Anyone looking for a nice sunny afternoon at the ballpark yesterday was out of luck.
Instead of a leisurely out-of-conference home game in the April sun, the Harvard baseball team found itself in a bitter war with Maine (13-15, 6-2 America East Conference) on a wind-whipped 30-degree afternoon.
Three and a half hours, 12 innings, three lead changes and 20 Harvard players later, Harvard (10-7, 4-0 Ivy League) was left standing, on the high side of a 5-4 extra innings final.
In the final frame, junior center-fielder Brian Ralph led off with a single to left. After Ralph was advanced to second on a sacrifice by sophomore second baseman Todd Harris, sophomore rightfielder Andrew Huling hit a one-out triple to drive in the tying run. Captain Peter Albers then delivered the fatal blow in the form of an RBI single over a drawn-in Black Bear outfield.
It was a game of scratching and clawing for whatever the opposition would give. Runs were scored in seven half-innings, but no team was able to muster more than two in any one at-bat. Albers's 12th-inning game-winner made him the only Harvard player with a multi-hit game.
The sub-freezing wind chill factor certainly contributed to the flavor of the game. The cold made play difficult throughout the game, and the wind made outfield play exciting even on routine flies.
"The weather definitely changes the complexion of the game," Albers said. "It hurt every time you caught the ball, and it made hitting difficult. It made it more of a one or two-run game; we weren't looking for big innings as much, but it affected both teams equally.
Quality starting pitching also kept the hitting to a minimum. The two starters gave up a combined one earned run through six innings.
"We were frustrated because we knew [sophomore starting pitcher Andrew] Duffell pitched a good game for us, but we weren't giving him any help with the sticks. We started the game really slowly and didn't hit the ball well in the early innings," Albers said.
While it is true that the Crimson did not help itself much at the plate, it did not help the cause much in the field either.
Although the Crimson made several outstanding plays in the field, most notably two critical assists by Ralph from centerfield, both runs off Duffell were unearned.
In the Bear's sixth, down 0-1, Maine captain Nick Calazzo singled to center off Duffell with men on first and second, but Ralph promptly fired the ball home and forced the runner coming onto third to hold there. The Crimson failed to cut off the incoming throw as the runner receded to third, and it short-hopped past sophomore catcher Jason Keck and Duffel and went all the way to the backstop.
In the end, there was one run in, with runners on second and third. A wild pitch to the next batter brought home the go-ahead run for the Black Bears, who took the lead 2-1. The two errors resulted in the only two Maine runs in the first nine innings.
The score stood at 2-1 until the bottom of the ninth, when sophomore pinch-hitter Bo Menkiti singled home the tying run with two out.
After Maine put one run up on a solo shot to right center in the top of the eleventh, Harvard loaded the bases in the bottom half with no outs on two walks and a hit batsman. But freshman pinch-hitter Michael Madden grounded into a 4-3 double play, scoring one run to tie the score, but ending the Harvard threat.
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