On a windy day in April 2013, the Harvard baseball team took the field against Princeton in the rubber game of a doubleheader. The Crimson had decisively lost the first contest to the Tigers, 13-1, and was looking to bounce back to split the series at O’Donnell Field. What ensued was wilder than anyone could have imagined.
Complete dominance by Princeton in the first game transformed into a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle in the second that kept spectators guessing while players on both sides fought for victory.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth trailing, 19-17, Harvard needed three runs to notch the win. And in a stroke of good luck for the Crimson, three wild pitches resulted in a trio of runs, and Harvard walked off with the victory when then-sophomore outfielder Brandon Kregel slid into home plate.
The three wild pitches and subsequent scores were by no means the only staggering statistics during this unusual Ivy League contest.
The entire game witnessed sloppy plays, and some players do not look back with fond feelings.
“All I can say about that game is that it was painful to watch,” sophomore pitcher Sean Poppen said. “It was just messy baseball. Lots of errors, poor pitching—I started that game, so I should know. It was exciting from a competitive standpoint, but I think both teams were embarrassed [by] their performances that day.”
The two teams combined for nine errors, five of which were charged to the Crimson as the defense surrendered a season-high 19 runs. But Harvard also tallied 20 runs, a whopping ten more than its previous season-high against Cornell, and registered 23 hits to Princeton’s 15.
But while it was certainly a record-breaking day on the scoreboard, individual performances stood out in the rollercoaster of a game.
Then-freshman catcher DJ Link smacked a pair of doubles, going 4-for-5 on the game, while classmate Mitch Klug registered three hits and scored four runs.
Five Harvard players contributed at least three hits as the whole lineup got in on the action.
Then-sophomore second baseman and pitcher Tanner Anderson hit a grand slam for the Crimson, and the Tigers had a grand slam of their own. Anderson also chipped in four RBIs, and then-freshman first baseman and pitcher Sean O’Neill accomplished the same feat.
Emotions are varied about the game in retrospect. On the one hand, the game brought errors and mistakes. But the battle and the Harvard rally after being down by six runs in the second inning created a competitive atmosphere that serves as the enduring memory for most Crimson players.
“It was a crazy game, with lead changes left and right,” sophomore pitcher TJ Laurisch said. “The weather didn’t help, with [heavy winds making] every ball in the air exponentially tougher to catch. It was...one of my favorite games because we rallied as a team and really pulled together to battle through the adversity and win.”
The winds reached up to 40 miles per hour, and with the obvious strain on fielding it caused, batters were able to capitalize.
The teams traded significant leads throughout the afternoon. Princeton was up by six in the top of the second, and then Harvard found itself leading, 17-10, in the bottom of the sixth. But no team could stay ahead for more than a couple of innings.
“[That] was by far the craziest baseball game I’ve ever been a part of,” Link said. “After losing a tough one in game one of that doubleheader, it was great that we pulled together as a team and came out of that eventful second game with the win.”
The back-and-forth nature of the contest is evident in the distribution of runs across 11 frames. Only two innings witnessed fewer than two runs, making for an action-packed contest.
The bottom of the ninth embodied the game’s craziness in just half an inning. The wild pitches and three Crimson runs sealed the win, as Harvard players scampered around the bases with each pitch that eluded the catcher. Just like that, the Crimson had notched its third Ancient Eight victory of the season.
“That game,” then-junior utilityman Carlton Bailey said, “was wild.”
—Staff writer Kelley Guinn McArtor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org