UPDATED: April 14, 2017 at 1:09 p.m.
In the excitement leading up to next Wednesday’s Beanpot Championship against Boston College, set to be played in Fenway Park, breezing through the remainder of the week might very well be a temptation for the Harvard baseball team. That is, of course, if there wasn’t Yale to deal with first.
The Crimson (12-15, 1-7 Ivy League) will square off against the Bulldogs (16-13, 7-1 Ivy) at O’Donnell Field in a pair of doubleheaders this weekend in a series that will begin Saturday and last well into the following day. The games will provide Harvard with an opportunity to not only knock off its rivals from New Haven, but to bounce back from a losing streak the team recently extended to four.
The Crimson will enter the weekend ranked sixth in the Ivy League, with just one conference win under its belt. Yale, however, is currently occupying the top spot in the Red Rolfe Division. The Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight games in the Ancient Eight. Harvard will look to leave records in the rearview and simply play ball.
“Yale’s record does not intimidate us, and I think we know that there is little to lose and we will play loosely,” said senior pitcher and first baseman Matt Hink. “It is still the game of baseball no matter who the opponent is.”
The last time the two teams met, it was the Crimson that came away with the victory. In back-to-back doubleheaders similar to ones set for this weekend, Harvard defeated the Bulldogs three games to one.
“We treat it just like any other game,” sophomore outfielder Devan Peterson said. “Coming off last year, where we beat them three out of four, I think we’re confident. I feel like we’re ready to go.”
The Crimson will rely on the offensive power of sophomore outfielder Patrick Robinson, who is currently leading the team with a .390 batting average and 32 hits on the season. The Melbourne, Fla. native is coming off a strong performance Tuesday night against Boston College. Robinson had a home run against the Eagles and drove in two additional runs as well. With an impressive on-base percentage of .468, he is sure to play a key role in Harvard’s game plan.
“I think we have a positive outlook going into this weekend,” Peterson said. “BC was a tough loss for us, but we definitely had some positive takeaways. The hitters got to face solid pitching and the pitchers got to work against a quality lineup. Offensively, we realized that we need to minimize our strikeouts and hit better with runners in scoring position.”
In the opposing dugout, Yale will lean on the bat of sophomore Benny Wanger. The Newtown, Mass. native was named Ivy League Player of the Week on Tuesday, after hitting a game-winning RBI in three of the Bulldogs’ conference wins.
“Defensively, we need to minimize the mistakes that lead to big innings, which has been a problem for us,” Peterson said. “We’re mostly just working to maintain focused aggression on both sides of the ball, whether that’s being more aggressive swinging at balls that are in our zone or diving for balls in the outfield. We just need to expect to make more plays and hopefully come out with some more W’s.”
While this weekend’s series will not be played in one of baseball’s most historic stadiums, as next Wednesday’s battle with Boston College will, the stakes will nonetheless be high. With the season quickly winding down, a win for the Crimson could provide crucial momentum for the team’s final stretch.
“In the Ivy League, where every team is so closely matched and the season is so condensed, we realize that every game matters a lot,” Peterson said. “The winning teams are those that stay focused and never take a pitch off.”
Facing a tough opponent in top-ranked Yale, Harvard will need a complete team effort in order to come away with a series victory.
“It’s a matter of putting all of our pieces together at one time,” Hink said. “We have yet to play while running on all cylinders this year and if we can hit it, pitch it, and field it well all at the same time, then we are tough to beat.”
—Contributing writer Meg Leatherwood can be reached at email@example.com
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: April 14, 2017
A previous version of this story misstated the name of Yale sophomore Benny Wanger.
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