PROVIDENCE, R.I.—For just a few minutes—with the Harvard baseball team nine outs away from a three-game division lead—it looked like this year might be different.
But after Brown rallied from a 7-3 deficit to secure a series split at Aldrich Field yesterday, it was clear this season would follow the same script as any other.
It’s as certain as death and taxes.
The division title always comes down to the final series against Dartmouth.
With a 10-3 win in Game 3 followed by a 10-8 loss in Game 4, Harvard (21-12, 12-4 Ivy) maintained its one-game lead over Brown (19-17, 11-5) heading into its four-game showdown with the Big Green this weekend.
“I have no thoughts on next weekend until I get rid of these thoughts,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said, shaking his head in frustration minutes after watching the Bears capitalize on good fortune—and bad umpiring—to rally for seven straight runs and the Game 4 win. “We fought our butts off all weekend.”
BROWN 10, HARVARD 8
Though a series split with Brown guaranteed the Crimson control of its own destiny this weekend, Harvard had little control over its fate yesterday.
With the Bears trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh and Danny Hughes safely on second with a double, Jeff Nichols lofted a popup that fell between left fielder Ian Wallace and shortstop Morgan Brown for a base hit. A double by Jimmy Lowe scored Hughes and chased Crimson starter Javi Castellanos from the game.
That’s when things started to get sticky.
Sophomore Jason Brown relieved Castellanos, and the first batter he faced, Chris Contrino, lifted a fly ball that fell a few feet foul in front of right fielder Lance Salsgiver—one that the umpire called a fair ball.
“I knew it was going to be close, but when I saw it bounce I almost stopped running.” Salsgiver said. “The guys in the bullpen were jogging to get the ball. We all saw the umpire point, and it was a definite moment of, ‘What the heck’s going on?’ It was definitely the wrong call.”
By the time Salsgiver fielded the ball and threw it in, Contrino was safely on second with a double and two runs had scored, cutting the lead to 7-6. The Bears tied the game on a throwing error by Steffan Wilson and then took an 8-7 lead on an RBI single by Matt Kutler.
With still only one out and Kutler on first, the Crimson badly needed a double play ball and seemed to get it.
Devin Thomas grounded an offering from reliever Curtis Miller straight at second baseman Brendan Byrne, but before it could get to him, it ricocheted off the field umpire, leading to a dead ball. Thomas was awarded first base.
Walsh then brought in Wilson, who walked Paul Christian to load the bases and set up another controversial play.
Hughes lofted a high fly to short right field. Salsgiver camped under it and fired a strike to home plate, forcing Kutler to hastily retreat back to third. Mann fired to Zak Farkes, who slapped the tag down on a diving Kutler. The runner was called safe, though, much to the surprise of an incensed Farkes, who immediately argued the call.
“We had some big calls today that didn’t go our way,” Walsh said. “That double that was a foul ball, that double play ball that hit the umpire, and that play at third. Then every time we made a mistake or walked a guy, they took advantage of it.”
The inning finally ended when Nichols flied out to Byrne, who made a nice play running back towards right.
After the Bears tacked on two more runs in the eighth to go ahead 10-7, the Crimson made one final run in the top of the ninth.
With two outs, Wallace reached on an error by the shortstop Nichols and moved to second on a single by Brown.
Rob Wheeler—pinch hitting for Byrne—then lined a single to left to score Wallace and pull Harvard within two. But Brown starter Jeff Dietz got Matt Vance to line out to right field to end the game.
The Crimson took the lead with a six-run sixth inning, highlighted by an RBI single by Farkes and a two-RBI single by Salsgiver that put Harvard ahead 6-2. Schuyler Mann homered for Harvard’s other run.
Castellanos got a no decision in his first Ivy start of the season, allowing six earned runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking three in six innings. Brown (1-1) took the loss for the Crimson.
HARVARD 10, BROWN 3
The Crimson broke open a 3-3 tie with a four-run sixth inning in Game 3 to guarantee that Harvard would leave Providence with the division lead.
Mann walked to open the frame and advanced to second on a single by Wilson. Wallace then pushed both runners over with a sacrifice bunt. After Byrne reached on a fielder’s choice, Morgan Brown legged out an infield single—diving into the first base bag head-first to beat a throw from Nichols—to score Wilson and put the Crimson ahead 4-3.
Vance walked to load the bases, but Farkes followed with a three-RBI double that fell in no man’s land in left-center field.
Farkes—who homered in his first at-bat—finished the game 2-for-3 with five RBI. He had four hits on the afternoon. Freshman Shawn Haviland (5-1) earned the complete game win for Harvard. In seven innings, he allowed two earned runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking two.
Haviland outlasted Bears ace Brian Tews, who fell to 2-3 with the loss.
Harvard took a 1-0 lead on the first pitch of the game, when Farkes deposited a fastball over the fence in left field. In the second, a two-out single by Brown, followed by a Vance double, increased the lead.
The Bears tied it up in the bottom of the third on a string of hits capped by an RBI single from Kutler—one of six hits on the day for the lefthander—but a Farkes sacrifice fly put Harvard back ahead in the fifth.
Brown went 4-for-4, scored three runs, and stole his team-leading 10th base of the season to pace the Harvard offense.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.