Harvard, relying on a combination of strong starting pitching and home run power, surged to a 4-1 victory in the opener and won 8-2 in the nightcap.
“We knew the season, regardless of what we were doing before, started today,” sophomore Steffan Wilson said. “We needed two [wins]. We’d been struggling a little bit down in Florida. You can’t ever depend on two, but that was the goal and it feels great to get it from a team that we split with last year.”
HARVARD 8, PRINCETON 2
Senior Josh Klimkiewicz and Wilson propelled the Crimson to a harder-than-it-looked 8-2 win to sweep the twinbill from the Tigers with three combined home runs.
Klimkiewicz rocketed out solo shots in the third and sixth, and Wilson iced the contest with a three-run jack in the ninth that provided the final margin.
“Klimkiewicz and Wilson back to back are pretty good guys,” head coach Joe Walsh said. “You can’t make a mistake to either one of those guys. [Princeton head coach Scott] Bradley mentioned he thought this was the best lineup he’s seen that we’ve had, with Klimkiewicz and Wilson in the middle of it.”
Harvard was treated to its second straight impressive pitching outing. In his introduction to the Ancient Eight, freshman Adam Cole fanned 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings en route to earning his first collegiate win. Despite appearing fatigued at several junctures, Cole persevered to spare the Crimson bullpen for the following day’s doubleheader at Cornell. Jason Brown pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his team-leading third save of the season, stranding two baserunners in the eighth and working out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.
New Jersey native Harry Douglas ignited the first-inning rally with a leadoff single. With the aid of two walks and an error, Harvard was again able to leap out to an early 2-0 advantage.
“All year we’ve been spotting everybody a few in the first inning,” sophomore hurler Shawn Haviland said. “To jump out with a couple in the first inning, in both games, was huge. That gave us that confidence that we could take these guys down.”
Junior backstop Andrew Casey went 3-for-4 with a run batted in, and second baseman Brendan Byrne also reached three times, courtesy of two hit by pitches and a walk.
HARVARD 4, PRINCETON 1
In the first game, sophomore Shawn Haviland permitted only an unearned run in a complete-game, seven-inning effort while scattering seven hits and not walking a batter. Haviland was forced to contend with the passing thunderstorms, which halted action for 44 minutes between the fifth and sixth innings. But he did not skip a beat in the final frames, continuing to spot his fastball low in the strike zone and tantalize with his curve.
“It’s always nice not to have to use your bullpen before Sunday,” said Haviland, who also racked up seven strikeouts. “Especially with the seven-inning game, the guy starting that, you have to feel like you need to go seven or else it’s not a good outing. And Cole, he was rolling, so you’re not going to take him out when he’s rolling like that.“
Haviland’s only misstep was with the glove, when he overthrew first base on a come-backer from the Tigers’ first batter of the game, Dan Degeorge, for a three-base error. Degeorge scored on Andrew Salini’s RBI double, making the score 2-1.
Wilson tacked the Crimson to an early 2-0 edge when he launched a longball into the shrubbery beyond the left-center field fence in the top of the first.
Sophomore Matt Vance, returning to the field after serving as designated hitter for several weeks while nursing a shoulder injury, made it 4-1 when he drove in a run with a double in the fifth inning, one of a pair of two-baggers Vance ripped into the left-center gap in the game.
“Vance is just swinging really well,” Walsh said. “We got him back in the lineup Thursday. When we get him back in the lineup, we’re a much better ballclub. He gives us so much movement.”
Erik Stiller went the distance for Princeton in the loss, yielding only five hits and striking out eight, including six of seven at one point.
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at email@example.com.