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Harvard opens defense of its Eastern League baseball title today in New York against a veteran Columbia nine that has been tabbed by rival coaches as the most improved team in the conference.
The Crimson, which was rained out Tuesday against Boston College, takes an 11-1 record from its southern trip into today's game. Coach Loyal Park is planning on starting lefthander Roz Brayton, who is 2-0 this year and has not allowed a run in 16 innings, against Columbia.
Even though they were seventh in the East last year with a 6-8 league mark, the Lions finished the season with a rush by winning five of their last six games, one of 7-6 victory over Harvard. Coach John Balquist in this his 21st season at Columbia boasts starters at every position but catcher.
One of the Lion's strong points is the depth and quality of their pitching staff. Last year's starting rotation of Ray Nawrocki, Jim Winskowicz, and captain Pete Downs are all returning with more experience. This trio is bolstered by two promising sophomores. Glenn Erickson and John Gill. elsewhere, the veterans include all-league outfielder Jesse Parks and one of the conference's top power hitters Paul Kaliades.
Balquist is sending captain Downs against the Crimson this afternoon. The 5-11, 175-pound lefthander was the Lions' top hurler last year, posting a 2-0 record, with a 1.85 earned run average, for a 7-11 sound. His 2.17 earned run average in the Eastern League was fifth in the conference.
While Harvard travels to Princeton for a tough doubleheader on Saturday, the Lions will host a good pitching but weak hitting Dartmouth for two games.
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