Last year the Crimson baseball team went all the way to the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League title before being eliminated in the NCAA playoffs. Although Coach Loyal Park is worried about filling vacancies in the heart of his team's defense, the Crimson appears to be a strong contender again this season.
The 1972 squad took the EIBL title, beating Cornell with a ninth inning do-or-die two-run outburst, 3-2. The Crimson nine lost, though, to the University of Connecticut in district one playoffs, two games to one, to finish the season with a record of 30-9.
Coach Loyal Park must fill vacancies at catcher, second and third base and center field, which were created by graduation of last spring's standouts. Particularly missed will be second baseman Vince McGugan who was second in EIBL batting standings with a .375 average.
With six returning lettermen, the pitching staff is expected to be the strength of this year's team. Leading the staff and everyone else in the EIBL is senior Roz Brayton, who last year compiled a 0.43 earned run average en route to a 5-1 record. He set a Harvard record last season with 63 straight innings pitched without allowing an earned run.
Park said yesterday that he probably would not decide on his starting line-up until late next week, just before the team leaves for its annual Florida trip.
At first base, Joe Mackey will start with Leigh Hogan as back-up man. "Mackey has looked good in practice so far," Park said. "But both of them have worked really hard."
As for the second base, shortstop and third base situations, Park said, "I just don't know yet." Jimmy Stoeckel is returning at short from last year, but may be switched to second. Also at second will probably be Rick Lacivita. Larry Barbiaux and Hal Smith are the top contenders for the corner spot, while Eddie Durso and Jim Thomas are competing for the shortstop position.
As no outdoor practices have been held because of the cold windy weather, the casting of the outfield is still undetermined. Vying for the outfield posts are senior captain Kevin Hampe, sophomore Joe Sciolla, juniors Dave St. Pierre and Sandy Milley, senior Bernie MacGregor and possibly Leigh Hogan. Park said he expected to make the decision as soon as they moved out of the Briggs Cage to out-of-doors practices.
Pitching coach Bob Lincoln is faced with the type of dilemma that coaches like to have. He must reduce his pitching staff from 15 candidates to about half that number. Roz Brayton will return to lead the staff with Sandy Weissant expected to grab the number two spot. Barry Malinowski, another returner from last spring, also appears set. Fighting for the remaining positions on the staff are Tom O'Neill, Norm Walsh, Mike O'Malley and Kim Schapport.
Lincoln said that there is also "a nucleus of good sophomores" to add to the staff. Lead by Don Driscoll and Milt Holt the sophomores are expected to "help fill the gaps." Steve Kitchen, Terry Schlimbaum, Jim Harrell, Keith Butler, Nils Nilson, and Frank LeBlanc are also up from last year's freshman squad trying for the staff.
The receiving end of the battery has yet to be decided. "We've been lucky in the last four years to have really good catching, but this season the job is still open," Park said. Ricky Berdich appears to be the leading candidate at this time, but several others are fighting for the spot. Bill McHugh, Dan Williams and Bill Hardin are working to get the position.
Looking at the upcoming season, Park said that this year's team has excellent speed and that he will try to put it to work. "We are going to do more hit and run combination and our speed should really help us on defense, too."
Park predicted another photo finish in the EIBL this year. "It seems like it is close every year, but every team is so good and balanced, it's amazing." Park said, "Brown is loaded this year. Yale, Dartmouth, Navy, and especially Cornell are veteran teams. It's going to be just as close this year."
Hampe reflected the team's feelings yesterday when he said "We're in the dregs right now, we've been in the Cage so long. We're really looking forward to the Florida trip. I think the team is on edge now, but just a little experience will really help us out. We just want to get outside and play some ball."
As practice was over yesterday, the team appeared anxious but confident. As the players filtered towards Dillon Field House, one player walked out of Briggs Cage whistling--"Take me out to the ball game."
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