No Cinch To Clinch

Baseball comes from behind twice to secure share of Red Rolfe division title

Joseph L. Abel

Tinted, at turns, by darkness and bright sunshine, O’Donnell Field served yesterday as the setting of both Harvard’s final home doubleheader against Dartmouth—a showdown fraught with Ivy title implications—and a sequence of unsettling visual tricks.

Umpires missed calls. Players booted balls. Ace pitchers looked average, and slumping hitters seemed superhuman.

Generous leads evaporated into thin air.

And so fans could be forgiven for blinking twice, early on in Game 2—a game featuring six lead changes, the last of which gave the Crimson (23-13, 14-4 Ivy) an 11-10 victory in its final at-bat.

Harvard had just scraped together a similar comeback triumph, a 9-8 win against the Big Green (12-19, 7-11) in Game 1.

Standing in at shortstop for Harvard was regular centerfielder Matt Vance. Zak Farkes, the Crimson shortstop, patrolled the turf in center.

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Clutch When It Counts

Clutch When It Counts

Harvard coach Joe Walsh’s bizarre move—which pragmatically preserved Farkes’ ailing throwing arm while allowing the freshman Vance to return to the position at which he was recruited—immediately paid reverse dividends for the Crimson.

In the top of the ninth, Vance committed a devastating two-out error on a bouncing ground ball that allowed Big Green DH Jason Blydell to score from third. Dartmouth led, 10-9.

“[The ball] took a kind of downward spin hop at the last minute,” Vance said. “I thought I had it in my glove but it wasn’t there.”

In the Crimson’s final at-bat, Vance returned to the plate. A sacrifice fly by pinch-hitting sophomore Drew Casey had knotted the score at 10, and senior left fielder Ian Wallace waited on third with two outs.

Vance bounced the first offering he saw, ironically, to shortstop.

“Right after I hit that,” Vance remembered after the game, “I just took off as fast as I possibly could run.”

Erik Bell, the Dartmouth shortstop who had yet to commit an error all day, dropped the ball. Harvard scored.

“That,” Walsh said, “was justice.”

With the win, the Crimson kept division rival Brown (22-18, 14-6)—which entered the day at one game back in the Red Rolfe standings—at arm’s length and whittled its magic number down to one. Both teams swept their respective doubleheaders.

This afternoon, the Crimson and Big Green travel to Hanover for the teams’ final season showdown. A single Harvard win would clinch the Crimson’s first Ivy Championship Series berth since 2003.

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