BOSTON—Just when it seemed the Harvard baseball team had snatched a victory from UMass in yesterday’s Beanpot opener at Fenway Park, the Minutemen stole it back.
After a five-run rally in the ninth inning gave Harvard an 8-6 lead, Crimson junior Nick Carter failed to nail down the save in the bottom of the inning, giving up three runs as UMass snagged a 9-8 win.
As a result of the loss, the Crimson—which has not won an outright Beanpot title in ten years—will play Northeastern in the consolation game today. The Huskies lost to B.C. 12-1 earlier yesterday.
Harvard (18-25, 11-9 Ivy) suffered its fourth defeat in its last five games. The Crimson was eliminated from the Ivy League playoffs on Sunday.
“I won’t sleep again tonight-that’s four nights in a row,” Harvard Coach Joe Walsh said. “I’ll bet it’s the same with the rest of the guys.”
Carter—whose clutch, two-out single to right field tied the game in the top of the ninth—struggled mightily from the moment he took the mound to start the UMass half of the inning.
After surrendering a leadoff single, Carter hit Minuteman first baseman Jeff Altieri with a pitch to put the tying run on base. UMass third baseman Aaron Senez then laid down a bunt back to the mound that Carter fielded cleanly. But the junior reliever elected to throw to second base instead of taking the sure out at first.
Altieri beat the throw to load the bases with no outs.
After a fly out to shallow left, Carter threw a wild pitch that allowed Minuteman outfielder Nick Gorneault to score and moved runners to second and third. Harvard then decided to walk Mike Kulak intentionally to set up a potential game-ending double play with light-hitting UMass shortstop Cullan Maumus due up.
“Nick’s got the breaking ball, so we thought we could get a ground ball and turn two,” Walsh said.
But Maumus—who entered the game batting .200 on the year—earned the game-tying RBI without even lifting the bat off his shoulder. Carter missed the strike zone on four straight pitches to force in the tying run.
In the very next at-bat, UMass executed a suicide squeeze play to perfection to plate the game-winning run.
“It’s tough bringing Nick in from third base especially after running the bases [in the top of the ninth],” Walsh said. “But he was the best guy we had available to use in that situation.”
The ninth-inning meltdown spoiled Harvard’s miraculous comeback in the top of the inning. After Carter’s two-out hit tied the game, catcher Brian Lentz slugged a two-run shot into the net over Fenway’s Green Monster to give the Crimson an 8-6 lead.
It was Harvard’s second lead of the day. In the fifth inning, the Crimson had scored twice on a pair of wild pitches by UMass starter Nick Skirkanich to take a 3-1 advantage.
But the Minuteman recaptured the lead in the sixth, as Harvard outfielder John O’Donnell—who had entered the game as a defensive replacement—learned firsthand why right field at Fenway Park is considered the toughest position to play in Major League Baseball.
With two outs and a runner on second, O’Donnell lost a routine fly ball in the sun that allowed UMass to tie the game 3-3. One batter later, O’Donnell failed to make a play on another catchable ball hit to right, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
The mishaps spoiled what had been a fine defensive effort up until that point. Earlier in the game, Harvard cut down three UMass runners at the plate, including one on a double steal attempt and one on a perfect throw from senior outfielder Joe Llanes after Kulak singled to left.
Before the defense failed him in the sixth, sophomore starter Barry Wahlberg was a true bright spot for Harvard. Wahlberg-who may find himself a spot in Harvard’s weekend rotation next year-had allowed just two hits through his first five innings of work.
“He throws hard,” Walsh said. “We’ve got to add a soft pitch to him. He needs to change speeds a little bit more, but it’s his first year throwing. He’s got a great arm, great velocity-he’ll be a strikeout guy for us.”
Senior Scott Carmack was unavailable yesterday because of a hand injury. Three different players manned the right field position in his absence. ... Senior John Farmer technically got the start for Harvard at first base yesterday, but never actually took the field. After striking out looking to lead off the top of the first, Farmer was replaced defensively by San Salvador. ... Harvard lost to UMass exactly one week after dealing the Minutemen a crushing 21-11 defeat at O’Donnell Field.