Baseball Repeats as Ivy Champs, Upsets Tulane at Regionals

BASEBALL

This was not how it was supposed to end.

One short season after crashing the party at the Midwest Regional in Stillwater, Okla.--knocking off Stetson and top-seeded UCLA--the Crimson was nine outs away from making an early, ugly exit from Baton Rouge, La., and the NCAA tournament.

Record: 36-12, 16-4 Ivy

Coach: Joe Walsh

Highlights: Wins second straight Ivy title; defeats No. 16 Tulane for third place at NCAA Regional

Seniors: David Forst, Aaron Kessler, Mike Marcucci, Brian Ralph, Brett Vankoski, John Wells

With his squad trailing the 16th-ranked Tulane Green Wave 11-7 in an elimination game, Harvard Coach Joe Walsh called his team together for an impromptu huddle in front of the home team dugout at Louisiana State's (LSU) Alex Box Stadium.

There, on the same patch of grass where two dozen big leaguers and four national championship nines have gathered in the last 10 years, Walsh delivered what must have been the seminal speech of his long, highly successful coaching career.

One can only speculate as to its contents. Perhaps Walsh was fiery, angrily reminding his ball club that their seasons, and for some their careers, were about to come to a screeching halt. A loss to Tulane would be a step backward, a regression on the path to national recognition.

Or perhaps he was cool and rational, carefully instructing his ballplayers to do the same things they had done all season--the situational hitting, smart baserunning and overall hardball sense that had gotten them a school-record 35 wins and made them the undisputed kings of New England.

Whatever the message, each member of the Crimson took something from it, something that galvanized his performance in the innings that followed.

Junior second baseman Peter Woodfork remembered the dictum that you take outside junk the other way and punched a line-drive single into right.

Junior rightfielder Andrew Huling recalled the first commandment of Harvard smallball--hit behind the runner--and pulled a 4-3 grounder that moved Woodfork over.

Senior designated hitter Brett Vankoski stepped in to pinch-hit, realized that he might be swinging in his last collegiate at-bat and ripped off one of his trademark Charley Lau singles up the middle to plate Woodfork and begin the comeback.

Fast on the way to replacing Pete Albers '97, what stuck in sophomore Erik Binkowski's mind may have been an absolute duty to keep the rally alive. Battling to a 1-2 count, Binkowski remembered that not every at-bat has to be a bomb and slapped a groundball that squirted between first and second.