After graduating just three seniors from a team that finished second in the Rolfe Division of the Ivy League, the Harvard men’s baseball team (9-36, 5-15 Ivy) looked to be a contender for the Ancient Eight crown at the onset of the 2011 season. But despite strengths in its lineup and a change in NCAA bat regulations that favored the Crimson’s hitting style, scoring ruts and inconsistencies plagued Harvard throughout the year.
“We definitely underperformed this season,” said senior right-handed pitcher Max Perlman. “We had high expectations going into the season, but there were still a lot of positives that came out of the year. I think the players who return next year realize what we need to work on and are optimistic about our chances.”
The Crimson got off to a rocky start, dropping its first nine games of the season in a Southeastern tour. Harvard picked up its first win of the year against Kennesaw State, as the Crimson overcame a 5-1 deficit in the last two innings to take the game, 10-6.
Harvard picked up two key Ivy League wins over Brown near the middle of its season. Despite dropping the first two contests in its two-day series against the Bears, the Crimson came back to win both Sunday games by an aggregate score of 18-10.
“The second day of the Brown series was really the only time our whole team played a full day of good baseball,” freshman outfielder Jack Colton said.
Harvard went on to earn six more wins, with a total of five against Ivy League teams, though several close contests went in favor of the Crimson’s opponents.
“We had moments where we showed what we’re capable of doing,” Colton said. “But we didn’t play at that level over the course of the whole season.”
In its last two doubleheaders of the season, Harvard dropped all four contests to the eventual Ivy League runner-up, Dartmouth.
“Our pitching [against] Dartmouth was great,” Perlman said. “Although we didn’t get the results we wanted, the team fought hard. That’s really something that defined our season.”
The Crimson lost 17 games by two or fewer runs this year, including a 12-inning heartbreaker at Penn. One bright spot for Harvard came in its penultimate series of the season against then-division leading Yale, as the Crimson claimed both nightcaps against its biggest rival to earn a split.
“The series against Yale was a big turning point in our season,” Perlman said. “Coming into the weekend, we knew this was the point where we would either turn the season around or fold. We played well on Saturday, but we were only able to pull out one of the games.”
Several individual members of the Harvard team exerted Ivy League dominance this season. Perlman and junior second baseman Jeff Reynolds each earned first-team All-Ivy honors for their performances this year. Perlman led the Ivy League with a 1.80 ERA and struck out 55 batters in 60 innings played. Reynolds held his own at the plate, batting .301 and notching 49 hits to help earn him the first-team nod. Junior designated hitter Marcus Way received an All-Ivy honorable mention at utility.
The Crimson also boasted a talented freshman class this season, with rookie third baseman Jake McGuiggan and Colton combining for 60 hits and 20 runs. Despite the disappointing year, Harvard looks forward to a promising future.
“I think most of [our younger players] are pretty excited about next season and ready to start getting on the field more and more,” Colton said. “Down the road, we’ll be able to be a pretty competitive team.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at email@example.com.