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The Baseball Notebook

By Mike Knobler

The Harvard baseball team takes a six-game winning streak into today's 3 p.m. battle with Holy Cross. Over those six games, the Crimson has a 0.41 staff ERA and a .327 team batting average. The offense has averaged seven runs per game.

Things haven't looked worse for the batsmen in more than two years.

While Harvard beat up on Greater Boston League and non-league opponents, Princeton swept two Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League doubleheaders. The Tigers (10-2) have a four-game lead over the 2-2 Crimson. Second-place Navy (9-3), has also set a torrid pace.

For Harvard to win its third straight ELBL title, it may need to go 13-1 in its remaining league games. That makes sweeps of visiting Penn and Columbia this weekend virtually imperative.

Things aren't quite as bad as they seem.

* After splits at Princeton and Navy, the Crimson has faced its toughest competition. The Tigers and Middies have fattened their records against Columbia, Penn, Yale and Dartmouth, teams Harvard should be able to sweep.

* Princeton visits Navy Saturday. A split or a Navy sweep would give Harvard a realistic shot at catching the frontrunners.

* With nine seniors and only one freshman, the batsmen have ample experience. They can handle the pressure.

* The Crimson has the league's deepest pitching staff. Even with Mike Presz inactive since March with a shoulder injury, the team still has five, maybe six, solid starters and two, maybe three relievers.

* Princeton's remaining six games are on the road. Harvard plays eight of its 14 remaining games at home.

***

Junior center fielder Paul Vallone has batted ninth since the start of the season. Vallone has played in every game, but has had more than three at-bats only once all year. Believe it or not, he leads the team in hitting, with a .405 batting average.

Captain Elliott Rivera hasn't had a multiple-hit game since the opener at Navy. Still, the senior first baseman's .403 average is second best on the team.

Senior Scott Vierra has played error-free ball since moving to third base six games ago. His batting has improved, too. Since becoming the fourth Crimson starting third baseman of the year, Vierra has gone eight of 17 at the plate. He has raised his average 71 points to .321.

Senior Mickey Maspons leads the team with 22 RBI. Despite going hitless in his last 10 at-bats, he's still batting .344.

Fellow catcher Jim DePalo leads Harvard in walks, with 17. After enduring a zero for nine stretch at Princeton and Navy, he has worked his average back up to .333.

***

With 20 errors in 13 games, the Crimson has been fielding much better this year than it has in the past. Last season's squad averaged nearly two errors a game.

"It's kind of fun pitching when the team's playing well behind you and you're getting that support," pitcher Chris Marchok said after shutting out Tufts Sunday. ELBL Standings Team  W  L  Pet  GB Princeton  10  2  .833  - Navy  9  3  .750  1 Army  4  2  .667  3 HARVARD  2  2  .500  4 Cornell  3  3  .500  4 Brown  4  4  .500  4 Columbia  5  7  .417  5 Penn  5  7  .417  5 Dartmouth  0  4  .000  6 Yale  0  8  .000  8

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