Behind a 14-hit barrage, the Crimson (18-10, 10-2 Ivy) pulled away from UMass 11-5 in the first round of the Beanpot Classic at LeLacheur Field yesterday.
Harvard will now face Northeastern (13-15) at 5 p.m. this afternoon in the championship at Fenway Park.
“I thought the whole team had some real good swings on the curveball,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “That’s been our nemesis all year, when a guy comes in with a breaking ball and beats us.”
Harvard entered the bottom of the seventh clinging to a 6-5 lead, but quickly put the game out of reach.
After Minutemen reliever John Toffey walked Steffan Wilson and Schuyler Mann—the only two batters he faced—to open the frame, Chris Mackey dropped down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on the corners.
Back to back singles by Morgan Brown and Brendan Byrne, followed by a bases-clearing triple by Matt Vance, put Harvard up 10-5. Ian Wallace singled in Vance to tack on the final run.
It was the the final hit of a 4-for-4 day for Byrne.
“The kid that’s in the nine hole for us is doing a great job,” Walsh said. “He turned a couple double plays, made a nice play on a popup that dropped. He was great.”
A little bit of luck—and poor UMass baserunning—saved Byrne from having to make the play of the day.
With the bases loaded and a run already across in the top of the seventh, Walsh brought in Wilson—the team’s top closer—to preserve the Crimson’s 6-5 lead.
Brian Garrity drilled a sharp grounder towards the hole between first and second, but before the ball could reach the outstretched glove of a diving Byrne, it hit the foot of UMass’s Bryan Adamski.
Garrity was awarded a single and Adamski called out for runner’s interference.
“I was going to have to make a tough play, but I thought I was going to get there,” Byrne said. “I’m not sure if I would have gotten up and made the play, but I think I would have knocked it down.”
Every time the Minutemen (5-22) started to pick up momentum, Harvard seized it back.
After an RBI single by Jason Twomley pulled UMass to within a run, 5-4, in the top of the fifth, Mann got the run back singlehandedly in the bottom of the frame.
With two outs, the captain launched a monster home run off of the hitters’ eye in dead center, just to the right of the 400ft. sign. It was his second long ball this week, and team-leading fifth of his career. It also tied him for the most home runs in a Harvard career with teammate Zak Farkes.
“I crushed a curveball down the line the at-bat before, so I knew I was getting a fastball outside,” Mann said. “And there it was.”
Mann flashed his bat after showing off his arm the in the top of the frame.
An errant attempt by Mann to pick off Derrick Durepo from first base allowed Durepo to advance to third, and later, to score on a base hit by Twomley; the tying run was on first. But when Twomley attempted to take second, Mann gunned him out with a perfect strike.
“I tried to make something out of nothing on that [throw to first],” Mann said. “But [catching the guy stealing] put the momentum back on our side.”
Walsh, always agressive himself, agreed.
“When you’ve got an arm like that,” Walsh said with a grin, “show it off a bit.”
Freshman Taylor Meehan (1-0) picked up his first career win, allowing only four hits and no earned runs in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Meehan replaced freshman starter Brad Unger in the fourth.
Wilson earned his fourth save of the season with 2 1/3 innings.
The Crimson jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the second.
Josh Klimkiewicz and Wilson singled consecutively to open the inning, and Farkes reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two outs. Durepo then misplayed a Brown fly ball to centerfield, allowing two runners to score and advancing Brown to second.
Byrne then drove him home with his first single of the day.
“I was actually fortunate by guessing a little,” Byrne said. “I sat curveball a couple times and hit it.”
UMass tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the third with a two-out rally.
Durepo singled with two outs, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit by Bill Rankin. After Twopley walked, Curt Szado singled in Rankin, and Twopley scored on another wild pitch to tie the game.
But the Crimson answered right back in the bottom of the third, plating two runs to take the 5-3 lead.
Lance Salsgiver was hit by a pitch to open the inning and Wilson drove him home with an RBI double. Farkes then doubled off the wall in right-center field to score Wilson.
Vance, Klimkiewicz and Wilson each had a pair of hits for Harvard.
Unger allowed three earned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three in three innings of work.
Northeastern topped BC 7-2 in the second semifinal at LeLacheur Field yesterday.
Walsh did not name a starter for today’s game against the Huskies, who last won the Beanpot in 2002.
With an important division showdown with Brown looming this weekend, he has to be extra careful with who he sends to the mound.
“Hodge and Podge,” Walsh said with a grin. “I think they’ll be pitching for us. We’ve got a big weekend coming up, but we certainly aren’t going to overlook [tomorrow].”
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.