A change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing Harvard baseball team. Having lost six of their last seven games, the Crimson heads to New Haven for two sets of doubleheaders against Yale over the weekend.
With the exception of a 10-6 victory over Columbia last Sunday, Harvard has stalled since its opening Ivy weekend, April 6 and 7. The Crimson has been riding those back-to-back doubleheader sweeps of Princeton and Cornell to remain tied for first with Brown in the Red Rolfe division. But no matter what the current circumstances of the match-up, Harvard is ready and raring to go for the weekend.
“The rivalry holds true,” captain Ben Crockett said. “We’re pretty positive. We’ll be able to pitch and hit like we’re capable of doing.”
Harvard (8-18, 5-3 Ivy) has struggled with its offense the entire season, and its last game was no different. Boston College scored 12 runs on 13 hits on Wednesday, while the Crimson managed just three runs off its nine hits. The Eagles connected for four home runs, which stands in sharp contrast to the five homers that Harvard’s entire roster has produced for the season.
The Crimson hitters maintain that the offense will turn around, as many hard-hit balls have been sent directly to fielders.
“We’re hitting the ball great,” senior shortstop Mark Mager said. “I think that this weekend everything will come together.”
One of the few positives for the Crimson offense is the performance of Mager, who is 17 hits from Harvard’s career hit mark, set at 208 by Hal Carey in 1999. The team’s hottest hitter, he added two more on Wednesday to raise his team-high hit total to 31.
The Crimson was able to rely on stellar pitching earlier in the season, but the staff has been inconsistent recently. The Eagles roughed up freshman Rob Wheeler in his first collegiate start, senior Nick Carter lasted just 3.1 innings in the Beanpot match-up against Northeastern last Tuesday and a combined melt-down last Saturday resulted to a 19-11 loss against Penn after Harvard led 10-6.
“The pitching has not been what it was earlier in the season,” Crockett said. “We need to throw more strikes. We’ve been walkings and hitting guys, getting into trouble. We need to focus on getting ahead of hitters, and we can be very effective.”
One plus that Harvard can take away from Wednesday’s loss is the strong relief by Crockett and junior righthander Madhu Saty, who tossed one shutout inning apiece. Crockett, who is slated to start game two on Saturday, now has a 2.70 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 40 innings. Senior Justin Nyweide will take the mound in the first Saturday game.
The Crimson hopes that the weekend will bring the return of sophomore Marc Hordon to the lineup and the mound. The usual first baseman when not pitching, Hordon has been out with a broken hand since April 7, and X-rays were scheduled for last night.
Harvard’s leading hitter with a .361 average, Hordon is penciled in to start game one on Sunday. Senior Chaney Sheffield will go in game two.
Also injured for Harvard is senior second baseman Faiz Shakir, who has missed the past two games with a sprained finger.
“If I know Faiz, he’ll try anything he can to come back, even playing hurt,” Mager said.
Meanwhile, Yale (9-17, 3-5 Ivy) defeated Sacred Heart 9-7 last Tuesday. Junior outfielder Chris Elkins brings an 11-game hitting streak into the weekend competition after going 3-for-5 against the Pioneers, raising his batting average to .384. Elkins has six RBI, two doubles and three runs scored in his last six games.
In terms of Ivy play, the Bulldogs split doubleheaders against Cornell and Princeton last weekend. Yale is tied with Dartmouth for third in the Red Rolfe division.
The first pitch on Saturday is at noon. Sunday’s doubleheader begins at 11 a.m.