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As shortstop Morgan Brown pulled into second base with the potential go-ahead run one out into the home half of the sixth inning yesterday, Harvard coach Joe Walsh, stationed at third base, turned and looked towards his silent dugout.
“No intensity,” he half-muttered, half-lamented. “We’ve got no intensity.”
Just moments earlier, Quinnipiac (23-19) had plated two runs to draw even at four, but no sense of urgency had taken hold in the Crimson dugout. The atmosphere at O’Donnell Field still more closely resembled that of a pre-season exhibition among non-conference opponents than a post-season tune up between tournament-bound league champions.
And though junior Zak Farkes slapped a single through the right side of the infield two batters later to reclaim the lead and captain Schuyler Mann belted a towering three-run shot into the ivy in left centerfield with two outs in the eighth inning to secure Harvard’s 8-5 victory, Walsh was anything but satisfied with his club’s attitude entering finals period.
“We’re not going to get anything out of playing ball that way,” Walsh said. “When Morgan hit that double into the gap, we were just kind of watching and sitting back, like, ‘Here we go. Maybe we’ll go ahead, or not.’ There was a lack of intensity, and I think it’s too easy to say exams are here and stuff like that…I really wanted to demand better effort today. Didn’t get it.”
Which is problematic, given the Crimson’s relatively lengthy break between the Ivy Championship Series—wrapped up on May 9—and its as-yet-unscheduled early June appearance in the NCAA tournament. Few other conferences have crowned their champions thus far, so Harvard’s opponent is likely still competing for its own league title against premier competition while the Crimson (27-15) and a handful of other entrants are scrambling to arrange additional games to maintain their playoff edge.
“My problem is with the positional players. They don’t need to get into that [exhibition] mode and we got into it,” Walsh said. “It’s not the errors. It’s just the way we take the field, the intensity of the baseball talk that’s going on in the dugout. We were missing a little bit…I thought we were going through the paces.”
But timely hitting from the top half of the order more than compensated on the scoreboard. Down 1-0 after Bobcats first baseman Bryan Sabatella’s home run in the opening frame, Harvard immediately answered with three scores of its own.
Lance Salsgiver led off the bottom of the first with a single, then advanced to second on a walk issued to Farkes, before coming home on Josh Klimkiewicz’s double down the left-field line. Both Farkes and Klimkiewicz would score two batters later, thanks to a sacrifice fly from Steffan Wilson and a throwing error charged to Sabatella, who misfired while attempting to peg Klimkiewicz as he advanced to third, allowing the latter to cross the plate.
Salsgiver knocked in Matt Vance in the second, courtesy of an infield single to extend the Crimson’s lead to 4-1. Quinnipiac inched within two in the fourth inning, but finally pulled even in the sixth, thanks to three singles off newly inserted hurler Javi Castellanos and a fielding error by Klimkiewicz at first, which cut the deficit to just one and loaded the bases.
After allowing the tying run via sacrifice fly to Rick Coppola, Castellanos fanned the next two to escape the inning, before Farkes staked Harvard to a 5-4 lead in the bottom half of the frame on an RBI ground ball through the right side of the infield.
Quinnipiac answered in the eighth against Crimson pitcher Matt Brunnig, who made his first appearance in a month.
Two quick singles moved a runner into scoring position, but Brunnig appeared to relieve the pressure almost as suddenly, going to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt to keep runners at first and second with one out.
But a subsequent Brunnig offering slipped between Mann’s legs and to the backstop, advancing the baserunners to second and third, setting up John Simone’s sacrifice fly to once again level the score.
Brown struck out to open the bottom of the eighth, but Salsgiver singled, then moved to second on Farkes’ ground out, before Klimkiewicz walked on four pitches to send Mann to the plate. He tattooed Chris Gresh’s 1-1 curveball, sending the offering crashing into the ivy in left centerfield just beyond Coppola’s outstretched glove for his 27th career home run, tying Farkes for Harvard’s all-time career mark.
“I had left five runners on up until that point, so I was definitely looking to keep the inning alive and get a pitch to drive in the gap,” Mann said. “But he hung a curveball to me, right in the wheelhouse, left it up, and I got under it just enough.”
AROUND THE HORN
According to Walsh, Harvard will attempt to schedule at least one more contest prior to the start of the NCAA tournament to be played at a neutral site. One possible opponent would be North Carolina A&T, which has already clinched a berth, he said…Mike Morgalis, Shawn Haviland, Frank Herrmann, Castellanos, and Brunnig each threw yesterday, with each seeing two innings worth of action except Herrmann, who pitched only the fifth. Herrmann was the only hurler not to surrender a run…Farkes extended his hitting streak to 12 games…Walsh confirmed yesterday that Thomas Stack-Babich, a 6’3, 200-lb. freshman outfielder from Scituate, Mass., will transfer from Wake Forest to Harvard prior to his sophomore year. “I think it’s the same kind of story with Mike Morgalis [who transferred from Notre Dame],” Mann said. “He can come from a good baseball school and make a make a big impact here right off the bat.”
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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