Although the Harvard baseball team (4-13) heads into Ivy League play with a losing record, the Crimson has clinched more victories in fewer games this season as compared to this time last year. The Harvard squad has won nearly a quarter of its contests, all of which were on the road, topping its 2013 nonconference record of 3-17.
“Coming into this year, we definitely have a lot to prove to all of the Ivy League,” said senior utilityman Carlton Bailey, who has registered seven RBIs and a .323 batting average this season. “I think every week we have the same goal with every team—treat [the opponent] like they’re the best team we have ever played.”
The 2013-2014 Crimson lost three players to graduation, most notably former co-captain and infielder Robert Wineski, who bolstered the offense with 10 runs and eight RBIs. But the trio’s absence has been filled by a group of nine seniors this season, and several have demonstrated their potential on the mound, in the field, and at bat.
Thus far this year, significant senior performances include a batting surge from second baseman Kyle Larrow, who notched four RBIs in a win over Michigan State. The showing turned heads around the Ivy League, which included Larrow in the Weekly Honor Roll.
Senior pitcher Sam Dodge (0-1, 4.19 ERA) has taken the mound as a starter for Harvard, throwing over 18 innings in four games with 14 strikeouts. Dodge is one of four main Crimson starters, including junior Tanner Anderson (0-1, 2.82), sophomore Sean Poppen (2-1, 1.44), and freshman Nick Gruener (0-1, 4.01).
“I think the story right now is definitely our pitching,” said junior co-captain catcher Ethan Ferreira. “Our four starters have done a great job keeping us in ball games and throwing real well…. Every time they step on the mound, we have a lot of confidence in them.”
While its pitching has consistently delivered, Harvard maintains a losing record largely because of its struggles to capitalize at the plate.
“I think we’re hitting maybe .240, which is a little bit lower than our target, which was initially .300,” Ferreira said. “I think we’ll pick that up. We need to focus on getting the clutch hit in a game…. If we’re not going to be a team that just bangs the ball out, we need to be a team that executes with bunts and getting guys in during clutch situations. We just need to work better on that.”
Often, the Crimson squad will fail to hold an early lead or close the scoring gap in the latter innings of contests, as evidenced by the second game in the Army series and the loss to UConn earlier that same week. Harvard put up two runs early on against the Black Knights, but was ineffective the rest of the afternoon, eventually falling, 3-2. Similarly, the Crimson was able to hold a 4-2 lead until the bottom three innings when the Huskies scored five runs in a single inning, while Harvard went scoreless after the third.
“We score runs early in the game,” Bailey said. “That’s what we’ve seemed to notice. But then we kind of get out of our funk, and, later in the game, we don’t produce as many runs. That’s definitely something we are planning on changing over the course of Ivy League play. ”
Despite a disappointing team batting average, several Crimson players have stepped up at the plate. In addition to Bailey, who leads the team in batting average, junior co-captain outfielder Jack Colton has 10 RBIs and three doubles while batting .271.
“Jack Colton has been clutch,” Bailey said. “He brings it just about every game. He never takes a day off. Coach likes to give people breaks, but [Jack] hates taking a break.”
Junior outfielder Mike Martin has also contributed to the batting lineup with big hits, registering a home run, a triple, and a double thus far. Martin’s homer against Lamar in early March was the first home run of the season for the Crimson and enabled Harvard to hold a lead in the contest for the first four innings. Another notable batting performance by Martin included a four-hit game against Army in a split doubleheader series in late March.
“Mike Martin’s bat is on fire,” Bailey said. “He’s very electric on our offense and defense.”
The junior has tallied 18 hits and 12 runs for the Crimson. Martin also holds the highest slugging percentage on the team at .353, and has registered at least one hit in all but five of Harvard’s 17 contests thus far. Crossing the plate 12 times for the squad, he has aided the offense in a dynamic way.