HANOVER, N.H.—Witness the power of Josh Klimkiewicz’s bat: it was a completely different game after the Harvard slugger connected on an 0-1 fastball in yesterday’s penultimate inning.
Klimkiewicz, the Crimson senior first baseman, entered the batter’s box in the eighth inning of a 10-9 do-or-die thriller. He ambled into second base, after shooting Dartmouth reliever Chris Lapointe’s pitch nearly 400 feet away into the centerfield gravel, in the midst of a 23-9 Big Green embarrassment.
Klimkiewicz’s RBI double, the first of 13 insurance runs that followed sophomore Taylor Meehan’s go-ahead RBI single in the eighth (not to mention sophomore Matt Vance’s critical leadoff triple), turned what had been a hotly contested slugfest into a division-clinching rout.
“I absolutely love having him in the lineup,” said senior starting pitcher Matt Brunnig. “He’s in the three-to-five hole, and every time he’s up, there’s people on base. Having his bat there makes all the difference in the world.”
Klimkiewicz has never been named to the Ivy League’s first or second team. The senior may soon cash in on the league’s most prestigious honor—its Player of the Year award—with his well-timed terror campaign against Dartmouth pitching.
In ten plate appearances over two games yesterday, Klimkiewicz reached base eight times, drove in four runs—he finished with 41 RBI, the most in the league—scored five times, and hit one high, arching home run onto the street beyond the left field foul pole. He went 4-for-5 in the second game with two hit-by-pitches. The home run, his seventh of the season, came in the sixth.
“The pitches looked like beach balls today,” he said. “Everything was just looking huge.”
Klimkiewicz gave no visible indication of discomfort in his left elbow, which he injured in a collision against Brown on April 22. He had struggled to an 0-for-8 line in his return on Saturday but said that his “elbow felt good.”
Yesterday, as previously, trainers wrapped athletic tape nearly from Klimkiewicz’s left shirtsleeve to his wrist. The move slowed neither his bat nor his focus.
“Having him in the middle, especially in an RBI situation,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said, “you can just see how the other team pitches him. It just sets the tone, you know? He’s standing up there like he’s trying to hit the ball out of the yard.”
Klimkiewicz hit his sixth-inning home run when Dartmouth reliever Kyle Zeis fell behind in the count. Klimkiewicz was looking for a 3-1 fastball and got it.
“That was very far,” said Brunnig of the homer, which managed to stay within the airspace high above the top of the foul pole. “I don’t even know what to say about that.”
“I got a good part of that,” Klimkiewicz said. “They were pitching me inside all day, and I was waiting for them to leave one a little bit out over the plate. And I finally got it.”
In his 17th and final start of the regular season as a designated hitter—designated, in this case, to replace himself as starting pitcher in the lineup—Brunnig went 3-for-5 with doubles in two of his first three at-bats.
His second two-bagger hit the base of Dartmouth’s deep centerfield fence, approximately 400 feet from home plate.
“That was pretty well hit,” Walsh said. “It might have been the only ball that [Big Green centerfielder Will Bashelor] didn’t come close to and that [right fielder Damon Wright] didn’t come close to.”
“[If] those two guys don’t get to a ball,” Walsh added, “that thing’s gotta be hit.”
Brunnig gave the credit for his newfound power to a fortuitous recent purchase: a set of contact lenses, which he had never before used.
“It’s definitely helped,” he said. “I’m definitely a lot more comfortable at the plate. I thought my eyes were fine before…[but] I picked up off-speed pitches a lot faster.”
—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at email@example.com.