For the first time since 1984, the Harvard baseball team is going to college baseball's version of the Big Dance.
With its 4-1 victory over Army (26-20-1) Friday at O'Donnell Field, Harvard (32-14) clinched a best-of-three "play-in" series with the Cadets that sealed its ticket to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
"We're pretty fired up," captain Peter Albers said. "This was the goal of the season. There aren't too many sad faces on the field this time of the year."
Five days after beating Princeton to clinch the Ivy League title, sophomore starter Donald Jamieson (5-2) won another rubber match, pitching a five-hit complete game for the victory. Of course, he got a little help from any pitcher's two best friends--defense and clutch hitting.
Junior David Forst started the scoring in the second. Forst, Harvard's usually sure-handed shortstop, committed two errors in the second game of the series, a 6-5 Army victory.
"I had a rough day [Thursday] and I spent a lot of time thinking about it [Thursday] night," Forst said. "There are so many guys on this team who have come through all season, and I definitely felt like it was my turn to step up."
After sophomore Peter Woodfork doubled classmate Jason Keck to third, Forst got his chance. He responded by lining a pitch from senior Steve Suhr to right-center field. The ball eluded the dive of center fielder Shaun Salmon for a two-run double.
Forst was gunned down trying to stretch his two-bagger into a triple, but the way Jamieson pitched, two runs was all the Crimson would need. The hard-throwing sophomore yielded just one unearned run in nine innings, mowing down nine straight Cadets at one point.
"I had all three pitches going for me," said Jamieson, who throws a fastball, curve, and changeup. "When you have three pitches like that, you can keep the hitters off balance--you can get any team out, I don't care who they are."
Jamieson had Army hitters either frozen or waving weakly at two-strike curveballs all game, particularly in the middle innings. He did not allow a run until the ninth, when the Cadets mounted their only serious threat of the game.
Junior second baseman Bryan Price led off the inning with a hot shot to deep short. Forst dove to his right and stopped the ball but was unable to muster a throw. Forst stayed on the ground for several anxious minutes holding his shoulder, which was surgically repaired two years ago.
"It's been bad for a few years and I felt it pop when I hit the ground, but two or three days rest and I'll be ready to go," Forst said.
Harvard's fears were alleviated as Forst rose under his own power and stayed in the game.
After Salmon bunted Price to second, Jamieson allowed an RBI single to junior Darin Souza and walked the next batter. Junior Brian Abell followed with a groundout to short, but Earlier in the season, Jamieson had pitched six and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball against Princeton. In the seventh and final inning, with a 6-0 lead, Jamieson and his relievers saw eight Tigers cross the plate to give Princeton an 8-6 win. "Everyone had [Princeton] in the back of their minds, but there was no way I was going to let it happen again," Jamieson said. "All I really needed to do was throw strikes."
Earlier in the season, Jamieson had pitched six and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball against Princeton. In the seventh and final inning, with a 6-0 lead, Jamieson and his relievers saw eight Tigers cross the plate to give Princeton an 8-6 win.
"Everyone had [Princeton] in the back of their minds, but there was no way I was going to let it happen again," Jamieson said. "All I really needed to do was throw strikes."