How does Joe Walsh spell relief? How about Marcucci, Schaefer, Lennon and Vail?
The Harvard baseball Coach got five perfect innings of bullpen work from that gang of four en route to an 8-3 win over Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
The Crimson (18-7, 7-1 Ivy) extended its season-best winning streak to ten games, retiring the last 18 batters it faced to deal the Crusaders (5-18) their sixth straight defeat.
"Our starters made it easy on the weekend by giving us long starts," Mike Marcucci said. "Since then, we've had to go with long relief, and we aren't out of pitchers yet. We feel like [Walsh] has confidence in anybody he gives the ball to."
A day after throwing three clean innings against Boston College, Marcucci retired six straight batters to up his team-best mark to 4-0, while trimming his ERA to 3.66.
The Harvard bats came through with 13 hits--led by two apiece from seniors Aaron Kessler, Brian Ralph and David Forst--chasing Crusader starter Tim Fortune (1-4) after three innings and three earned runs.
"We've finally started swinging the bats well," Forst said. "Guys are looser at the plate, more patient, and we're swinging at good pitches."
After Crimson starter Graham Mckay coughed up the game's first run in the bottom of the first on a ribbie groundout, Harvard bounced back with four unanswered runs across three innings to take a lead it never relinquished.
Forst, who went 2-for-4 and leads the squad with a sizzling .393 batting average, doubled home senior rightfielder Brett Vankoski in the second for his 20th RBI of the season.
Harvard picked it up again in the top of the third, getting a pair on Kessler's RBI triple and junior first baseman Andrew Huling's sacrifice fly to post a 3-1 lead, knocking Fortune out of the box.
McKay, meanwhile, settled down after his rocky first to work four innings, walking none while fanning three. However, he could not finish and gave way to Marcucci in the bottom of the fifth, an inning too early to earn his first collegiate win.
Enter the bullpen by committee--which threw eight and two-thirds innings against B.C., allowing only two earned runs in two games--to pull off the neatest relief session of the Crimson season.
Not only did the four handcuff the Crusader lineup, but one can read something positive into the contribution each made beyond this individual game.
Marcucci continued to make his claim for the middle-long relief job, breaking out in his senior campaign after posting a disappointing 8.03 ERA in limited action last year.
"It seems like I've taken up that role," Marcucci said. "If I keep throwing well, [Walsh] will keep pitching me. I've been lucky sometimes being the guy on the mound when we score our runs."
Schaefer, who hadn't seen mound time since the spring break trip to Florida due to arm trouble, tossed a one-two-three frame and showed he may have begun his trip back from injury.
Derek Lennon and Garrett Vail, both of whom earned wins in the weekend doubleheaders with Penn and Columbia, got in some mid-week work should Walsh make the highly probable choice to throw one or both this weekend in New Haven.
Holy Cross kept matters close until the seventh, when Huling's two-run double down the leftfield line scored junior second baseman Hal Carey and junior designated hitter Todd Harris. Harris, the Crimson's short-stick specialist of late, had reached on a bunt base hit.
"That was a big inning for us," Forst said. "We scored the way we're supposed to. Harris got on with a bunt, Kessler moved guys over with a groundball and Huling brought them in."