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The lesson of yesterday's double-header between Army and Harvard at O'Donnell Field is that baseball is far from predictable.
Indeed after Harvard (31-14) handed Army(26-19-1) a 12-1 drubbing in the opening game of a best-of-three play-in for the NCAA Regional Tournament, any reasonable prognosticator with little knowledge of the ups and downs of baseball would have predicted a clean sweep.
But it was not to be, as the Cadets battled back for a 6-5 win in the nightcap, forcing a deciding third game this afternoon.
In the opener, Harvard's bats were out in force for the second straight game. Four days after battering Princeton pitching for 22 runs in the clincher of the lvy League Championship Series, Harvard's hitters cleared the fence three times to give sophomore starter Andrew Duffell (7-1) the complete-game victory. The big blow was three-run homer in the second inning by sophomore Todd Harris.
The Crimson actually pounded out more hits in the nightcap--11, versus 10 in the opener-but its infield committed two costly errors in the eighth inning to help Army scrap out a 6-5 win.
Harvard 12, Army 1
If any criticism can be made about Harvard's performance yesterday, not being ready is not one of them.
After a scoreless first, Harvard put up a four-spot in the second and never looked back. Captain Peter Albers lead off the inning by driving a 1-2 pitch from junior southpaw Scott Weiss into the bushes just to the right of the 415-foot sign in dead center field.
Five batters later, with two outs and two on, Weiss once again made the mistake of throwing too made the mistake of throwing too meaty of a pitch ahead in the count. Harris sent the 0-2 delivery over the fence in left field for a three-run home run.
At that point, the outcome of the game was placed into the able hands of Duffell. One day after being named to the All-Ivy Second Team, Duffell proved his worth, scattering seven hits over nine innings for the win. With a substantial lead for much of the game, Duffell was never really in trouble, mowing down 10 straight Cadets at one point.
"The breaking ball was there right from the start and I think it was in their heads for most of the ballgame," Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. "Once we got the big inning, things just started going our way."
Army's lone run came in the top of the seventh, when junior Chris Kirk poked a hanger over the fence in left-center field.
The run was inconsequential at that point, as Harvard had already padded its lead with five runs in the sixth.
After the Crimson loaded the bases with one out, sophomores Jason Keck, Peter Woodfork and junior David Forst each drove one in to give Harvard on 8-0 lead. Forst later scored on a wild pitch for the Crimson's ninth run.
Junior Aaron Kessler added a three-run homer to center in the eighth.
Harvard 6, Army 5
With Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Frank Hogan taking the mound for yesterday's nightcap, Harvard's players could not have lacked for confidence.
But apparently neither did Army. Despite their demoralizing loss in the first game, and even after Keck's double in the top of the fourth put the Crimson up 2-0, the Cadets kept clawing.
After several close calls in earlier innings. Army finally got to Hogan in the fourth. As it would later on, Harvard's usually reliable fielding abandoned it. First, Kirk reached second when Forst threw wide of first on a routine grounder.
After freshman Chad Tichner doubled Kirk home with one out, a sharp grounder scooted off Forst's glove for an infield single. Senior Rich Munson followed with an RBI double, tying the score at two. Then, junior Bryan Price's grounder found its way between first and second to give the Cadets a 3-2 lead.
Army junior Jason King seemed to settle down after Keck's double, allowing just two singles over the next three and one third innings. To Harvard's good fortune, he was lifted, as senior Pat Saxman started the eighth with a 4-2 lead.
Saxman promptly walked the first three batters to load the bases in the eighth. When he got behind 2-0 to Albers, it appeared as though the door was wide open for the Crimson.
Despite Saxman's apparent control problems, Albers gambled, swinging at the next pitch and grounding into a double play.
"I though the turning point was when Albers go the 2-0 count and swung away, which is fine," said Walsh, defending his captain. "He might not see a better fastball for the next couple of years, and he's been driving runs in for us all day."
One run scored on the double play to bring the Crimson within one. Junior Brett Vankoski then tied the score when he dropped a Texas Leaguer into short center field to score Ralph.
Harvard's problems in the field returned to wreak havoc in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, freshman Shaun Salmon reached second on Forst's second throwing error of the game. Junior Bryan Price followed with a sharp grounder to second that glanced off second baseman Hal Carey's glove into right to score Salmon with the go-ahead run.
The Cadets added a bit of insurance on an RBI single by sophomore Matt Sawyer.
Harvard had a chance to tie it in the top of the ninth, but Vankoski looked at a Saxman fastball for a called third strike to end the game.
"We made a few mistakes at crucial points in the game that cost us," sophomore right fielder Andrew Huling said. "We got a little too anxious because [Saxman] wasn't throwing that many strikes, and [we] maybe swung at some bad pitches, but I thought we hit pretty well."
The winner of today's game will head to one of eight six-team, double elimination regional tournaments to be played May 22-25. If Harvard advances, it will be the team's first trip to regionals since 1984.
"In the first game we showed what we can do. We just have to do that [today]," Huling said. "I don't think there's been a momentum switch. I think we should go into [today's] game with a lot of confidence no matter what."
Sophomore Donald Jamieson (4-2) will start today's game for the Crimson. Jamieson recorded the victory in the Sunday's clincher over Princeton. In addition to Hogan and Duffell, six other Harvard players received All-Ivy honors. Junior center fielder Brian Ralph was named Ivy League Player of the Year. Albers was named to the All-Ivy First Team and Huling was named to the Second Team. Jamieson, Vankoski and Keck each received honorable mention. Army played yesterday's doubleheader without junior shortstop Mike Scioletti, who suffered a fractured wrist last weekend. Scioletti, the Patriot League Player of the Year, led the league in batting, left the yard 12 times and drove in 67 runs in 40 games. He is doubtful for today's game.
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