Harvard and MIT have played three times in the last two years, and Harvard has won all three games.
They include (a) the 12-3 blowout at MIT in April of 1980 that featured nine Engineer errors and 13 walks allowed, (b) Greg Brown's near no-hitter at Soldiers Field later in the month and (c) last year's 5-3 thriller, when the Engineers helped the Crimson with seven errors, six walks and a wild pitch.
Still, MIT is Harvard's Opening Day opponent at Soldiers Field this afternoon, [3 p.m. no home radio or television] and for that reason, at least, has to be taken seriously.
"Baseball's not like football," Crimson coach Alex Nahigian says, "because in football, one hot pitcher can be the difference."
Unlike previous years, Harvard will not play an Eastern League team until the season's second weekend. Instead, four non-league opponents--MIT. Boston College, Northeastern and UMass--will help the squad adjust to the chilly North after a week in Florida.
So instead of facing a top-flight hurler like Columbia's Kurt Lundgren or Princeton's Bob Holly in the opener, the Crimson will battle MIT's batting-tee pitching staff boasting 24 runs allowed in two regular season games.
In his two Eastern losses--13-2 to Boston College and 11-5 to Bowdoin--Engineer Coach Fran O'Brien employed seven different hurlers. He may have to pull the starter for today's game out of a hat.
At the plate, MIT is led by Todd Huffman (two for five, .400), second baseman Al Fordiani (two for six, .333), who hit .466 on the Engineers trip to Florida two seeks ago, and catcher Ed Wilcox (two for six, .333). The early returns on fielding percentage look similar.
Nahigian needs no magic to find his starter, Junior Greg Brown gets the nod on the mound, and Nahigian says, "should go five or six innings depending on the weather."
Brown went 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA last season, but because of a change in his wind-up has been a little bit wild so far this spring.
"In Florida, my arm felt great," the righthander said yesterday. "I didn't throw that well though I didn't throw that many strikes. I changed my windup just a bit, so I'd be quicker to the plate. That hurt me a bit. But by my next time out. I plan to be in mid-season form."
The Harvard line-up should boast several freshman faces this afternoon, most notably that of shortstop Tony DiCesare (Junior Brad Bauer moves to second) and third baseman Scott Vierra. In addition, two more freshmen, Elliot Rivera, who had a good week at the plate down South, and Chris Schindler, are battling incumbent Paul Scheper for the left field job.