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The players on the Harvard men’s baseball team must have had sweet dreams Saturday night.
A late arrival into Bradenton, Fla. and an early morning wakeup call gave the Crimson players only three hours of sleep before their 10 a.m. season opener, but that couldn’t stop Harvard (2-1).
The Crimson opened its season with come-from-behind wins over Holy Cross and Duquesne on Saturday before falling to Valparaiso on Sunday.
Capitalizing on veteran talent and some new faces, Harvard posted a solid start to its season.
“It’s good to start off the season with a couple of wins,” said captain and closer Barry Wahlberg. “We had a couple of big come-from-behind wins that showed we have no fear, and that’s great because we are a young team. It was good to see some guys step up.”
On Saturday, someone stepped up whenever the Crimson needed it most. Sophomore Ian Wallace and senior Brian Lentz each knocked ninth-inning, game-winning hits.
The 2-1 start is much better than Harvard’s opening stretch last season. Although the Crimson finished the 2002 campaign as Ivy champs, Harvard began the season a rocky 0-6 before picking up its first win on March 24 over Lafayette.
The Crimson’s game with Indiana Purdue Ft. Wayne, scheduled for 7 p.m. last night, was cancelled due to rain and will not be rescheduled.
Valparaiso 9, Harvard 1
This game was as ugly as the score. The Crimson defense combined for five errors and its pitchers gave up 10 walks as Harvard suffered its first loss of the season, falling 9-1 to Valparaiso (3-5).
Sophomore Javier Arteaga started the game for the Crimson, but struggled and was relieved by senior Matt Self with the bases loaded in the first inning. Self—who pitched four solid innings of relief—got Harvard out of the jam with a strikeout and a double play.
But the Crimson didn’t capitalize on its good fortune.
Harvard’s lone run came in the fourth inning while trailing 3-0. Wallace, freshman Zak Farkes and sophomore Schuyler Mann all walked to load the bases for junior first baseman Trey Hendricks.
But Hendricks—Harvard’s top hitter—lined a ball back up the middle that glanced off the Valpo pitcher and went for a double play. Although Wallace scored, the Crimson’s rally was stunted.
“He hit the ball hard up the middle and it just tipped off the pitcher,” Wallace said. “At that point, only down by three with the bases loaded and Trey up, we felt pretty good.”
Self was relieved by sophomore A.J. Solimine in the fifth inning, but, by that point, Valparaiso had already done enough to ensure victory.
Harvard 9, Duquesne 8
The Crimson had three home runs through 18 games last season. This year, it had three through 18 innings.
With the game tied at 8-8 in the ninth inning, Lentz blasted a solo home run to give Harvard its second comeback victory of the day, 9-8 over Duquesne (4-9). Just the inning before, Hendricks had smashed a two-run homer to tie the game.
Lentz, who sat out the 2002 season, made his presence felt immediately.
“It was a huge hit in a clutch situation,” Wahlberg said of Lentz’s home run. “He came up really big for us. That’s what we need guys to do, especially seniors.”
Senior lefthander Kenon Ronz started the game for Harvard, but struggled with his control over four innings.
“He just had a lot of energy,” Mann said. “He was ready to go and excited. He was throwing hard, but it wasn’t necessarily going where it was supposed to.”
Junior Jason Brown and senior Ryan Tsujikawa threw middle relief for Harvard. Wahlberg (1-0) entered the game in the seventh to take the win.
Harvard 3, Holy Cross 2
Even playing in the 90-degree Florida heat, it took the Crimson bats a little while to warm up. But they eventually did.
Trailing 2-0 through eight and a half innings, Harvard finally broke onto the scoreboard, posting three runs to rally for the win in the ninth.
Wallace lined a game-winning double to score freshman Morgan Brown—pinch running for freshman Josh Klimkiewicz—and Lentz to clinch the game for the Crimson.
“He was throwing all fastballs,” Wallace said. “I finally got my hands through it and hit it, luckily in the gap.”
Moments earlier, Mann had set the stage for Wallace’s heroics. The sophomore ignited the limp Harvard offense by pulling a one-two, inside fastball over the left-center field fence to cut the lead in half.
“I’d been out in front all day long,” Mann said. “I think because I had two strikes on me I finally sat back. His pitches were just ridiculously slow. I’d been licking my lips all day.”
Sophomore Mike Morgalis—an off-season transfer from Notre Dame—started the game for Harvard. The righthander pitched seven solid innings, allowing two runs in his Crimson debut.
“It was really exciting to see Mike Morgalis go out and pitch so well,” Wahlberg said. “He didn’t get the win, but he pitched seven innings of two-run baseball, and that’s a great way to open the season.”
Senior Brendan Reed (1-0), the final Harvard reliever to take the mound in the ninth, took the victory. The win avenged the Crimson’s 2002 loss to the Crusaders (1-5), a 2-1 setback at Holy Cross.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at email@example.com.
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