The regular season of the Eastern League closed with a photo finish yesterday as Harvard and Cornell capped three-game winning streaks to tie for first place with identical 10-4 records. The play-off game to determine the league championship will probably be played this week, and the winner will represent the EIBL in the NCAA Division I tournament.
Harvard returns to New England today to play its sixth game in five-days against UMass at Amherst.
Going into the weekend the Crimson was tied for second with Princeton and Cornell was in fourth place and apparently out of the race but the door opened for both teams when Dartmouth lost two of its final three games. Harvard came back from a 5-3 loss to Brown on Friday to sweep a doubleheader from Yale, 3-0 and 9-2. A 7-3 victory yesterday over Princeton in a make-up game secured the tie for first place.
Cornell's final flourish was nothing short of spectacular. After losing to Army last Tuesday, the Big Red won its last five league games in three days, four of them by one run. Cornell concluded its stretch drive by taking a doubleheader from Penn yesterday, 1-0 and 3-2.
Harvard and Cornell were tied for first at the end of last season as well. Bill Kelley pitched a two-hitter in the play-off game to edge the Big Red, 1-0.
Harvard's do-or-die weekend started off badly when Brown beat Roz Brayton on Friday, 5-3. The Bruins scored three unearned runs in the third inning when Don Schoff doubled after a two-out error. Brayton's streak of 63 innings without giving up an earned run was finally broken in the sixth when Schoff homered.
Kevin Hampe had two hits for the Crimson, scoring one run and driving in another.
Yale beat Dartmouth on Friday, 13-10, and the Crimson passed the fading Indians on Saturday by shutting off the suddenly potent Eli attack. Sandy Weissan: allowed only one runner to get to third in the first game, and he held to three hits to win his sixth game of the season, 3-0.
All of Harvard's runs came in the third. A single by Jim Stockel and an error on a sacrifice by Mike Thomas put men on first and second with one out. Hal Smith singled in one run, and Tim Bilodeau, who had doubled in a run against Brown, brought in two more with another single.
In the second game the Crimson jumped to a three-run lead in the fourth inning, and once again Bilodeau delivered the key hit. Singles by Larry Barbiaux and Thomas set the table for a run-producing single by Smith and a two-run double by Bilodeau.
Yale came back in the bottom of the fourth to knock out Crimson starter Mike O'Malley. A single--the only hit O'Malley yielded--and two walks loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly scored one run. When O'Malley walked the next batter, Norm Walsh came in to end the threat.
Walsh struck out five and allowed only one run in 3 1/3 innings to bring his record to 3-0, and Harvard's hitters exploded for six runs in the sixth inning to insure the victory. After Stoekel reached on an error, Thomas doubled, Smith singled and Hampe walked. Bilodeau followed with his second two-run double of the game, and a single by Toby Harvey concluded the scoring.
The players didn't know whether or not to be happy with their performance until the news of Dartmouth's split with Brown came in an hour later. After disturbing the decorum of Yale's Hall of Graduates dining room, the team boarded the bus for Princeton to play its fifth game in four days.
On Saturday the Tigers had pulled out all the stops only to lose two one-run games to Cornell, forcing coach Ed Donovan to start an untried sophomore. Harvard scored two runs in the first when Stoekel doubled down the left field line and Thomas tripled off the centerfielder's glove after Barbiaux had reached on an error.
Princeton came back with two runs in the bottom of the second, but Harvard regained the lead immediately. Vince McGugan led off the third with a drag bunt single, and he moved to second on a throwing error. Harvey sacrificed him to third, and Barbiaux singled him in.