HANOVER, N.H.—It was more than a little strange playing on a May afternoon in Hanover with nothing on the line. But after a 10-6 win over Dartmouth in Game 3 yesterday, the Harvard baseball team got to do just that.
The Red Rolfe division title was officially the Crimson’s, with one game to spare.
Harvard (24-14, 15-5 Ivy) will now host Lou Gehrig division champ Cornell in the best-of-three Ivy Championship Series beginning this Saturday at O’Donnell Field.
“I thought the teams in our division were pretty tough,” Crimson coach Joe Walsh said. “But I’ll tell you what, the team that played us toughest all year was Cornell.”
The Big Red (17-20, 11-9) lost a pair of one-run pitchers’ duels to Harvard on April 9 to fall to 1-5 in the league, but rebounded to squeak past nine-time defending champion Princeton to take the division by a single game.
It will be the Crimson’s first ICS since 2003, when Harvard lost two of three at Princeton. Cornell has not advanced to the ICS since the Ivy League went to a two-division format in 1993.
The Crimson last won the Ivy title in 2002.
When freshman Matt Vance hit the first homer of his collegiate career yesterday, his best friend from high school was right there to watch—just 90 feet away.
The pitch Vance pulled over the left field fence was an offering from Dartmouth freshman reliever Kyle Zeis, who played with Vance at Torrey Pines High School in Solana Beach, Calif.
“I went up there and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Vance said. “That was probably the best ball I’ve ever hit off of him.”
Vance—whose two-run shot put Harvard ahead 10-3 in the top of the seventh of Game 3—made the most of his only official at-bat of the game. In his other three plate appearances, Vance walked and was twice hit by a pitch, scoring all three times. He added a single and a double in Game 4.
“He’s been swinging the bat really well this weekend after going through a little bit of a tired phase,” Walsh said. “That was good to see.”
Shortstop Morgan Brown missed his fifth straight game due to illness. The junior anchor of the Crimson infield started 33 straight games at shortstop to open the season before being hospitalized earlier in the week with a virus.
After dressing for Sunday’s doubleheader at O’Donnell Field, Brown was back in the infirmary yesterday, Walsh said. In Brown’s place, Walsh started junior Zak Farkes—who is nursing a sore shoulder—in Game 3 and Vance in Game 4.
“We’ve got to get Morgan back,” Walsh said. “We need him out there at shortstop.”
When junior Josh Klimkiewicz homered in the first inning of Game 3, justice was served. The shot to the gap in left-center not only put Harvard up 1-0 in the division title-clinching game, but it made up for a home run that was washed out of the books—literally—when the Crimson’s Saturday matchup with the Big Green was called after 4 1/2 innings due to rain.
“I was a little more upset knowing that we’d have to come back here than I was about getting the stats washed out,” Klimkiewicz said.
Still, the homer raised Klimkiewicz’s season total to eight, tying him with captain Schuyler Mann for the team lead.
RETURN OF THE KING
With four hits yesterday, Farkes continued his recent stretch of hot hitting.
In Harvard’s last nine games—played in eight days—the junior infielder has gone 19-for-33 (good for a .576 average), with four home runs and 15 RBI.
His .358 batting average is now second on the team, trailing only freshman Steffan Wilson’s .360.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.