Back when winter was still very much with us and when spring was only in the minds of the weather-weary southerners and southern Californians, Harvard baseball coach Loyal Park had an idea that the Eastern League pennant race would be decided this particular weekend.
"It's going to be a really close race this year with so many teams so strong," Park said, "but the team you really have to watch out for is that Cornell squad. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the race turns out to be like last year's--you know, the whole thing will be between us and them the last week of the season."
Well, the season turned out to be just as Park promised and the tight EIBL race comes down to that confrontation today when the Crimson batmen travel to Cayuga territory and play the Big Red (also known in baseball circles as the Big Bad Red, a name earned by antics off as well as on the diamond this spring) in Ithaca.
Actually, even if Harvard takes today's game, it won't be all champagne and roses yet as the Crimson must sweep a doubleheader from Army tomorrow to clinch the championship. But to borrow another of Loyal's homilies, it's a good idea to "take the first game first" and in this case the first one is indeed the big one.
Cornell, 8-3 and currently trailing the Crimson by a half game, must win today's contest in order to keep their pennant chances alive while the Cadets, 6-5, are relegated to the role of a spoiler.
The nucleus of the Cayugan squad is one of the best collections of fireballers in the country, led by Steve Hamrick, currently third in the nation with an astounding strikeout average of 14.5 whiffs per game. Cornell has done Harvard the favor of sending its ace, Hamrick, at the Crimson today. He has an overall record of 4-0 and an ERA of 0.95. The Crimson is returning the favor by putting Roz Brayton, 4-1, on the mound against the Cayugans. Brayton's ERA is even lower than Hamrick's.
Fortunately for the Crimson, the Red batting average is almost as low as its ERA. Outfielder Frank Calaguire leads Cornell with a .292 average and shortstop Bob Lazor is batting .289. The team, however, averages only a slumping .210.
The doubleheader with Army on Saturday should follow much the same pattern as the game with Cornell--very good pitching and weak hitting. Mel Brinkley, the Cadet ace with a 4-1 record and 1.10 ERA, and Rod Tetrecka, a southpaw with a 1.09 ERA, have the call to pitch in the two games. The team ERA, 1.51, is the nation's lowest.
The Army batting attack is among the most balanced in the league with the top seven men averaging within .025 points of each other. Again luckily for the Crimson, that balance lies on the lower end of the scale as the leading hitter, Kevin Craig, is only averaging a mediocre .273.
Mike O'Malley and Barry Malinowski are scheduled to start against the men in grey. Both O'Malley and Malinowski won their last starts and should be able to handcuff the weak-hitting Cadet batmen.
This season has so far been one of correct predictions and Ben Mintz, director of Cornell sports information, made another safe one yesterday. "I can't even guess what is going to happen in that game with those two pitchers. The way I see it, it's too close to call."
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