Despite receiving arguably its best pitching performances of the season from standout sophomore Shawn Haviland and freshman Adam Cole, Harvard managed to lose a half-game in the standings to Dartmouth.
In the long term, nonetheless, Saturday’s pitching clinic proved that for the defending Ivy League champions, long successful as a relentless offensive unit, mound performance can be an area of strength in 2006.
“You come out of 15 innings, giving up one run,” said Harvard coach Joe Walsh, “You feel like you’re going to get two wins out of it. So it was disappointing. It was real disappointing.”
But Walsh added, “There’s no blame. Just a heckuva ballgame. You know, you gotta get on the board. And we didn’t.”
In game one, Haviland fed the Quakers a steady diet of curveballs, confounding the opposition with a spot-on delivery and superb control. He produced a nearly identical line—seven-inning complete game, seven strikeouts, only one run allowed—to the one he served Princeton in a 4-1 victory on April 1.
This time, as the result of a final-inning RBI single by Penn shortstop Scott Graham on a 2-2 fastball that he left up, Haviland came out as the unfortunate loser.
“You’ve got to keep the ball down against these guys,” Haviland said. “I mean, anyone can hit a belt-high fastball.”
For six innings, Haviland was nearly perfect, allowing three hits and no walks. He threw early strikes and spotted a gravity-defying breaking ball—“The best curveball I’ve had in awhile,” he said—for strikes.
“[Haviland’s] curveball has really come a long ways this year,” Walsh said. “He’s throwing it not up high, coming at the belt; it’s starting knee-high and finishing at the knees. He’s making it tough.”
Cole, for his part, continued one of the more impressive runs by a freshman Harvard pitcher in recent memory.
He held the Quakers to only four hits and struck out five in eight scoreless innings, mixing in two variations of his slider with a hard fastball.
Haviland struggled to find words for Cole’s recent success.
“He’s just...I guess I probably can’t swear,” Haviland said, adding, “I was impressed with him. For a freshman to come out there two games in a row like that—I mean, they didn’t have shot all day.”
As temperatures dropped into the low 40s, Cole put the Penn bats on ice. The Sudbury, Mass. native said Saturday afternoon’s windy cold didn’t bother him.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Cole said. “I got pretty warm before the game. I mean, when you’re sitting on the bench it’s freezing and once you get out there and you’re throwing it doesn’t even bother you anymore. By the second inning I was fine.”
More impressive than Cole’s velocity and breaking pitch was his continued command of the strike zone.
In his last 15 2/3 innings, Cole has struck out 16 batters and yielded just four walks.
“Getting that first pitch over [for a strike] really makes the biggest difference,” Cole said. “Once you get behind the hitters, then you’ve got to throw your fastball, you know, down the middle. And anyone can hit a fastball, no matter how fast it is.”
“But if you get ahead of the hitters and hit your spots then, you know, the strikeouts will come,” he added.
With a touch more of offense, so will the wins.
—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.