Harvard played 17 1/2 innings of near-perfect baseball in the College World Series at Omaha last weekend, but it was the other half an inning that ensured the Crimson's quick elimination from the tournament.
Back-to-back losses in the Crimson's first two outings brought manager Loyal Park's boys a summer vacation before some teams in the double-elimination tournament had even played their first game.
Top-ranked Miami saddled sophomore southpaw Milt Holt with a 4-1 defeat Saturday; and Northern Colorado administered the coup-de-grace 4-2 the next afternoon.
The disastrous frame came in the fourth inning against Northern Colorado, when Harvard's vaunted defense sprang terminal leaks. After an infield error and a sacrifice, an easy fly ball to center-fielder Leon Goetz turned a routine jam into a disaster. Goetz dropped the ball for the inning's second error, then picked it up and threw to relay man Rick LaCivita. Catcher Dan Williams couldn't find the handle on LaCivita's perfect strike to the plate and Northern Colorado had a two-run stake.
Two singles later, four unearned runs had crossed the plate and Crimson right-hander Mike O'Malley had wasted a fine performance on a sour outcome.
As Crimson pilot Parks summed it up: "You can't give up seven outs in one inning and expect to win."
The Crimson scratched out two single runs in the sixth and seventh innings on an RBI base hit from third-baseman Jim Thomas and a N.C. throwing error. But a what-might-have-been six-hit shutout from O'Malley was already in the loss column.
Playing in the first game against the nation's best team, the Crimson sluggers outhit Miami nine to seven but left eight runners on base.
Miami made more of its safeties count, and pushed across its four runs in four different innings. Park said the difference between the two teams was speed on the basepaths, with stolen bases figuring in three of Miami's four runs.
Park said the Crimson's seventh inning was the key offensively. With one out, Dan Williams singled and Ed Durso fanned. LaCivita then hit a hard shot down and left-field line which was caught by the left-handed outfielder who had come in as a defensive substitute. Playing a southpaw in left field is highly unorthodox because of difficulties a lefty can have in throwing to
But in this case it was a lucky break, as the Miami fielder was able to make a diving grab of LaCivita's hot drive.
Park, whose teams have played in three of the last four collegiate World Series, declined to make a prediction about next year. But he said of his players that "they know in their hearts how close they are in ability to the top teams in the country."
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