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The Harvard baseball team (3-16) played its first home game of the season yesterday against Holy Cross (12-10-1). And although O’Donnell Field is the Crimson’s “home sweet home,” the squad suffered a bitter 11-6 loss at the hands of the Crusaders.
Holy Cross wasted no time in the midweek matchup and surged to a lead in the first inning of yesterday’s contest. Harvard’s starting pitcher, freshman right-hander Baron Davis, struck out the Crusaders’ leadoff hitter, sophomore Alex Maldonado, but gave up a single to senior Jack Laurendeau before senior Nick Ciardiello stepped up to the plate. Ciardiello homered off of Davis to center field to quickly put the Crusaders on top, 2-0.
“That kid just crushed that ball in the first inning,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “That was one of the hardest hit balls at O’Donnell Field that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
But the Crimson rebounded quickly in the bottom of the opening frame. Senior outfielders Dillon O’Neill and Sam Franklin reached base with a single and ground-rule double. Their classmate, shortstop Sean O’Hara, drove in the pair of runs with a single to centerfield and was later driven in by junior Marcus Way. After the first inning, Harvard was up by a run in a game that looked like it might turn into a slugfest.
“[Today’s game] started off like two teams that looked like they were going to swing the bat all day,” Walsh said. “We had three runs in the first inning. It was a great feeling in the dugout.”
After a second inning, in which both teams picked up an unearned run, freshman right-hander Sam Dodge took the mound for the Crimson and pitched a scoreless third inning. His teammates came out in the bottom of the inning and continued their solid offensive play. With two outs, Way and sophomore Danny Moskovits got on base and were brought home by a base-clearing double from freshman Jeff Hajdin.
With Harvard ahead, 6-3, Holy Cross sent sophomore Andrew Boyce to the mound. The 6-foot-2 right-hander stifled the once-hot Crimson offense as he pitched more than four scoreless innings and only surrendered two hits.
“[Boyce] just hung up goose eggs on us,” Walsh said.
The Crusaders’ hitting was sparked in the fourth inning, as the team loaded the bases with just one out against the Crimson’s sophomore pitcher Matt Doyle. Freshman Peter Kaplan was sent in to relieve Doyle, but was unable to prevent Holy Cross’ Laurendeau from driving in three runs to level the score at six apiece. After Laurendeau came Ciardiello, whose single drove in the runner and put the Crusaders on top.
“We battled in the beginning,” said Harvard junior catcher Jon Smart. “But when they keep putting up runs like that, we need to be able to respond. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that today.”
The scoring for the game ended in the fifth inning, but not before Holy Cross pulled off another rally. Triggered by a triple from freshman Mike Ahmed, the Crusaders dialed up four runs in the fifth inning off of the Crimson’s pitching staff.
“We have to minimize those big innings,” Walsh said. “They had eight runs in two innings there in the middle, and that was the crushing blow to us.”
But not everything went Holy Cross’ way in the seventh inning of the contest, when the Crusaders’ junior catcher Steve Tkowski and sophomore first baseman Josh Olson collided while attempting to field an O’Hara pop fly. While Olson was able to remain in the game, Tkowski needed assistance getting off of the field after the collision.
But despite the injury scare, Holy Cross held firm possession of the lead, and Harvard was forced to adjust, making frequent changes on the mound.
Walsh wanted to give some of his younger pitchers a chance to gain game experience in the non-conference matchup, and he certainly took advantage of the opportunity, with ten Crimson hurlers making appearances during the game.
“We were trying to get guys some work, as well as win the ball game,” Walsh said. “When you do that, you chance it a little bit. Some guys came in and they struggled throwing strikes.”
Walsh added that the inconsistency within the pitching staff has been an issue for the squad so far this season.
“Each time this year that we get ourselves into trouble it’s been based on walks,” he said. “When you’re walking lead-off guys, those guys are going to come in and score.”
Despite the loss, Smart liked what he saw from his rookie teammates.
“Considering that they haven’t had very much time on the mound this season, I thought they really came into battle,” Smart said. “They came out and went right after it.”
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