ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Slugger Delivers in Huge Weekend

It’s taken a little while, but consider the Harvard baseball team comfortably settled on the broad shoulders of senior right fielder Tom Stack-Babich.

And as he settled into the batter’s box during the Crimson’s first weekend at O’Donnell Field, Stack-Babich was comfortable to the tune of a 9-for-19 pace, three homers, and eight RBI.

Oh, and let’s not forget those walk-off hits on back-to-back days.

Stack-Babich deposited an offering from Cornell’s David Rochefort over the center-field fence to give Harvard its second straight walk-off win over the Big Red, which had roared back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at five on a Nathan Ford jack in the top of the ninth.

“Oh, it’s fun to see him up at the plate,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “I can only imagine if we didn’t have the wind, he might have had a couple.”

But the senior wasn’t done—after over 16 innings and over 500 pitches of baseball in Sunday’s marathon against Princeton, Stack-Babich decided he was ready to be done for the weekend.

So with the bases full and the score tied at 12, his liner to center brought home sophomore Dillon O’Neill for the win.

Lost momentarily in the celebration at home plate was the play that had pushed the game past the 13th frame. After the Tigers had brought home two runs off of Harvard sophomore Dan Berardo, and the Crimson had made the first two outs in the bottom half, captain Harry Douglas seemed to have a shot to pull Harvard within one before his fence-bound bomb was pulled foul. He settled for a single, leaving Stack-Babich to battle with the wind.

Guess who won.

Stack-Babich’s shot fought its way over the center-field wall to tie things up, setting the stage for more of the senior’s heroics in the 17th.

“I just hoped he would give me something over the plate,” Stack-Babich said. “Too bad it wasn’t a three-run homer.”

“You see [Stack-Babich’s] swing, he’s not muscling, it’s just nice and quick,” Walsh added.

It was not only the fierce wind, but also some pesky competition that kept a suddenly prolific Crimson offense from coasting this weekend. Sunday’s nightcap, in particular, was a never-say-die affair that showcased the best—and the worst—that Harvard’s roster has to offer.

The worst: blowing an 8-0 lead after giving up four runs in the sixth and ninth innings.

The best: some versatility, which featured Stack-Babich at both the plate and on the mound.

After a rocky ninth inning that saw him surrender the game-tying run, the righty allowed just two hits over three innings of scoreless work.

He certainly didn’t do it all himself. Roommate Taylor Meehan won the first of the team’s four crucial Ivy games with a walk-off jack of his own Saturday, and that drama set the tone for a weekend of nail biting.

Fellow senior Matt Rogers gave Stack-Babich a serious run for this award, turning in a six-homer week that included two weekend jacks and a monster grand slam in the Crimson’s 12-11 loss to Holy Cross last Wednesday.

So it hasn’t been just Stack-Babich coming through during the team’s recent surge, but as he’s gone, so the team has tended to go. After struggling through the majority of Harvard’s 2-15 showing in non-conference play last month, Stack-Babich—and his team as a whole—is glad things have turned a corner.

“I went through a pretty rough patch down south,” Stack-Babich said of his March struggles. “I think a lot of it was early and I didn’t have my stroke down.”

Stack-Babich and the Crimson made it three walk-off wins on the weekend, but three wins of any kind over Ivy competition were plenty for a team that managed just eight league victories in 2008. To date, the Crimson is 5-3 in Ancient Eight play.

“I felt a lot of pressure and it just wasn’t fun…then I relaxed and realized there’s no point in not having fun,” he continued. “So we’re just trying to relax and stay loose. It just feels good to have a little fun.”

The Crimson will play Northeastern in the opening round of the Beanpot Tournament today at 3 p.m. in Brockton, Mass. The winner will take on either Boston College or UMass next Monday at Fenway Park.

—Staff writer Emily W. Cunningham can be reached at ecunning@fas.harvard.edu.

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