Freshman Adam Cole showed promise in Harvard’s season opener, at one point stringing together four consecutive perfect innings.
The Harvard baseball team can boast of an Ivy League title trophy, a deep roster capable of defending it, and an offense designed to obliterate opponents.
What it needs now is its pitching staff to grow up--fast.
Control problems up and down the pitching roster forced the Crimson (0-3) out of three straight games at SEC power Florida last weekend.
Harvard will enter this weekend’s road series at the New York Institute of Technology (3-3) with just two sure things on the mound: freshman Adam Cole, who shined in the season opener, and ace sophomore Shawn Haviland.
“Normally at this time of year the pitching is ahead of the hitting,” Haviland says. “We weren’t happy about the results [against Florida]. We need to focus on throwing strikes and work quickly.”
Aside from the Crimson’s characteristically strong hitting, Cole distinguished himself as a bright spot in an otherwise mundane weekend in Gainesville.
The freshman from Sudbury, Mass. allowed two Gator runs in the first, then breezed through four perfect innings before a Florida rally knocked him out in the sixth.
Despite allowing to teammates that he “only had C-minus stuff,” Cole conceded just one hit in the first five innings and two total. He walked three.
“I was tense, not as relaxed as I usually am,” Cole says. “I had to get the rust off, the nerves out a little bit.”
After the game, which Harvard lost, 12-6, after a seven-run seventh incurred by the Crimson bullpen, teammates raved about the rookie’s command.
Cole, dubbed “a lion on the mound” in the preseason by Coach Joe Walsh, had turned in the team’s best performance of the weekend on the season’s first day.
“The kid can throw the ball,” Haviland says. “He throws hard, has a great slider...I can’t wait till he gets out there, relaxes, and throws his best stuff. He’s going to dominate some teams.”
Haviland didn’t fare as well in his first start of the season, on Saturday in a 10-2 loss at the hands of Florida ace Bryan Augenstein. Haviland made it through the first two innings unscathed, but struggled with his location in a three-run Florida third.
In four and a third innings, the sophomore allowed five runs, all earned, on six hits and two walks. Once again, the bullpen failed to stem the bleeding, yielding seven hits, four walks, and five runs for the rest of the game.
Harvard saved the worst for Sunday’s 17-6 rout.
Veteran right-hander Javier Castellanos, a senior, was alternately hittable and wild after earning the nod, and the bullpen turned in a nightmare line of ten runs, ten hits, and five walks in a little more than four innings.
And that included two-and-a-third scoreless innings from captain Morgan Brown, who completed the team’s only scoreless appearance of the weekend.
“I think we definitely didn’t perform up to our potential,” Haviland says. “It was tough. Especially considering [on] Saturday and Sunday, the bats swung well enough to win.”
The team’s pitching jitters evidently showed themselves in the team’s inability to master the changeup. “You can’t choke it; you can’t overthrow,” Haviland says. In the end, the Crimson was too “pumped up.”
“We need to get relaxed, get more comfortable,” Cole says. “We’re going to get results. We’ve got all the potential in the world on this staff.”
The NYIT Bears have won all three of their home games and feature infielder Mike LaLuna, who slugged .733 in series against Florida International and Albany.
To recover from its three-game hole, the Crimson will need its young arms to lead the way.
“We have the talent to do it,” Haviland says.
—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.