When Ian Wallace’s perfect bases-loaded, suicide squeeze capped a three-run, ninth-inning comeback in a Game 4 victory over Brown yesterday, the Harvard baseball team rushed onto the diamond to pound fists and high five and wallow in the joy of another clutch performance in a must-have game.
Basically, they did exactly what they had the day before, after barrelling back from a 9-3, eighth-inning deficit to win Game 2 on a walk-off ground rule double by Trey Hendricks.
And the same thing they did last season, when with the Red Rolfe title on the line they came back to sweep Dartmouth on Sunday after dropping both halves of the Saturday doubleheader.
And the same thing they did in 2002, when Josh San Salvador capped a seven-run Harvard comeback with a walk-off home run to take an all-important, season-deciding Game 4 win from the Bears.
During the Ivy stretch, the Harvard baseball team always wins in the wildest ways. But it always wins.
“It was just another Harvard game,” Crimson coach Joe Walsh said with a grin after his risk had paid off. “We had it all the way.”
The comeback clinched Harvard’s third win of the series and kept the Crimson right where it’s used to being—in the thick of things. Three wins against division-leading Dartmouth this weekend will put Harvard and the Big Green in a one-game playoff for the Red Rolfe crown. Four will put the Crimson in its third straight Ivy Championship Series. This is familiar ground, but to the novice Harvard baseball observer, it seemed unreachable Saturday afternoon.
Game 1 was downright ugly. Unearned runs and errors abounded, and the Crimson looked frighteningly similar to the squad that had dropped three of four games in New Haven the weekend before.
And for a while, Game 2 was much of the same. They trailed by six runs. They had six outs left. And they had six Ivy games remaining to recover from what was about to be a three-game deficit.
But with the season on the line, the Crimson usually finds a way to win—and a wildly magnificent way, at that—and Saturday was no different.
Trailing 9-3 in the eighth inning, Harvard scored six runs to tie the game in a flurry of walks and runs and throwing errors and clutch line-drive singles. Walsh sent baserunners on every pitch, fearlessly testing the Bears defense and taking advantage of every miscue. It was Harvard baseball, and it was a lot of fun.
Then, after Lance Salsgiver came in to pitch a scoreless ninth—striking out the Ivy home run leader Paul Christian with a man on first to end the inning—the Crimson only had to make the comeback official.
With one out, Bryan Hale fell behind 0-2, but then battled for a walk. Zak Farkes took a full count offering in the dirt, and jogged to first to put two men on for Hendricks. And then the man who has been just short of everything for Harvard this season, was everything they needed when they needed a whole lot.
The co-captain belted a line drive double that skipped over the fence in left field on one bounce, and Hale came around to score the game-winner before being enveloped by teammates grinning with the joy that only comes from wins like this.
It was euphoria. Utterly predictable euphoria.