Freshmen Grow Up Quickly

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“In high school, we were able to get away with pulling an outside pitch or bobbling a ground ball and still throwing a guy out at first, but at this level you can’t do that,” Klug says. “You have to focus on every play.”

At times, lapses of focus have cost the rookies and the Crimson. In addition to his spectacular outing against Houston Baptist, Poppen was victimized by Rice, giving up seven hits and nine runs in five innings in a 12-0 Harvard loss. Likewise, Link has had four multi-hit games this season, tied for tops on the team with Klug, but has also failed to get on base in five games, all Harvard losses.

“Everything feels really professional,” Poppen says. “Every day you go in and have to get your work done, and you get better by the end of every day. Last year, some of my friends went off to college to pitch and some of them were saying, ‘Yeah, a lot of what pitching is you pitch, you run, you field fly balls for guys batting, and there’s a lot of downtime,’ and I’m not getting a lot of that.”

Helping the freshmen adjust to the increased athletic workload, not to mention the academic one, is a group of upperclassmen that have welcomed the Class of 2016 from day one.

“The older guys on the team are great - we love ’em,” Link says. “They did a really good job assimilating the freshmen with them and making us feel [like we were] part of the team, and we appreciate that.”

Still, the large freshman class has its own identity, and a confidence that the best is still to come for Harvard baseball.

“I feel like the freshmen really stick together; it’s one team but the freshmen eat lunch together [and] dinner together all the time,” Link says. “We’re always in Annenberg together; there’s definitely camaraderie between all the freshmen. We know we’re a great team if we play fundamentally sound baseball. We just have to do it every day.”

—Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at akoenig@college.harvard.edu.

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