Jim Keyte had just pitched his first complete-game shutout in two years at Harvard, a three-hit, seven-strikeout number over MIT that lowered his ERA to 0.77. But the most important news in Keyte's life as he entered the Winthrop dining hall for dinner at 6:45 p.m. had nothing to do with baseball.
"Hey," roommate and teammate Chuck Marshall yelled from across the cafeteria, "did you hear? Tutorial's cancelled tonight." Keyte then strode past the serving line the way John Travolta strode through "2001," beaming ear-to-ear as a couple dozen fellow 'Thropians patted him on the back or called out congratulations for his pitching performance.
"Boy, that's amazing," the sophomore said. "We hadn't even started the reading and tutorial was at seven.
Earlier in the day, Keyte had proved that he could earn a pretty good grade even without much preparation. Although two make-up finals had kept him from so much as throwing batting practice since last Wednesday's UMass game, the hard-throwing lefty did not let his lack of homework affect his performance.
Although he walked eight and failed to retire the side in any inning, his fastball-and-curve repertoire worked just well enough to win. The Engineers managed only three hits on the afternoon--a line shot to center and a couple of wobbly ducks that alit just past the infield.
It wasn't a great outing, but it was a good one. And it was a win--which is more than can be said for his two previous starts, when he pitched well but suffered losses as the result of Keystone Kops defense.
And for a team that badly needs a lefty starter to help carry the load in the upcoming tough stretch of the schedule, Keyte's solid performance was welcome news.
Speaking of lefthandedness, Keyte is a classic southpaw--strong at 6-1, 185, prone to wildness, a resident of California (where else?) and just a little bit flaky.
He is known alternately as "Dazey," "Keytey," and "Keyter" (as in heater).
The "Dazey" tag applied during the first inning of yesterday's game when the Crimson turned a 4-6-3 double play with one out and men on first and second. First baseman Mark Bingham flipped the ball toward the mound after the inning-ending putout, at which point Keyte ran after the ball, hollering about the man on third. The Crimson benchdogs let loose a torrent of guffaws, giggles and razzes.
"Somewhere along the line I picked up this reputation for being flaky," Keyte said at dinner, "like throughout my whole life."
"And I'm really not," he continued, turning to a friend for encouragement. "Right?"
While the flaky issue is subject to interpretation, the wildness issue is not. After a brilliant football and baseball career at Verdugo Hills High School in Los Angeles (the San Francisco Giants drafted him after graduation) Keyte came to Harvard a few pounds overweight and lacking in concentration. In 24 1/3 innings pitched as a freshmen, the southpaw yielded 26 walks and 14 earned runs.
"I overthrew a lot last year," Keyte said. "And that's what's happening when I'm wild this year--when you overthrow, you don't concentrate on the target."
Indeed, Keyte's fastball occasionally sailed yesterday, and his curve tended to dance. But the gusting, disconcerting wind may have had something to do with yesterday's walk on the wild side--and if Keyte's earlier two outings (four walks in 14 innings) are any indication, his control problems may be something of the past.
"He just has a great arm," first-year coach Alex Nahigian said after the game. "It's a gift of God, really. He could throw all day."
All day? Well, maybe. But for MIT's Engineers yesterday, nine innings of Keyter and his heater was more than enough.
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