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After a hard luck offseason, the Harvard baseball team will open its schedule next week with only one left-handed pitcher.
With the loss of sophomores Mike Dukovich and Wes Cosgriff to season-ending shoulder injuries, junior Curtis Miller—who recorded only three outs last year—will be the only lefty on the Crimson’s roster.
And the half? Ambidextrous sophomore Matt Brunnig, who Harvard coach Joe Walsh says could make his first collegiate appearance from the left side this season.
“Matt Brunning’s really taken to the left side, as you can see,” Walsh said at practice last night, nodding towards a lanky, 6’7 figure tossing around a ball left-handed. “Brunnig’s bigger and stronger, and he’s got a season under his belt.”
Brunnig is hesitant to make any prognostications—he isn’t sure whether he’ll make an appearance as a lefthander or not—and says that it will be Walsh’s decision.
Last year, Brunnig pitched 45 2/3 innings—all from the right side—while leading the team in wins, with four. His ERA of 3.55 was second among starters to only senior ace Trey Hendricks’ 2.86. Since then he has gained 13 lbs., and expects the added weight to help his endurance.
Meanwhile, the squad’s lone true lefty has made great strides during practice, according to Walsh, and should be a major contributor in situations where left-handed pitching is critical.
“He has given the coaches some indications that he may lead he team in appearances this year,” Walsh said.
WHAT A RELIEF
With the graduation of captain Barry Wahlberg—the team’s closer and ERA leader—Walsh knew just where to look to find some relief.
When then-freshman Lance Salsgiver arrived in Cambridge last fall, Walsh was hesitant to use him on the mound. Fresh off a high-school senior season in which he saw heavy use, Walsh was afraid of damaging his arm.
“He was hurting all summer and when he came in here we were really careful with him,” Walsh said.
But as the season progressed, Walsh couldn’t help but envision the arm that was whipping in balls from the outfield throwing from the mound.
So during the Ivy Championship Series, a full year after his last pitching appearance, Walsh inserted Salsgiver into the all-important game three. He threw 2 2/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief with his velocity topping out at 92 miles per hour and ensured that he’d be seeing a lot more time on the mound this season.
“Honestly, it felt pretty good [to pitch again],” Salsgiver said, “but I was a little surprised when he called me out there in the middle of the Ivy Championships.”
Walsh will be calling his name a lot this season. The only question is when.
“How we’re going to use him is going to be interesting. I’ll be looking to use him as a closer in the first three games on a weekend,” Walsh said, “and if it he doesn’t have to pitch in the first three, then in the fourth game we might give him the ball in the fifth inning.”
Salsgiver was both a starter and a reliever—along with an all-American shortstop—in high school, but thinks that the closer role may be the best fit for him this season.
“I think I’ll enjoy coming into the game as the closer,” Salsgiver said. “Hopefully, we’ll be up by a few runs and the guys on the team will be looking to me to go out there and get the win. I think that’s more exciting.”
FILLING THE HOLES
Though Brunning, Hendricks and senior Mike Morgalis all return from last year’s Ivy weekend rotation, the graduation of Kenon Ronz leaves a noticeable vacancy in the No. 4 spot.
Though the squad has over a month of games before the all-important Ivy season begins at Cornell on April 3, Walsh thinks he may already have found his fourth starter—sophomore Frank Hermann.
“Right now it’s Frank Hermann,” Walsh said. “He’s looked terrific throwing in practice. Not only is he ready to help us on the mound, but he’s ready to help us in the batter’s box.”
Hermann threw only 3 1/3 innings last season, but has shown extra pop on his fastball recently topping out near 90 miles per hour during practices.
Junior Marc Hordon—who missed all of last season due to shoulder surgery—was expected to provide a tremendous boost to this year’s staff. However, he has still not made a full recovery, and his role is uncertain.
During his last season—a stellar sophomore campaign in 2002—Hordon was the team’s No. 2 pitcher behind third-round draft pick Ben Crockett ’02.
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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