In an unusual occurrence yesterday, the Harvard baseball team's hitters bailed out its pitchers. They did it in more ways than one. After a wild game in which Crimson arms had yielded eight runs on 12 hits, it was third baseman Nick Carter who turned in the cleanest inning of work.
Carter pitched a perfect ninth as the Crimson (9-17, 4-4 Ivy) used a four-run eighth inning to beat Holy Cross (10-14) yesterday, 9-8, at blustery O'Donnell Field. Junior Javy Lopez capped the rally with a two-out single into the outfield with runners on first and second. The play ended with sophomore catcher Brian Lentz caught in a rundown between second and third, but not before senior outfielder Scott Carmack scored the winning run.
Harvard Coach Joe Walsh then brought Carter in to close the game, and the junior delivered, striking out designated hitter Chris Doneski to end a wild affair marked by an explosion of wind-aided offense.
"We haven't gotten 14 hits in a game all year," Walsh said. "Nowhere near that many."
The Crimson didn't get many of those hits until late in the ballgame, as it faced a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the third inning. Holy Cross' James Arrante, a righty who had only made one other start this year, had held the Crimson bats in check with series after series of fastballs.
But the Crimson managed to scrape a few runs together in the middle innings to stay within striking distance.
In the bottom of the eighth with the Crimson down 8-5, Holy Cross brought in Ryan Kenny, a reliever whom opponents had batted .353 against so far this year. Kenny (3-4) promptly hit freshman Brian Hale with a pitch, and after striking out the next batter, he threw wide of first in his attempt to pick Hale off. Hale scurried to third on the error, and a clearly-rattled Kenny went on to hit Mickey Kropf to put runners on the corners with one out.
Carter, who had already hit a home run in the third inning, then singled to plate Hale and bring Harvard within two. After freshman pinch-hitter Marc Hordon was called out on a questionable pitch inside, Carmack walked to load the bases.
Lentz then tied the game with a two-RBI single that set the stage for Lopez' heroics.
"Lopez had missed a couple of pitches earlier in the game that he probably wished he could have back," Walsh said. "But he was swinging the ball well and still had a lot of confidence."
Although Lentz got caught between the bags to end the rally, he also made a spectacular defensive play in the top of the inning that made the Crimson comeback possible.
Freshman T.J. Sevier (1-0) came in to pitch with the Crimson down three, but never really had control on the mound. He walked the first batter he faced on four low pitches. After a Crusader sacrifice bunt, Sevier hit the next two batters to load the bases with one out.
Sensing a scoring opportunity, Holy Cross shortstop Ed Turner took a big lead off of third. But although Sevier was having trouble finding the strike zone, the guy he was throwing to had a lethally accurate arm. Lentz gunned Turner down at third, and Sevier struck out the next batter to keep the game close.
"T.J. didn't have the best stuff today," Walsh said. "When Lentz picked the kid off of third, it was the play of the game."
Crimson starter Brendan Reed didn't have his best stuff, either. The sophomore had previously allowed only five hits on the season, but he matched that total by the end of the second inning yesterday. His string of 12.1 innings without allowing an earned run was snapped in the second when Doneski singled in the game's first score.
Reed got into much worse trouble in the third. With one out and two men on, Crusader catcher Dale Johnson smacked a Reed offering over the fence in dead center field to make the score 4-0. It was the first of Johnson's two home runs on the day-his first two this year.
Reed was lifted in favor of freshman Trey Hendricks, who switched over from the DH spot. Hendricks displayed good control in his 4.2 innings of work, striking out five and walking none. He did, however, give up two home runs, including a bomb to left by second baseman Peter Summa that cleared the fence by at least ten feet.
But the Crimson bats ultimately left their mark on the game. Carter's home run in the third was his sixth of the year and it disrupted Arrante's rhythm.
"There's a big difference between 4-0 and 4-1," Walsh said. "The Carter home run helped a whole lot."
Lentz added another homer in the bottom of the fifth. He finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs, and a triple short of the cycle.
Carter's appearance on the mound was actually his third of the year. In three previous innings he had given up two runs on five hits...Hendricks hit today as the DH, pitcher and the DH again. He finished 2-for-3 with a double and a walk...Walsh shuffled the defensive lineup in the ninth. Among the more interesting changes were Lentz' move to first base...The Crimson now trails the all-time rivalry with the Crusaders, 99-58.