It was the bottom of the final inning of his baseball career, and senior pitcher Stefan Botarelli was on the mound with a man on second, two outs, a powerhitter at the plate, and the lead in hand. Botarelli checks the man on second and notices he has a larger lead than usual. He gets the signal from his shortstop, spins, and picks off the runner, officially placing the Harvard Club Baseball team (8-3) placing first in the American Club Baseball Association World Series.
In its inaugural season, the American Club Baseball Association was created in order to provide club teams a chance at organized competition to complement the fall seasons that teams like the Crimson already have.
Facing some of the struggles of a club team this weekend, the Harvard was missing some of its key contributors and on top of that, was ranked fourth of a pool of 16.
Opponent expectations were low, but the Crimson came together to make a few upsets and steal the show from its New Hampshire host.
“We’re really thankful that the Harvard Varsity team allows us to use their field and facilities because at most schools this isn’t even a possibility,” Botarelli said. “But even with the practice we got, offensively we struggled at the beginning of the season to really get our bats going, so this weekend was a culmination of our team really coming together to pull out the victory.”
With minimal practice, the Crimson was able to piece together a few wins in low scoring games during the regular season, ending the year with a 5-3 record—only losing by one run to its best opponents.
“The three teams we lost to in regular season were the same three teams we had to beat to win the championship,” Botarelli said. “This weekend we really got our bats going, and it allowed us to come out victorious.”
Faced with a double header on Saturday, Harvard started the weekend off with a road trip to New Hampshire to play Vermont in a seven-inning game.
“Heading into the weekend we were pretty nervous about how we would do because we were missing arguably one of best pitchers in the league in Brian Furey,” said co-captain catcher Adam Arthurs. “But guys like [senior] Pat Arnold and [junior pitcher] Robert Hero really stepped up this weekend even though they haven’t been able to pitch much the entire year.”
Botarelli and Furey were known for pitching complete games for the team. This Saturday was no different for Botarelli, going the distance once again against Vermont and allowing five runs in a 6-5 victory won in walk-off fashion.
In its next game against across-the-river rivals and No. 1 ranked Boston University, the Crimson upset the Terriers through a strong offensive performance by putting nine runs on the board.
Combined with the six innings of pitching from Hero and a close from Arnold, Harvard was too much for its highly-ranked opponent.
“BU had their ace pitcher against us, and he has shut us down for the past three years, so it was great to come out and play well against them,” Arthurs said.
The championship was played on Sunday with the Crimson pitted against second-ranked host New Hampshire. Arnold went on to pitch yet again for five strong innings, only allowing one earned run. The final two innings were left up to Botarelli.
“[Arnold] really hasn’t pitched very much this season because of all the complete games that our two main pitchers have thrown, but he was able to give us a chance to win and we took advantage,” Arthurs said.
The last inning theatrics were the perfect ending for Botarelli, who was named playoff MVP for his pitching performances and offensive presence (4-12, 2 DB, 5 BB).
“I’m really proud of everyone for the way we went out and played this weekend.” Arthurs said. “This is probably the last time Pat, Stefan, Mark [Chiusano] and I will play organized baseball—and I’ve enjoyed playing—but these last few games were really something special.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: May 2
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Adam Arthurs said that his teammate Stefan Botarelli had not pitched much during the season but gave the team its chance to win during the American Club Baseball Association World Series. In fact, Arthurs’ statement referred to his teammate Pat Arnold.