The Harvard baseball team needed a break. And in the bottom of the eighth, with two outs and runners on second and third, the Crimson got it.
Junior shortstop Jake McGuiggan stepped to the plate and lofted a lazy fly ball down the right field foul line on the first pitch he saw in the tie ballgame against visiting Boston College. The Eagles right fielder sprinted in; the second baseman drifted out. The outfielder called out, “I got it!” only to have the ball drop at his feet.
Fair ball. Just like that, the Crimson had taken a 6-4 lead, its first of the game.
Although the Eagles managed a run in the top of the ninth, Harvard would hang on to defeat its crosstown rival, 6-5, in the first round of the Beanpot at O’Donnell Field Wednesday afternoon.
“It looked like it was going to be caught; it was a pop-fly,” sophomore outfielder Brandon Kregel said. “Luckily we had a strong gust of wind today, and the sun played into hit…. That’s luck. Sometimes that plays into it. Today, we got lucky and we did things right.”
However lucky, McGuiggan’s hit would go down as a two-run double in the scorebook. The knock capped a three-run bottom of the eighth for the Crimson that began when Kregel ripped his second double of the day to left field.
A strikeout followed by an infield single moved Kregel to third, bringing up sophomore third baseman Mitch Klug. The Crimson had already botched an earlier squeeze attempt, but Klug laid down a perfect bunt that allowed Kregel to dive headfirst into home to tie the game at four. McGuiggan would come through for his team just moments later.
While Harvard owned the later innings, it was all BC early on. Indeed, it seemed as if the Eagles would run away with the game when they stormed out of the gates to put four runs on the board in the first inning.
After retiring the leadoff hitter, Harvard freshman starting pitcher Kevin Rex surrendered two consecutive singles and walk to load the bases. BC’s Joe Cronin then smacked a double down the right field line to score a pair, and another run came home on an RBI groundout.
Two walks, a pitching change, and a wild pitch later, the Eagles had seized a 4-0 lead and seemed to possess all the momentum.
But that was all the scoring the BC offense could produce until the ninth inning, as a committee of Harvard relievers shut the door. Sophomores Nick Scahill and T.J. Laurisch, along freshman Greg Coman and junior Matt Timoney, combined to hold the Eagles scoreless for seven straight innings.
Of the four pitchers, Laurisch stood out the most. The sophomore contributed three-and-two-thirds innings of scoreless, one-hit ball. His most dominant frame came in the top of the sixth, when Laurisch set down the Eagles in order by working ahead and striking out two.
“I thought our bullpen did a wonderful job,” Harvard coach Bill Decker said. “It was a really good win for these kids…. We’re going to keep on going and try to develop our bullpen. It hasn’t always worked out for it, but today it worked out for us.”
Down four runs early, the Crimson offense systematically chipped away at the BC lead in the middle innings. In the bottom of the third, Klug led off with a hit-by-pitch and came around to score after an error and a McGuiggan RBI groundout.
After Laurisch held BC scoreless, the Crimson came right back with another run in the bottom of the fourth, as a single from junior outfielder Jack Colton plated classmate Mike Martin to make the score 4-2.