Baseball Splits at Princeton, Sweeps Cornell to Open Ivy Schedule

PRINCETON, N.J.--A shortage of arms finally caught up to the Harvard baseball team yesterday, as the Crimson (8-11, 3-1 Ivy) wrapped up a marathon 16-game, 10-day road trip with a doubleheader split at Clarke Field.

Junior ace John Birtwell was supposed to start the second game at Princeton. But, after pitching 1.1 innings at Cornell to earn his first career save on Saturday, Birtwell felt soreness in his right shoulder and Harvard Coach Joe Walsh elected not to start him against the Tigers (7-12).

"Birtwell said his shoulder was sore at points this morning, and at other points it wasn't, and I think that was him trying to gut it out, so I kept him out," Walsh said.

That late scratch forced Harvard to go deep into its pen in yesterday's nightcap, and was a big part of a 12-3 loss that left an ugly smudge on what had been a productive opening Ivy weekend, including a Saturday sweep of Cornell.

Harvard got three good outings--from winners Justin Nyweide and Mike Madden at Cornell and from sophomore Ben Crockett in yesterday's opener--but just couldn't stretch its bullpen through four games.

An Ivy rule revision that lengthened the second game of all league doubleheaders to nine innings (up from seven) didn't help, and neither did seven Harvard errors in yesterday's doubleheader, three from third baseman Nick Carter.

"Our defense didn't show up today," Walsh said. "We weren't making some routine high school plays, and a ball club that can't play defense isn't a good ball club. Can we play better? Certainly. Will we play better? I don't know."

Harvard's big bright spot was catcher Brian Lentz's breakout weekend. The sophomore, who was recruited for both football and baseball but didn't play either last year, was explosive at the plate, going 9-for-17 with two triples and six RBI, including game-winning RBI in both games of the Cornell sweep.

Princeton 12, Harvard 3

The Tigers hit starter John Franey (0-1) hard in the first and never let up, pounding the junior for seven earned runs on eight hits before chasing him in the bottom of the third, en route to a 12-3 romp.

Right fielder Max Krance and designated hitter Casey Hildreth hit back-to-back RBI singles for the Tigers in the first, and shortstop Pat Boran and first baseman Andrew Hanson knocked in runs in the second before a Princeton three-spot in the third broke the nightcap open.

Franey surrendered singles to the first three batters in the third, then bailed with the bases loaded for freshman Ryan Tsujikawa, who gave up a two-run double to second baseman Jay Mitchell and a sacrifice fly to center fielder Mark Grayson to make it 7-3.

"Franey was pitching well and we felt confident in him, but they got some chinkers early for some runs and then we found out that he wasn't as healthy as he could be, either," Walsh said.

The Crimson had gone neck-and-neck with Princeton through the first two, getting its runs on tri-captain Erik Binkowski's sacrifice fly in the first and shortstop Mark Mager's two-run double to the right-center field gap in the second.

But Princeton righthander Jason Quintana (3-1) settled down as Harvard's tank went dry, and he shut down the Crimson over his final six innings. Quintana allowed three earned runs through eight innings, striking out six without walking any.

"It's frustrating because we've been struggling at the plate, and then today we got hitting but not pitching," said tri-captain Jeff Bridich. "We're waiting for the one weekend where we put it all together."

Harvard freshman lefthander T.J. Sevier was impressive mopping up, retiring all five of the batters he faced, striking out one. Sevier is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA this year.

Harvard 6, Princeton 3, 9 innings

The Crimson left 15 on base in yesterday's opener but rallied when it counted, patching together a three-run ninth to beat Princeton 6-3.

Harvard managed a season-high 15 hits--10 off Tiger starter Ryan Quillian and five off loser David Boehle (1-1)--but couldn't capitalize until Bridich drove a two-run double over left fielder Jon Watterson's head to score Franey and Lentz and break a 3-3 tie. Bridich then stole third and scored when Hildreth's throw skipped into short left field.

Bridich, who also had a run-scoring single in the third, finished 3-for-5 with three RBI.

"The at-bat before, I was struck out on a curveball in the same situation, so I was thinking about it," Bridich said. "I was looking curveball and he hung one up and it was just nicely timed."

Harvard almost didn't need extra innings. Crockett (2-0) was within a strike of burying Princeton 3-2 in seven and had retired nine straight, but Watterson capped a two-out rally with the Tigers' third straight bloop single, scoring pinch runner Mitchell to make it 3-3.

Crockett then battled in the eighth, striking out third baseman Eric Voelker with runners on first and third and two out to preserve the tie.

Walsh showed confidence in his sophomore, letting Crockett work the full nine for his fifth career complete game and his second of the season. Crockett allowed one earned run on eight hits, striking out eight and walking just one. Crockett's strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year is 19-2.

Harvard's ninth-inning rally was textbook smallball. Franey worked a four-pitch leadoff walk and moved over on Binkowski's sacrifice bunt. Lentz then beat out a ground ball to deep short to put two men on for Bridich, who turned on Boehle's inside fastball and one-hopped it off the left-field wall.

Lentz was 3-for-5 with two RBI and drove in Harvard's first two runs with a monster triple to right in the first.

Harvard 9, Cornell 6

Harvard 2, Cornell 1

Lentz drove in the game-winning runs in both halves of Saturday's doubleheader in Ithaca, N.Y., while Nyweide and Madden went deep on the mound to give the Crimson a sweep on Ivy opening day.

Lentz stroked a two-run single in the top of the first in the opener for the Crimson's only runs, then hit a two-run triple in the top of the ninth in the nightcap, giving him four RBI in the doubleheader.

In Game One, Nyweide (2-2) was the workhorse, going 5.2 innings while allowing six hits and Cornell's only run, an RBI single by designated hitter John Osgood in the bottom of the sixth. He also struck out six and trimmed his ERA to 3.71. Nyweide was 0-3 with an 11.74 ERA as a mid-week starter last year.

First-inning singles by second baseman Faiz Shakir and Mager, followed by a double steal, put runners on second and third for Lentz's two-run hit--the only Harvard rally of the game.

Birtwell worked the final 1.1, striking out three and working out of a seventh-inning jam to earn his first career save.

In Game Two, Madden bailed out freshman starter Kenon Ronz, who was roughed up for five earned runs on five hits before giving way with none out in the third. Madden went the final seven and fanned seven, allowing one run on four hits. It was Madden's longest outing since the first start of his Harvard career, when he threw eight against Stetson during the 1997 spring training trip.

The Harvard bats came alive in the nightcap, banging 13 hits off the Big Red's Nick Bayer and Rob Vaughn (0-1). Vaughn took the loss when Harvard tagged him for three in the ninth to snap a 6-6 tie. Lentz's two-run triple and Bridich's sacrifice bunt made the winning margin.

Lentz finished 2-for-5 with five RBI and sophomore Nick Carter was 1-for-4 with three RBI.

Notes

Sophomore Faiz Shakir, who was batting .316 in 14 games, missed yesterday's doubleheader due to a hyperextended left elbow. Sophomore Josh San Salvador played both games at second and made two errors.

Harvard went 5-7 on its spring training trip, which included victories over Wright State and Kansas State, and losses to Florida Atlantic and defending national champion Miami.

Since Walsh took over as coach, Harvard and Princeton have met 20 times, including the last four Ivy League Championship Series. Harvard leads the rivalry 11-9.