Homers Lift Baseball to Wins
After sweeping Dartmouth at home yesterday, Harvard now sits only one win away from the Red Rolfe Division title and the chance to compete in its first Ivy Championship Series since 2002.
For the distinction, finally, the Crimson can thank the two biggest bats in its lineup.
Mann hit his second and third homers over his last three games on Sunday, both coming off pitcher Stephen Perry and both easily clearing the shrubbery bordering the fences of O’Donnell Field.
The catcher combined with junior Zak Farkes to notch four huge home runs on the day, pacing a red-hot Crimson offense in a pair of critical, protracted slugfests.
For Mann, the captain, the moonshots traveled an estimated total of 820 feet—the first traveling to straightaway centerfield, and the second soaring to left-center in the fourth to make it 8-7.
“My last at-bat against Dartmouth last year was also against Perry, and I creamed one,” Mann said. “I knew he was kind of being careful with me, and he made a couple of mistakes.”
For Farkes, on the other hand, the power surge marked a pleasant return to business as usual.
After being drafted in the late rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Red Sox and setting Harvard’s career and single-season records for round-trippers last year—he hit 14 in 2004, bringing him to 22 overall—the infielder spent most of 2005 frustrated and battling shoulder problems.
So while his two bombs yesterday were only his fourth and fifth on the season, they were also his third and fourth in just six games—all six critical, must-win division contests.
“To get hot at the right time is what it’s all about for this season,” Farkes said. “It’s a short season, and to start hitting at the end, [it’s what] I was kind of telling myself to kind of get through the tough times all season. This was what I was hoping-slash-expecting to happen.”
Farkes started a big fifth inning rally in the opener by crushing an offering from Big Green ace Josh Faiola to left-center. And then, in the second game, the Boston native delivered an opposite field solo shot off Perry with two out in the first.
Senior Rob Wheeler made the most of the baseball team’s Senior Day by spending it in impressive, career-defining fashion.
Wheeler—who will head to the Army’s Basic Training after graduation—collected five RBI in the first contest of Sunday’s doubleheader, recording one of the more crucial and majestic drives in recent memory.
A heretofore unheralded first baseman, Wheeler unwound on a high fastball from Faiola in the second inning with two runners on, launching the ball miles high over the left-field wall and tying the game at 3-3.
Harvard coach Joe Walsh let loose an emphatic fist pump, and simultaneously, a cadre of scouts sent to watch Faiola—the Co-MVP of the Cape Cod League’s 2004 Postseason—scattered, packing up their radar guns and notepads to head out.
“If you’re here early and see BP, he puts on a show,” Walsh said. “Here’s a kid that came in and got no playing time his first year, then a little bit of playing time. He got a hold of one and drove it pretty good.”
Wheeler, however, wasn’t done. He then sent a rocket single up in the middle in the fourth off another Faiola fastball, and then smacked a two-RBI single to center to give the Crimson an 8-7 lead in the fifth.
He finished the day 5-8 with six RBI.
“I was pretty excited. It was a lot of fun today,” Wheeler said. “I was so pumped to be able to help the team.”
A MIRROR INTO THE FUTURE
In between the halves of the doubleheader, Walsh made a decision which gave Harvard fans an exciting, if not momentarily unsettling, glimpse into the future.
With Farkes bothered by arm problems in the intermission, Walsh switched the junior with freshman Matt Vance, the team’s everyday centerfielder whom he calls the Crimson’s “shortstop of the future.”
While Vance was a star at short in high school at Torrey Pines, it was the first time either player had taken the field at those positions in their collegiate careers.
“[It] was awesome,” Vance said. “I was excited that we made the switch.”
The frosh, ultimately, performed ably in the field save two errors: one in the fifth, and one in the ninth—the latter being potentially infamously disastrous.
Vance muffed what would have been the third and final out of the game, allowing Dartmouth’s tying run to cross the plate.
“It was a little tough for him,” Walsh said. “Some of the balls hit to his right, he laid back on them a little bit. He needed to get a little bit more aggressive on it. But he’s been catching up on the fly balls all year.”
Luckily, though, the error was wiped away by an insane bout of symmetry in the bottom of the same frame.
The Big Green’s own freshman shortstop, Erik Bell—also out of California—muffed an identical groundball hit by Vance himself which would have sent the game into extra innings. Instead, senior Ian Wallace scored the winning run (unearned) on the play.
“That’s just baseball for you right there,” Vance said. But nevertheless: “I felt like an ass after that last play.”
IS THERE NO ONE ELSE
If Harvard wins just one game at Hanover, N.H. today, it clinches the Red Rolfe Division crown and a trip to the Ivy League Championship Series. It has already won a share of the title by sweeping yesterday.
If the Crimson doesn’t win either contest, then Harvard will play a one-game playoff against the Bears to decide who gets to face Lou Gehrig Division-winner Cornell.
Brown swept its doubleheader yesterday against third-place Yale, roughing up the Ivy League’s number one pitching staff and—notably—putative Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Josh Sowers in the first game. The Bears and Bulldogs split their doubleheader Friday.
Harvard split four games with the Bears in Providence, R.I. last weekend.
The Big Red, meanwhile, shattered Princeton’s chokehold over the conference and arguably the entire Ivy League yesterday by beating The Tigers 4-3 in the first game of a doubleheader to clinch its spot in the ICS.
Princeton had previously won four of the past five Ivy titles, except for 2002 when Harvard defeated them in the ICS.
The winner of the ICS—which will be played at either Harvard or Brown, and not Cornell, due to strength of record—receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Baseball America currently predicts the Ivy winner to be headed to a regional in Gainesville, Fla.
THE GAME THAT NEVER WAS
HANOVER, N.H.—Most know how Saturday’s doubleheader in Hanover, N.H. was canceled due to rain and postponed for tomorrow.
What most do not know is that the doubleheader actually started before the umpiring crew decided to call the game due to concern for injury after 4 1/2 innings.
But because the contest had not reached baseball’s necessary five-inning threshold—required for games to officially count if postponed or shortened—the innings were forever erased from the baseball universe.
The Crimson, incidentally, led 4-2 with no outs in bottom of the fifth, just three outs away from a crucial win over Dartmouth—a win which, combined with today’s sweep, would have won Harvard the division.
“Three more outs and we would have had one in the books,” Mann said. “It was a big disappointment to get so close, and obviously it was a huge game to have in our win column. But today is another day.”
At the time of cancellation, there were men on first and third, and freshman Shawn Haviland was warming in the bullpen.
Junior pitcher Javy Castellanos had started the game and was perfect through four innings before fraying in the fifth, and junior Josh Klimkiewicz hit his seventh home run, which he hit “again” yesterday at home.
—Staff writer Pablo S. Torre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.