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Half a game shy of first place, the Harvard men's baseball team dives head first into a critical, four-game weekend this weekend at Soldier's Field. The Crimson (13-14 overall) hosts Yale in a doubleheader today, and will slug it out against Columbia tomorrow.
The team has built up momentum over the last week and a half, coming into the four-game challenge on the heels of a six-game winning streak, its longest of the season.
Harvard is now in second-place in the Ivy League with a 5-3 record and is ahead of both Yale and Columbia. Boasting a superior record, the Crimson has the advantage on paper, but it will have to play up to its high standards of late to make this a successful weekend.
Down The Stretch
"We've heard that Yale has a pretty good club," freshman pitcher Jeff Mitchell said, "and Columbia has a few top national hitters. It's our most important weekend all year long, and its going to be a challenge."
Although neither Yale nor Columbia is "that much in the race," according to senior captain Marcel Durand, the Crimson still must regard each game as all-important with only ten league games left to play.
"Our first priority right now is Yale," freshman pitcher-turned-shortstop Mike Giardi said. can't afford to lose at this point."
Harvard did not have much luck in its last doubleheader weekend against Brown and Army, when the Crimson dropped three of four.
"It's easy to get down when you play four games in a row and things aren't going your way," Mitchell said. "But it gives hitters a chance to see a lot of pitches, and they have the opportunity to really get their timing down."
Harvard players said that the Crimson is approaching these games more aggressively in the field and around the bases.
"We haven't always been going for the big plays," Giardi said. "We tend to play a little conservatively, and we've got to change that around. With a few wins behind us, I think we're confident enough to start working on that."
Harvard's six-game winning streak is in striking contrast with its rocky start. The Crimson is very young--one-third of the starters are freshmen, and the varsity boasts only one senior. This inexperience made it difficult for the team to come together early in the season, before Harvard had a chance to play together as a team.
"We had a slow start but we've finally started to gel as a team," Mitchell said. "Now that we've had a little success, we know that we can win."
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