In a four-game set with Yale this weekend, Harvard junior centerfielder Bryan Hale broke out of a season-long slump as quickly as the speedster usually gets from home to first.
Hale finished with nine hits on the weekend, matching his previous season total.
“He’s hot and cold,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “He’s certainly been hot this weekend. Let’s hope he can stay hot.”
For the first three games of the series, Hale batted at the bottom of the order and feasted on fastballs. Known for his speed and defense, the junior suddenly was not only hitting, but hitting for power. Four of his first seven hits went for extra bases.
Hale’s great performance not only raised his batting average more than 70 points. It bumped him up eight spots in the lineup as well. For the series’ final game—having tormented Yale pitching for 23 innings—Hale assumed the leadoff role. Fewer fastballs? No problem.
After recording a single and a double in the first game of the doubleheader, Hale legged out a triple and knocked his third home run of the season in game four to finish with a cycle for the day.
“I don’t mind getting a lot of fastballs. I’m not going to lie,” Hale said. “But it’s always nice moving up in the order.”
Walsh doesn’t know if Hale will stay at the top of the lineup. Hale replaced freshman Lance Salsgiver, who had been two for his last 14 batting leadoff. But Walsh said Saturday that he just wanted to move Salsgiver down to give him the chance to see better pitches. Salsgiver—who is a team-best 8-for-8 on stolen bases—went 3-for-5 from the No. 7 spot Saturday.
But like Salsgiver, Hale is an intriguing lead-off hitter because of his speed. He stole only two bases on the weekend—a misleading number because his extra-base hits left him few steal opportunities—but embodied the scrappy baseball style Walsh embraces.
With men on first and second and Harvard leading 2-1 in the fourth inning of game four, Hale hit a potential double-play ball to Yale shortstop Mike Hirschfield. Hirschfield tossed the ball to Steven Duke for the force at second, but with Hale racing down the line, Duke rushed his throw and pulled his first baseman off the bag. Hale was safe at first, and a run scored.
Hale then proceeded to swipe second and third easily, arriving just in time to jog home on a wild pitch by Bulldog starter John Janco. All of this happened during the very next at-bat. The inning was All Hale.
“My favorite part of baseball is chasing down fly balls and stealing bases,” Hale said.
But hitting the way he did this weekend couldn’t have been too bad.
In only four games, Hale bested his previous season totals in doubles (four to two) and RBI (seven to five) and raised his batting average from .134 to .217.
Even against left handers, whom Walsh said his left-handed centerfielder often struggles with, Hale finished 2-for-4 with a double on the weekend.