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Batsmen Gird for Weekend

By Matt Howitt

How does a baseball team prepare for a grueling four-game schedule this weekend? Intense focus, superhuman preparation, and appeals to the baseball gods?

If you are Harvard's batsmen, you do none of these things. Dutifully following one of sport's ultimate cliches, the boys of summer have been taking things one game at a time.

"I only can think about the first game tomorrow," coach Leigh Hogan said. "I believe the best way to prepare when you have so many games is to simply focus on what's at hand. We have to focus on the first game tomorrow."

Harvard faces back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend at Soldiers' Field. Columbia and Pennsylvannia, both from the Ivy's Red Rolfe division, come to Cambridge to face Harvard for the first and only time during the regular season.

Harvard faces Columbia (6-13 overall, 4-2 Ivy) tomorrow. The Crimean's run-starved offense may get a boost; the Lions' pitching staff carries a 6.81 ERA into the game.

Hogan is planning to give the ball to junior Jamie Irving (pitching from his right) and senior Tony Lancette tomorrow. Irving's 2.84 ERA is second in the Ivy League.

Penn (4-2 Ivy, 12-6 overall) comes to town tomorrow. In double-header action last weekend, the Quakers, who posted an impressive seven game win streak earlier in the season, swept Brown and split with Yale.

Harvard (5-8 overall, 1-3 Ivy) has had its difficulties this season and is currently nursing a three-game losing streak. Harvard's 3-1 loss to the University of New Hampshire is characteristic of the Crimson's season. The problem can be stated simply: the Crimson is simply not putting enough runs up on the scoreboard. Harvard has scored only seven runs during its current three-game losing streak.

"We have played some very good games but we have not played our best consistently," coach Leigh Hogan said. "I think we're ready to play tomorrow, though."

Hogan credits the Harvard batmen's slow start to the inherent problems of playing baseball in the Cambridge climate: prohibitive weather and ill-fit fields.

"Early season records for teams in New England and the Northeast are not very meaningful because you can be well under .500 and be an excellent team," said Hogan.

Senior captain Mike Giardi is the Crimson's unquestionable leader both on and off the field this season. Following up on his all-league performance last season, Giardi leads the Ivy League with a impressive .475 batting average.

"He has been playing excellent baseball," Hogan said simply.

Freshman Mike Hochanadel is already making his bid for Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Filling in for injured first baseman Scott Perot, Hochanadel has performed brilliantly. His .417 batting average is fourth overall in the Ivy League and good enough for a spot on the Ancient Eight's weekly Honor Roll. In what may be an omen for his Harvard baseball future, Hochanadel smacked a home run in his first at bat in a Crimson uniform.

"I was kind of in disbelief at first," said Hochanadel, alluding to the dinger. "It didn't set in for a while. He gave me a good pitch to hit, a fastball right down the middle."

"Mike has been hitting the ball very well since he first played in Flordia," said Hogan. "He is a versatile player. We have used him at third, left field and now first base."

Hochanadel reiterated the now-familar problem that Harvard has been having with runs: close but not close enough. The Crimson has been involved in six games this season that have been decided by one or two runs.

"Every game has been close," Hochanadel said. "We just haven't been winning. I think we'll come around."

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