If you had told me that Harvard would be the District I representative to the NCAA World Series in Omaha as I watched the Crimson lose the first game of a doubleheader against Cornell and then fall behind 5-1 in the second game with one inning to go, I don't think I would have believed you.
After all, if Harvard dropped two to the Big Red, its record would be a dismal 3-4 while Penn and Princeton were charging through their schedules with a 7-2-1 and 6-2 record respectively.
But somehow, Harvard rallied for five runs in the last inning to win the game, and somehow Harvard rallied to win seven of its last eight Eastern League games, with the last six being win-or-be-eliminated games.
There obviously is some reason for this drastic turnabout in hardball fortunes and in this case it appears to be an instance of players finally jelling into a team.
"Those first few weeks we weren't really playing," one player said. "Our minds just weren't on it and we just didn't play together as a eam."
And then came the miracle rally in the Cornell game--the turning point of the season. "Without a doubt, winning the second game against Cornell iff where it all started," Harvard coach Loyal Park said. From that point, the Crimson bandwagon was off and running.
It is plain what the team as a whole has done since that day, but it isn't quite as obvious that it was a series of strong individual performances that powered the Crimson to the GBL, EIBL, and District I crowns.
Don Driscoll only came up with three of the finest pitched games in the last few weeks of the season. He blitzed Navy on a 9-0 two-hitter May 12, and then the following Sunday hurled the Crimson to the EIBL crown with a 5-3 pressure-packed win over Princeton. On Memorial Day, Driscoll tossed a 6-0 one-hit gem at a New Hampshire squad that looked like it didn't really belong on the same diamond with the Harvard nine.
Remember how in high school they used to vote class superlatives like "Most Likely to Succeed" and "Most School Spirit"? Well, if the Harvard baseball team had a "Mr. School Spirit" title, it would surely go to Ric LaCivita.
Down the home stretch, it would be hard to say who contributed more than LaCivita. His personal output reached a peak in a nonleague game against UMass two weeks ago when he connected on five of six trips to the plate, including two home runs, three runs scored and seven runs batted in--perhaps the finest single-day output of any Crimson player this year. But LaCivita has been a driving force behind the Crimson bandwagon in every other game as well.
Leigh Hogan at first base has turned in a big season for the Crimson as he wielded the big bat for Harvard for most of the year. Hogan got good metal on the ball the final month of the season for an incredible .579 average over an 11-game stretch to end the year with a .368 overall average.
The entire defensive infield for Harvard was impressive again this season and some of that credit goes to Jim Thomas who moved into the hot spot after captain Jim Stoeckel signed with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and some more to a consistent Ed Durso at short.
The battery was perhaps the Crimson's best asset with not one, but three ace pitchers and a catcher with a very good arm in Dan Williams. Besides Driscoll, pitching coach Bob Lincoln could throw Milt Holt who lost only one of nine contests, or Mike O'Malley who stepped into the captain's shoes and pitched very good ball in spite of not getting the wins at first. Against Yale, for instance, O'Malley did not allow a single earned run only to have the Eli pitcher toss a no-hitter and O'Malley took a 2-1 loss on the chin.
It's hard not to just list the roster and put the appropriate accolades beside the names, but two people that deserve a lot of credit for the Crimson comeback--even though if you ask them they will deny it--are coaches Loyal Park and Bob Lincoln. They guided the Crimson from a mediocre disappointing season all the way to Omaha. Now what was it Horace Greeley said?