The last time the Harvard baseball team suited up for a game against UMass at LeLacheur Park, the Crimson was met with favorable results.
The year was 2005—Harvard’s most recent Ivy championship season—and a strong Crimson squad took down the Minutemen by a comfortable 11-5 margin, securing a spot in the Beanpot finals. The following day, on April 21, Harvard handled Northeastern, 7-3, at Fenway Park to claim its second-ever Beanpot title.
Since the stellar 2005 campaign, the Crimson has yet to reclaim either the Beanpot or the Ivy crown. But Wednesday evening, some of that might change. Harvard is pitted against the Minutemen in the Beanpot finals—the Crimson’s second trip to the title game in as many years—and, once again, Harvard (8-25, 4-8 Ivy) will take on UMass (11-13, 6-3 Atlantic 10) at the home of the Lowell Spinners.
The Crimson and the Minutemen met most recently in the opening round of last year’s Beanpot. And after eight scoreless innings, Harvard was able to squeak out a win, as then-sophomore Danny Moskovits drove in then-freshman Jack Colton with a single in the bottom of the ninth, securing a 1-0 victory and a trip to the finals.
“It’s going to be a good matchup,” sophomore shortstop Jake McGuiggan said. “We played them well [in the Beanpot] last year, but they’re a different team now, and we’re a different team. We can’t take this one lightly.”
The Crimson also enters Wednesday’s contest with retribution on the brain. After sneaking by the Minutemen in its first 2011 Beanpot matchup, Harvard suffered an 8-0 defeat at the hands of Boston College under the lights at Fenway Park. With the win, the Eagles secured their second Boston-area championship in as many years and 10th overall—the highest Beanpot title count of any participating school.
After losing to BC, the Crimson dropped its final four matches of 2011, falling to 9-36 on the year.
“We’re definitely on a better pace this year than last year,” McGuiggan said. “Hopefully [on Wednesday] we can pick up that ninth win, which is the number we ended up with last year. That will put us in a good position to get into double digits over the weekend.”
Harvard went 3-3 this week—its best mark of 2012—taking down BC for the second time in as many games and notching two wins in a four-game series at rival Yale.
“Even though we lost those two games to Yale, the games were close and we played well,” McGuiggan said. “[This past week] definitely gives us some momentum and also confidence.”
After leading the Crimson with a .458 batting average over the course of the last six games, McGuiggan earned Ivy League Player of the Week honors—the first time a Harvard player has earned the nod since Tyler Albright ’11 captured a share of it on April 27, 2010.
UMass—led by Anthony Serino’s 25 hits and 14 RBI so far on the season—has won five of its last seven games and currently sits tied for third place in conference play. The Minutemen also have a recent win against Northeastern—a team that downed Harvard, 9-4, in a midweek tilt last Tuesday.
“Last week started off well,” freshman centerfielder Mike Martin said. “But we had a little let down against Northeastern. Going into the weekend, we knew if we swept Yale or at least took three games from them, we’d be in a great position. Unfortunately, we only won two, but we’re still sitting in second place [in the Rolfe division].”
Although Harvard leads the all-time series, 26-16, UMass holds a 7-4 edge in Beanpot matchups.
And according to Martin, the non-conference contests like the Beanpot also serve as tune-ups for upcoming Ivy League games.
“[Midweek games] help you stay fresh during the week, and pitchers can get their work in,” Martin said. “The intensity is not 100 percent at the level of an Ivy game, but it’s definitely there. A win during the week can give you great momentum for the weekend.”
Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s game, Crimson players say they relish the opportunity to compete for Boston-area bragging rights.
“The Beanpot for hockey is a lot bigger than it is for baseball, and a lot of people don’t know about it,” McGuiggan said. “But it’s an opportunity for us to go out and win a trophy and a championship.”
“It’s a two-game championship, that still means something to us, especially to get back to the championship game for the second straight year,” he continued. “We lost in the finals [last year] and don’t want to let that happen again.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.