“Pitching renaissance,” of course, implies that everyone is doing his part. Indeed, starting pitchers Trey Hendricks—the staff ace—Frank Herrmann and Jason Brown all have had upturns in their recent performance, especially since league play began April 3.
But senior Mike Morgalis, recently an artist on the mound, has had a turnaround that has been almost picture perfect.
Morgalis, a Cincinnati native and transfer from Notre Dame, limited Columbia to one run on five hits in eight strong innings Friday, frustrating the Lions with a mix of pinpoint fastballs and devastating sliders. That performance came less than a week after Morgalis’ masterpiece—the first complete game shutout by a Harvard pitcher in more than a year—against Cornell in a 3-0 win April 3.
The Cornell victory was the first of seven straight league wins, a streak that has mirrored Morgalis’ recent rise to success after a dreadful start to the season. Before the shutout, Morgalis had started two games, against powerhouses Texas Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette, and allowed 20 runs in 6 2/3 innings—hardly an indicator of the considerable promise the senior brought with him from South Bend before the 2003 season. The problem?
“I just couldn’t get in a rhythm,” Morgalis said of his rough start. “I like to get the ball back and just go to the next pitch. It keeps your defense in it, and it kind of keeps the batter guessing.”
On the road trips to Texas and Louisiana, that wasn’t happening. Now it is.
“That’s a key strategy,” he said. “I like working fast.”
Morgalis is not just a fast worker—he’s also an intelligent one. If the senior has drawn comparisons to Cubs great Greg Maddux in the past, that has less to do with both pitchers’ goofy personas than with their systematic approaches to the game.
“Mike’s a guy that really studies the hitters,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “I think he has a great advantage when he pitches [the second game of a doubleheader]. Here, he zeroed in on the first game weaknesses and he exposed a few things.”
Like Maddux, Morgalis relies less on power and more on guile, treating pitching more like, well, an art. The Lions mustered only a solo home run in the second inning, spending the rest of the day dribbling ground balls and glancing weak pops around the infield—and getting fooled on darting fastballs inside.
“I think Mike picked them apart a little bit,” Walsh said.
With a cadre of promising pitchers lined up beside Morgalis, Walsh can take heart in Harvard’s arms revival. With 10 games left in the regular season—and less than three weeks remaining—the Crimson’s new grand artist of the mound is hitting his prime at just the right time.
—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.