All season long Crimson coach Loyal Park and his players have been talking about the Harvard baseball team's ability to come through in clutch situations, and the point was proved dramatically in yesterday's EIBL play-off game against Cornell at Princeton. After being held to just two hits in eight innings, the Crimson rallied for two runs with two out in the top of the ninth to beat the Big Red, 3-2.
It was the second year in a row that Harvard has won the Eastern League in a play-off game with Cornell. The Crimson now moves on to the NCAA Division I play-offs where it will meet the University of Connecticut and possibly Northeastern.
Except for an unearned run in the first inning. Cornell pitcher John Dougherty had completely stymied the Crimson attack in the first eight innings. Relying on a good slider that he kept down around the knees throughout the game, Dougherty went into the ninth inning protecting a 2-1 lead, and he seemed to be in complete control even after Jim Stoekel led off with a double to right center.
One Out Out
Captain Mike Thomas had previously singled and sacrificed successfully, but Dougherty got him to bounce back to the box. When Hal Smith lined out to the center fielder the Big Red were within one out of the EIBL title.
But Joe Mackey jumped on Dougherty's first pitch and tripled over the rightfielder's head to drive in one run, and Tim Bilodeau followed with a single up the middle to drive in Mackey for the winning run.
Harvard's starting pitcher Roz Brayton had been removed in the seventh inning for a pinch hitter, and Norm Walsh got credit for the victory with two scoreless innings of relief. Cornell got a lead-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Walsh struck out the next batter. A double play ended the game.
The Crimson scored its other run in the first inning when Cornell third baseman Tom Boettcher let a grounder go through his legs after Toby Harvey had singled and moved to second on a fielder's choice.
Cornell nearly blew the game open in its first time at bat. A walk and an infield error on a sacrifice bunt put men on first and second with one out and Boettcher made up for his error with a run-producing single. But after walking the next batter to fill the bases. Brayton got out of the inning with a strike out and a grounder to second.
The Big Red scored its second run in the second inning when Bill Totten singled in Joe Meo, who had led off with a double.
After that Brayton allowed only one runner to get past first base. The junior lefthander gave up two singles in the next five innings and had retired seven men in a row when Art Serrano pinch-hit for him in the eight inning.
Twice Harvard had men in scoring position with only out, but both times Dougherty retired the next two batters. In the seventh inning two errors and a sacrifice put men on second and third, but both Mackey and Bilodeau grounded out. In the eighth Serrano reached second on a walk and a sacrifice by Vince McGugan, but Harvey and Larry Barbiaux were unable to advance him any further.
When Bilodeau came up in the ninth he was determined to get a hit. "Joe's triple took some of the pressure off, but after leaving two men on base I felt that I owed something to the team," Bilodeau said.
Manager Hollis McLoughlin stressed the importance of yesterday's game to the team's seniors. "These guys have been playing together for four years, and winning the Eastern League in their final season was even more important than last year's trip to Omaha. But the great thing about the game was the way the sophomores came through to win it for us." he said.
Walsh has been the team's leading reliever as a sophomore, and yesterday's victory brought his record to 5-1. Walsh has a fastball that tails into righthanded hitters, but his best pitch is a knuckle curve, and yesterday he was throwing it on two out of three pitches.
"Norm is a great reliever because he never worries about the situation. When he comes in with men on base he thinks only about the batter, and he almost always throws strikes," Bilodeau said.
Mackey, another sophomore, has been Harvard's first pinch hitter all season, but yesterday's triple was his first extra base hit of the season. "When you're a pinch hitter you don't have time to study the pitcher, so I was swinging at the first good pitch Dougherty gave me. It was a fastball, and I guess there was a lot of room behind the rightfielder," Mackey said.
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