For the Harvard baseball team, April has indeed proved to be the cruelest month, as spring showers have forced the postponement of five of the team's last seven games.
This weekend, the inclement weather at O'Donnell Field cancelled all but one of the four meetings scheduled between Harvard (15-16, 8-4 Ivy) and Brown (14-23, 5-8). In the lone game of the soggy weekend, Brown downed Harvard 5-1 on Friday, courtesy of a complete-game effort by Bears starter Jamie Grillo.
The rain persisted throughout the game Friday, and, with the Bears leading by the eventual margin of victory in the top of the fourth inning, conditions worsened to the point that play was stopped for 90 minutes.
When action finally resumed, Grillo (2-2) showed no signs of tiring, retiring the side in order in the fourth, fifth, and seventh innings.
"[Grillo] just came out with the fastball and was able to throw it for strikes," said sophomore second baseman Faiz Shakir. "Especially after the rain delay, he just came straight at us. With the cold weather, our hitters were slow reacting. [Grillo] knew that with the lead he had, he just needed to get outs."
By game's end, Grillo had faced just two batters above the minimum, striking out five while walking only one.
"He didn't make many mistakes," said junior first baseman John Franey. "We expected him to come out a little slow [after the rain delay], but he kept throwing strikes. He bounced back well."
Coupled with Grillo's mastery on the mound was Harvard's defensive inadequacy. Harvard contributed to its own demise, committing five errors in the field against just four hits at the plate.
All things considered, Grillo's counterpart, Harvard starter Ben Crockett (3-2), did not pitch badly before giving way to freshman hurler Brendan Reed after the rain delay. But Harvard's defensive lapses did not help Crockett's case.
In the fifth inning, a throwing error by Crimson third baseman Nick Carter and a fly ball that was dropped by senior right fielder Jeff Bridich helped spark a three-run Brown rally.
"The weather may have gotten in our heads our little bit," Franey said. "Guys aren't used to playing in this weather. It was almost like we were expecting something bad to happen."
In addition to physical errors, mental mistakes also plagued the Crimson during the game.
With Harvard leading 1-0 in the top of the second inning, Crockett hit Bears first baseman Shaun Gallagher with a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs.
Brown left fielder Darren Merten then stroked a single through the hole between first and second and into right field. Bridich gathered up the roller and gunned a throw home for a possible play at the plate on the Bears' lead runner.
Franey, however, cut off the throw and the tying run scored. This miscue prevented Harvard from holding the early lead.
"[The play] was just a matter of miscommunication that shouldn't have happened," Franey said.
Brown managed to score one more run that inning, when, with runners at the corners and two outs, it ran a delayed double-steal.
With Brown sophomore Rick Lynn at the plate, Merten took off from first, drawing a throw from Harvard catcher Brian Lentz. Merten then stopped short of second and deliberately entered into a rundown, enabling the lead runner to score from third uncontested.
The Crimson ended up tagging Burton out, but did so after the run had crossed the plate.
"That's actually a play we run," Shakir said. "It's a play we could have made but we were more concerned with getting the third out."
Before fielding errors allowed Brown to take over the lead, Harvard actually got on the board first in the bottom half of the first inning.
Sophomore shortstop Mark Mager drew a lead-off walk and advanced to third base on a perfectly-executed hit-and-run play, as second baseman Faiz Shakir lined a single up the middle with the runner going.
Lentz then plated Mager with an RBI-groundout to first base.
The run represented all of the scoring for Harvard on the afternoon.
As things turned out, that first inning rally--which ended with runners left on first and second as designated hitter Josh San Salvador struck out swinging--proved to be Harvard's best scoring chance of the game. After that point, the Crimson failed to advance a runner past first base.
As of last night, the make-up dates for the three games with Brown had yet to be determined. The Crimson already has a make-up game with Yale penciled in for Wednesday of this week.
One possible scenario would see Harvard host Brown for a double-header this afternoon at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. The Crimson is scheduled to play Northeastern there earlier today for the Beanpot semi-final.
Regardless of how it happens, the team says it simply wants to be able to take the field again.
"We expect to be playing every day," Franey said. "The rain is really backing things up, forcing us to throw guys out of turn and mess up the rotation."
Other players echoed Franey's sentiments.
"Weather has been one of the problems we've been forced to deal with," Shakir said. "It's something we can't control. We want to be able to come out and improve, but we haven't been afforded that opportunity."