The Crimson will take to the baseball diamond against the school’s biggest rival on four different occasions this weekend with second place in the Ivy League’s Red Rolfe division on the line.
Harvard hosts the Bulldogs at O'Donnell field with the traditional back-to-back double headers that mark the start of division play.
More than just bragging rights will be at stake, as the Crimson (6-22, 3-5 Ivy) and Yale (6-19, 3-5) are both one game behind division-leader Dartmouth, which sits at 4-4 in the conference.
The Ivy League is split into two divisions, and only the winners of the divisions move on to play in the Ivy League Championship. This weekend marks the first games of division play for Harvard and Yale, and whichever team comes out on top will have the best shot at challenging Dartmouth for the division lead and a shot at postseason play.
“These four games against Yale are huge,” freshman catcher DJ Link said. “We’re in a good spot right now; we control our own destiny. If we can take this series, we’re in a good position.”
In its last three matchups against teams in the Ancient Eight, Harvard has split its double headers. The Crimson has won the second game of all three series, against Penn, Cornell, and Princeton.
Yale’s three Ivy victories have also come in the second game of double headers. Just like the Crimson, the Bulldogs have notched wins over Penn, Cornell, and Princeton. Both Harvard and Yale dropped their two games against Columbia earlier in the season.
The Rolfe division is the weaker of the two Ivy divisions this season—leader Dartmouth would be in last place in the Lou Gehrig divison. Columbia leads the Ivy League with a 6-2 mark and every team in the Gehrig division has at least five wins.
“We put ourselves in a good position by winning a few games in the Ivy League early on,” Link said. “We’re able to go into conference and division play with a few wins.”
Link, sophomore outfielder Brandon Kregel, and junior utility man Carlton Bailey have been the strongest parts of the Crimson lineup this season. Kregel, who has a .301 batting average on the season, leads the team in hits, RBI, and runs scored. Link and Bailey each have 27 hits on the year, tied for second on the team.
Yale’s offense, meanwhile, has been carried by junior first baseman Jacob Hunter and sophomore outfielder Eric Hsieh. Hsieh has 23 hits and a .299 batting average on the year while Hunter has posted a .310 average with 26 base hits.
Each of the past two years, the teams have split the annual four-game series evenly.
This year, Harvard enters the weekend fresh off of a loss to Northeastern in the first round of the Beanpot tournament. Harvard will not play in the consolation round until April 29, so the team will need to shift its focus away from the annual Boston competition.
“We just have to come out with a lot of intensity,” freshman pitcher Shaun Rubin said. “We have to put this game behind us and focus on going back to Ivy League play.”
Yale also enters the weekend after suffering a midweek loss to a non-conference opponent. The Bulldogs lost 3-2 to Farfield on Wednesday.
Yale’s top performers from the mound so far this season have been junior starting pitcher Rob Cerfelio and freshman relief pitcher Chis Moates. Cerfelio is 1-3 on the year, but has posted a 2.45 ERA through 33 innings of work. Moates has a 2.67 ERA through 25 innings of work in his nine appearances.
Harvard’s top hurlers so far this season have been junior Sam Dodge and freshman Sean Poppen, both of whom are starters. Dodge has 24 strikeouts in 31 innings of work this year, while Poppen is 1-1 in five starts on the year and a 4.40 ERA.
With the race for first in the Rolfe division wide open, both teams recognize the chance this weekend’s games represent.
“I think we’re in a good spot and are going to come to play these next three weekends,” Link said. “It starts with Yale; we have to worry about that first game, first pitch, and prepare these next two days for that.”
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