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Baseball Relies on Youth

By Alex M. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

Phew. They needed this one.

To say that the members of the men’s baseball team needed yesterday’s 10-8 come-from-behind victory against Northeastern is an understatement. Maybe now, the team can refocus in time for this weekend’s crucially important four-game set against Yale.

Before yesterday, the Crimson (9-16, 3-5 Ivy) lost 12-0 in game one of a split against Cornell on Sunday, was swept by Ivy League rival Princeton on Monday and lost 24-6 to B.C. at home on Tuesday.

Needless to say, better baseball has been seen around these parts in the past.

Losing, in itself, was not so bad. Rather, it was the way Harvard lost that had to be discouraging to coach Joe Walsh and his players.

Grounders were routinely bobbled and kicked, fly balls were misjudged and cutoff men overthrown. Onlooking junior varsity players groaned, wondering if the team would finish with more errors or runs per game—and sadly, the answer was usually errors.

Walsh was beside himself after the B.C. debacle, watching his team make seven errors, which didn’t include three or four misplays that were generously ignored.

“Against a team like [B.C.] you absolutely can’t afford to make mistakes, and we made them again and again and again,” Walsh said.

But alas, it’s not time to press the panic button yet. There is time to right the ship for the Crimson. Perhaps yesterday’s comeback win is just what this team needed to spark a second-half run.

And honestly, perhaps we should have expected a few clunkers along the way.

The starting nine against B.C. consisted of four freshmen and two sophomores, none of whom have considerable varsity experience. Twelve of Harvard’s pitchers are either freshmen or sophomores.

Thus far, this has meant the following: balls are hit hard, forcing fielders to constantly play at the top of their games. A few errors can snowball as confidence dwindles, and the feeling can be infectious. Harvard led B.C. 2-0 in the first and only trailed 7-5 through four-and-a-half innings. Then, the floodgates opened. The rest wasn’t too pretty.

All this may be irrelevant. B.C. was a midweek game, and to be honest, midweek games don’t mean much. But let’s hope B.C. was a large anomaly and Northeastern is the wave of the future.

“Hopefully [the B.C. game] can serve as a wake-up call to this team because I still believe we have the potential to be a really good team,” Walsh said.

This team is loaded with talent. Freshman second baseman Zak Farkes smacked two home runs against B.C. and is a future star. Senior Brian Lentz is one of the top defensive catchers in all of college baseball and should be a power-hitting force at the plate. Junior first baseman Trey Hendricks is the team’s best all-around player, playing duel roles as pitching ace and super slugger. Captain Barry Wahlberg can be untouchable in the role of closer.

Of course, in order for Wahlberg to show his stuff, Harvard has to be winning entering the ninth. And recently, the Crimson has not been doing much of that.

How can Harvard right the ship? Play like the did yesterday. And the burden may lie with the newbies. The infield must be more sure-handed. The starters must keep their fastballs down in the strike zone. The bottom of the order must be more consistent offensively.

Having to rely on freshmen is not a coach’s dream. Walsh has admitted that his freshmen have been “in and out like the weather” thus far this season. No coach favors having a young team over a senior-laden club—experience wins championships. It’s true for all sports.

But freshmen who play like seniors can win, too (see Carmelo Anthony). If the Crimson can transfer yesterday’s play after the sixth inning to the weekend, a Red Rolfe Division Championship is within reach.

—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at sherman@fas.harvard.edu.

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