Despite a strong start by sophomore righthander Baron Davis, the Harvard baseball team fell to Northeastern, 9-4, on Wednesday at Friedman Diamond in Brookline, Mass., as the bullpen was unable to contain the Huskies’ hitters in the late stages of the game.
Paced by seven strong innings from freshman Nick Berger, Northeastern (13-15, 3-9 CAA) limited Harvard (6-23, 2-6 Ivy) hitters for much of the contest. But after what looked to be a pitchers’ duel early on, the Huskies’ offense took advantage of shaky performances by Crimson relievers, scoring eight runs in the final three innings.
Berger kept the Crimson bats quiet through the first two frames, allowing just a second-inning double to freshman first baseman Nick Saathoff. But leading off in the third, fellow rookie centerfielder Mike Martin lofted a solo home run to left center for the first run of the game, giving Harvard the early advantage.
Davis similarly shut down Northeastern in the early going, as the Huskies’ batters didn’t hit a ball out of the infield in the first three innings.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and hit my spots,” Davis said.
In the fourth, a two-out rally by the home team tied the game at one, as shortstop Oliver Hart followed Jason Vosler’s double with an opposite field RBI single.
The Crimson nearly regained the lead in the top of the sixth, when senior second baseman Jeff Reynolds led off the inning by lacing a double to the gap in left center. Following a strikeout by sophomore left fielder Jack Colton, sophomore catcher Steven Dill grounded a single up the middle, and Reynolds was waved around third. But a strong, one-hop throw from Northeastern centerfielder Connor Lyons beat Reynolds to the plate, and catcher John Puttress managed to hang on to the ball in the ensuing collision, preserving the tie for the Huskies.
“It was a close game,” Martin said. “You pretty much have to send him and make the defense make a good play.”
But Northeastern’s offense woke up in the bottom half of the inning. Harvard freshman righthander Jacob Kremers relieved Davis but was unable to find the strike zone, walking the first two batters he faced before Vosler hit an RBI single just under Saathoff’s glove to give the Huskies the lead, 2-1.
The Crimson then went back to the bullpen, bringing in junior Danny Moskovits to face sophomore Oliver Hart, but the Northeastern shortstop cleared the bases with a three-run home run down the left field line, padding the Huskies’ advantage.
Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Northeastern right fielder Dylan Barbosa extended the lead, sending a solo home run just over the fence in right center, one of his four hits on the day.
“[Our relievers] couldn’t throw strikes,” Davis said. “They looked nervous. They haven’t had a whole bunch of innings, and they’re good players, but they just didn’t have their stuff today. [Northeastern] started hitting the ball better, but the walks opened the floodgates.”
Harvard mustered some offense of its own in the eighth, leading off the inning with a single and two doubles, the last of which, a Colton double to left center, plated two runners and ended Berger’s day. With two outs, sophomore Jake McGuiggan drove Colton home with a soft single to center off of reliever Dylan Maki to narrow the deficit to two runs.
“We felt like we were hitting their pitcher a lot better and squaring up his fastball,” Martin said. “We all thought we were going to come back and win the game.”
But the Huskies responded immediately with another big inning, tallying three more runs off the Crimson bullpen after a flurry of singles.
“They flat out just outhit us,” Martin said. “It’s not like we beat ourselves. They just kept piling on the hits. We scored runs, but we just didn’t compound them like they did.”
Northeastern’s late offensive outburst spoiled Davis’ solid outing, in which he scattered four hits and walked one batter in his five innings of work, recording four strikeouts. His fastball, clocked in the low 90s during the game, kept the Wildcats’ hitters off balance.
“[Davis] got ahead of almost every hitter,” Martin said. “He wasn’t missing up, only missing down. He was just throwing strikes, and they weren’t catching up to his fastball. When runners got on base, he minimized the damage.”
Berger allowed four earned runs, nine hits, and struck out seven in his seven innings. But three of those runs came in the seventh inning, when Northeastern had already built a five-run lead that ultimately proved to be insurmountable.