in the nightcap. With two men on, Decareau stepped up to the plate representing the tying run, and struck out as Eli righty Mike Farrell earned his second save of the day.
"It seems the only time we can score is when we're behind," O'Connell said, "and we just can't do it all the time."
The losses put the Crimson in the unenviable situation of needing a two-game sweep against a hot Penn team on its home field this weekend to remain in the race for the EIBL title.
"We're in the situation now where we'll have to win all the rest [to contend for the league title]," Ubert said. "We have no room for air."