Don’t let the opponent fool you. Even though the Tigers aren’t in town, the Ivy title is on the line at O’Donnell Field this weekend.
Beginning with a noon doubleheader tomorrow, the Harvard baseball team will host Cornell in the best-of-three Ivy Championship Series.
The winner earns the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins at the end of the month. Game 3 will be played at 1 p.m. on Sunday if necessary.
“I can’t wait,” junior Josh Klimkiewicz said after Harvard clinched the Red Rolfe title Monday. ‘I was disappointed last year that we didn’t go to [the Series], but hopefully this year we’ll win and get to go to a regional.”
The opportunity is a familiar one for the Crimson (24-15, 15-5 Ivy)—which is playing in its third ICS in four seasons—but its opponent is more surprising.
The Big Red (17-22, 11-9) upset nine-time defending Lou Gehrig Division champion Princeton to advance to its first ICS in program history, and it did it with pitching and defense.
The Cornell staff, tops in the Gehrig Division with a 4.97 ERA, more or less shut down Harvard in an April 9 doubleheader at O’Donnell, but left Cambridge with a pair of losses in pitcher’s duels.
“The team that played us the toughest all year was Cornell,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “They have really good pitching.”
Dan Gala, Brad Terwepner and Blake Hamilton—each of whom the Crimson will likely see again—combined to hold Harvard to only four earned runs in 3-1 and 2-1 Harvard victories.
“We’re swinging a little better than we were at that point in the season, but I think they’re swinging a little better than they were, too,” Walsh said. “So we’re looking forward to it.”
Walsh may be understating his offense’s improvement.
Bolstered by the healthy return of Zak Farkes, the Crimson’s lineup has found its groove, scoring more than nine runs per game over its last two Ivy series.
Over Harvard’s past 10 games, Farkes is batting an absurd .541 with four home runs. His 20 hits in that span matched his output from the season’s first 29 games.
But Farkes hasn’t been the only one putting on a show. In its last eight Ivy games, the Crimson lineup averaged two home runs a game, with six different players reaching the bleachers.
The offensive outburst helped compensate for the loss of junior shortstop Morgan Brown.
Brow started each of the team’s first 34 games at shortstop, anchoring the infield with an impressive .958 fielding percentage, before missing the entirety of last weekend’s division-clinching series against Dartmouth with a virus.
Brown will be in the starting lineup tomorrow—he played five innings in Tuesday’s matchup with Northeastern—and says he should be 100 percent.
“I’m really stoked,” Brown said. “Especially because I look forward to Dartmouth more than anything else. I’m from New Hampshire so that’s the biggest weekend for me. To miss that last weekend was crushingly depressing, so I’m just trying to redirect all of that energy into this weekend.”
Brown’s presence will be appreciated by a Harvard pitching staff that allowed 32 runs, 12 unearned, in four games against Dartmouth.
“Right now our big concern is making sure we can get our pitching back into shape,” Walsh said. “That’s going to be the name of the game [this] weekend.”
In the past, the Gehrig and Rolfe division champions alternated years as the host of the ICS. However, a rule change implemented this season awarded Harvard the right to host on account of its better overall Ivy record…The Big Red opened the Ivy season 1-5 before winning seven of its last nine league contests…Harvard last played in the ICS in 2003, when it lost two of three games to host Princeton. The Crimson last won the ICS in 2002, when it swept Princeton at O’Donnell Field…This will be the first time Harvard has played a team besides the Tigers in its seven trips to the ICS.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.