Known more for his slick fielding abilities than his bat, senior shortstop Jeff Stoeckel, shown here in earlier action, drove in two runs and scored one of his own in the final game of his collegiate career for Harvard. The Crimson ended its tough season
BROOKLINE, Mass—When captain Matt Vance jogged out to centerfield in the ninth inning of yesterday’s game against Northeastern, memories rushed through his head. The final game of his college career was coming to a close.
“It started to set in in the ninth,” Vance said. “This may be the last organized baseball game ever for a lot of us. It was pretty emotional.”
When Harvard faced the Huskies (17-21-1, 7-13-1 Colonial) earlier this season, the Crimson fell by one run in extra innings. Yesterday, Harvard (10-30, 8-12 Ivy) gave Northeastern a taste of its own medicine.
Tied, 6-6, in the top of the eighth, junior Matt Rogers hit a solo blast to left that put the Crimson up by one. The Huskies never had a chance to respond—Harvard’s two strongest pitchers, seniors Brad Unger and Shawn Haviland, silenced the Northeastern bats in the late innings to secure a 7-6 victory.
“It was a lot better walking off that field shaking hands than walking of with a loss,” Vance said. “It’s a game I’ll always remember and the seniors will always remember.”
Because the game was the last contest of the season, Crimson coach Joe Walsh tried to get all his seniors playing time. Senior Taylor Meehan moved to designated hitter to make room at second for senior Griff Jenkins, and starters Unger and Haviland took the mound for the final innings.
“This group of seniors was a solid group of ballplayers who made all types of contributions,” Walsh said. “They fought through a lot of adversity whether it was injuries, bad breaks or losing streaks...and they were also great teammates.”
Harvard opened the scoring in the top of the third when a passed ball brought Vance home. One batter later, freshman Sean O’Hara ripped a grounder to the left side of the infield. The third baseman got a glove on it, but couldn’t control it, allowing Rogers to score and O’Hara to reach base safely.
The Huskies responded emphatically in the fourth. Freshman Dan Berardo, who started his second game of the season yesterday, did not allow a hit through the first three innings. In the fourth, however, Northeastern pounced, scoring five runs off four hits, two walks, and an error. Berardo was removed after Alex Fox hit an RBI ground rule double.
“I thought he was lights out there for three or four innings and just like that he lost it,” Walsh said. “But he’s been pitching well and...he’s done a great job for us this year.”
Freshman Zach Hofeld took the mound in relief and got Berardo out of the fifth inning jam. In the sixth, he gave up a solo homer to slugger Frank Pesanello, but the freshman went otherwise unscathed.
“Hofeld came in and did a nice job,” Walsh said. “He did give up that 645-foot home run that still hasn’t landed, but he did a nice job being a bridge guy to Unger today.”
Down 5-2, the Crimson responded quickly in the top of the fifth. Reliever Russ Lloyd walked three straight Harvard batters to open the frame and senior Jeff Stoeckel and freshman Dillon O’Neill each knocked two-run singles to put Harvard up 6-5. Stoeckel, who also played solid defense at shortstop, reached base three times in his final game in a Crimson uniform.
After Hofeld gave up the game-tying blast, Rogers hit what ended up being the game-winning dinger in the eighth. Unger came in as the setup man and blanked the Huskies for two innings, and then Haviland assumed the closing role and ended the game by fanning the final batter with the curveball that made him one of the Ivy League’s most successful pitchers in his career.
On the day, Harvard recorded 11 hits to Northeastern’s seven, and reached base 10 times on walks. Rogers, Meehan, O’Hara, junior Harry Douglas and O’Neill had multi-hit games, although the Crimson did leave 10 men on base.
This season did not yield the results the Crimson had hoped for, but Walsh still has fond memories of the team and his senior class.
“I’m just real proud of this team this year,” Walsh said. “Sometimes it’s all about winning, but when you look back there are a lot of real good guys. I know that’s a lot of clichés, but at the same time its meaningful.”
—Staff writer Jake I. Fisher can be reached at email@example.com.