When the Harvard baseball team tackles UMass in the Beanpot final at Fenway Park, history will not be on its side.
The Crimson (21-9, 9-3 Ivy) and the Minutemen (22-8, 11-1 Atlantic 10) have met in the Beanpot in each of the last two seasons, and each time the team from Amherst has won convincingly.
"We're looking to get a little revenge and to win our first Beanpot," captain David Forst said. "This is more important than just a regular mid-week game."
A betting man would put his money on the Minutemen. In last year's final, UMass scored 11 runs off nine Harvard pitchers en route to an 11-4 win. UMass, has played in the Beanpot only twice before, and has won both times, whereas in the nine years of the tournament, Harvard has only one trophy, and none in the Clinton era. The Crimson's only title came in 1991.
But Harvard's players have ample reason to believe they can change that. In each of the last two years, the Crimson has rebounded from its Beanpot loss with a late-season victory against the Minutemen, winning last season's rematch 10-4.
Ever since a mediocre trip to Florida in March, in which it went 7-6 and lost thrice to No. 2 Miami, this year's Harvard team has been splendid in its out-of-league games. Harvard has not lost to a non-Ivy team in five games since Miami, and it reached the Beanpot final by handing Northeastern its head on a platter, 11-0.
For perhaps the first time all season, Harvard clicked on all cylinders against the Huskies, as the pitching, hitting and defense were all outstanding. The Crimson pounded out 11 base knocks. Forst had four hits--including two doubles off the Green Monster--senior Brian Ralph added a couple of hits and a couple of RBI and senior Brett Vankoski drove in three.
Junior pitcher Quinn Schafer threw a superb four and one-third innings in his first start of the season, and senior John Wells was automatic in relief.
Tomorrow Harvard will start sophomore Rich Linden (1-0, 3.60 ERA), who is putting his football cleats on hiatus this spring in favor of a baseball mitt. Though he's coming off a rocky start against Boston College (B.C.), in which he yielded five runs on nine hits in four and one-third innings, Linden has been effective in five appearances this season.
He features the standard fastball-curveball package and is experimenting with a changeup.
"Linden's got a hard fastball and a hard curveball," senior catcher Jason Keck said. "He throws pretty hard, pretty stiff. He's not going to junkball you to death."
"I'm just going to approach it like any other game," Linden said. "Baseball has a lot to do with who's hot and who's seeing the ball well. I'll just try to do what good pitchers do--get ahead of hitters, throw strikes, and not give guys free bases."
Linden faces a UMass lineup that is hitting .338 as a team and averages just under nine runs per game. The Minutemen scored a subpar seven runs in the 7-2 win over B.C. that got them to the final.
Senior second baseman Muchie Dagiere is capping a stellar career in stellar fashion, hitting .462 with 42 RBI. He has struck out just four times in 30 games and went 3-for-4 and scored three runs against the Eagles.
Dagliere has only one home run, but the Minutemen are not without pop in the lineup. Senior rightfielder Pete Gautreau--who notched three hits and drove in three on Tuesday--is batting .386 with eight home runs and 40 RBI in 30 games, and junior centerfielder Doug Clark has left the yard six times and is batting .364.
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