People love rooting for the underdog.
And the Harvard baseball team is starting off the year as the ultimate underdog.
After going 9-36 on the 2011 season, 5-15 in the Ivy League, and 1-10 in its first two weeks of play last year, the Crimson has nowhere to go but up. But according to the squad’s veteran coach of 16 years, that isn’t much of a concern.
“We’ve been predicted to finish in last place in the league, whatever that means,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “I kind of like that spot, to be honest with you.”
Perhaps one reason for Walsh’s dismissal of the Ivy preseason rankings is his confidence in Harvard’s strong group of underclassmen, many of whom are stepping up to fill the 12 spots left by last year’s graduating class.
One loss that will certainly be felt is that of two-time captain Tyler Albright. Although the Crimson is still working out who will fill Albright’s place at catcher, the team has tapped junior Andrew Ferreira to fill in as the dugout’s leader.
“We lost a good senior class, a lot of talent, but I feel like chemistry-wise, it’s not even close,” Harvard’s new captain said of his squad. “It’s night and day from where it was last year, so we’re excited to get going.”
“This year we all came back...and were like, ‘We’re not going to go 9-36 again,’” fellow junior Robert Wineski echoed. “We’re not going to be the doormat of the Ivy League.’”
One place where changes will be especially noticeable is in the outfield, where the Crimson will most likely be starting a sophomore and two freshmen.
Sophomore Jack Colton is expected to take on the role in left, while new recruits Brandon Kregel and Mike Martin will fill in the rest of the outfield.
“I think [Martin’s] going to be a guy who’s going to patrol the garden out there for four years in center field,” Walsh said of the rookie. “He’s also pretty good in the infield, but I think the pitching staff would shoot me if I took him out of center field.”
Though Colton, Kregel, and Martin will likely be fixtures in the outfield, others, including sophomore Jeff Hajdin and freshman Zach Boden—who spent the fall as a standout running back for the Harvard football—will see playing time as well.
But the Crimson’s depth in the outfield is matched, if not exceeded, by the depth of Harvard’s pitching staff.
Two graduated hurlers, Eric Eadington and Max Perlman, are now playing in the pros, but Harvard’s coach argues that new pitching talent will be more than enough to fill those spots.
“I think that whether we look at who’s starting, who’s coming in, [or] who’s finishing the game, our pitching staff right now…could play anybody in a five-game series,” Walsh said. “And in that fifth game, no one’s going to have the depth that we have. So we’re really, really excited about that, and I think the team recognizes it.”