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They say everything is bigger in Texas, and unfortunately for the Harvard baseball team this past weekend, that meant its deficits were as well.
The Crimson (1-9) continued to struggle early in the season and was swept by No. 27 Rice (14-7), which outscored Harvard 26-4 over the course of the three-game series.
“We didn’t make many plays, we didn’t make many pitches,” sophomore outfielder Mike Martin said. “To sum it up, we didn’t do anything right.”
RICE 12, HARVARD 0
The Owls handed the Crimson its ninth-straight loss Sunday afternoon with a dominant performance.
Kevin McCanna, Connor Mason, and Evan Rutter limited Harvard to one hit—a Mitch Klug second-inning single—while the Owls scored three runs in each of the first two innings to jump on Crimson freshman starter Sean Poppen.
In the opening frame, Rice took advantage of a two-out error on sophomore third baseman Nick Saathoff that opened the door for three runs. With runners on first and third, Keenan Cook singled home one, and Michael Aquino then ripped a triple into the left field corner to bring home two more.
In the following inning, Ford Stainback singled off Poppen with the bases loaded to drive in two, and a sacrifice fly plated another for the Owls.
After Rice loaded the bases again in the bottom of the sixth, Harvard manager Bill Decker pulled Poppen in favor of freshman Shaun Rubin. Rubin allowed a single to left by Leon Byrd, scoring one, and following a sacrifice fly by Ford Stainback, Cook’s two-out RBI triple scored three more and pushed the lead to 11-0. In the following inning, a double, wild pitch, and Michael Ratterree RBI single added the 12th run.
“They hit in key situations, they played great defense, [and] their pitchers threw strikes—a lot of things we need to do better,” senior infielder Robert Wineski said.
RICE 9, HARVARD 2
The Owls’ bats also got going early on Saturday. The squad scored five runs against junior starter Peter Kaplan, who failed to escape the first inning.
Byrd walked and stole second, and then Stainback singled and did the same. With two runners in scoring position, Christian Stringer ripped a triple down the right field line to plate both, and Connor Teyki’s single through the left side brought Stringer home.
Teyki was thrown out trying to steal, but two more singles and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for the Eagles. Kaplan then drilled Skyler Ewing, and his replacement, freshman Matt Sanders, walked Byrd to give Rice its fifth run.
With two outs in the following inning, Cook singled, stole second, and scored on an Aquino single to make it 6-0.
“It’s hard to take anything [positive] out of a game when you’re down 10-0 or 6-0 right off the bat,” Martin said.
Harvard finally got something going offensively in the top of the sixth. Martin led off with an infield single and was replaced with freshman pinch runner T.J. Laurisch. Sophomore Brandon Kregel then singled to left, classmate Ethan Ferreira walked, and Laurisch scored on a fielders choice to give Harvard its first run. But Klug flied out to center and sophomore Tanner Anderson struck out to end the rally.
Rice scored again in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Stainback and Teyki—who like Aquino went three-for-four—before Saathoff had a two-out RBI single to left to score junior Carlton Bailey in the bottom of the inning.
But Rice pushed its lead to 10 by adding two more runs on fielders choices in the seventh and eighth. Jordan Stephens struck out eight over seven innings for the Owls, who recorded 13 hits on the afternoon.
“They’re putting the ball in play, and they’re getting doubles and triples, and the pitchers are just able to throw strikes,” Martin said. “Its so much easier to play when you’re ahead and so much harder to play when you’re down.”
RICE 5, HARVARD 2
In the closest game of the series, it was the third inning that proved to be the difference, as the Owls rallied for four runs—all unearned—off of Crimson junior starter Sam Dodge.
With the bases loaded and two out, Saathoff misplayed a ground ball, allowing Rice’s first two runs to cross the plate. Dodge then hit Stringer with a pitch to load the bases again and Tyrek singled through the left side to score two more before Dodge escaped the bases-loaded jam by getting Cook to fly out to center.
In the following inning, Rice loaded the bases again, and Aquino singled home a run before Dodge stranded three more by getting Stringer to pop out.
Dodge, freshman Joey Silepka, and classmate Sean O’Neill held the Owls scoreless the rest of the way, and Harvard made it interesting in the final two innings.
In the top of the eighth, Wineski walked, Martin singled to right, and Kregel singled to right center to load the bases with no outs. After Ferreira struck out, freshman D.J. Link reached on a Teyki error, giving the Crimson its first run of the series. But Zech Lemond entered in relief of Austin Kubitza—who had struck out eight over seven innings—and immediately whiffed Saathoff and Klug to end the threat.
After O’Neill escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth, another Rice error in the bottom of the frame scored freshman Michael Loughlin to make it 5-2. But Ferreira struck out swinging as the tying run, and Rice took the win.
“We just didn’t make plays when we had to,” Martin said. “We’re just literally not making any plays at all, offensively and defensively.”
Wineski was a bit more optimistic about the team’s performance.
“[This series] really shows what we strive for, what we need to work on,” he said. “[But] we’re a young team, so I think we’ll learn.... I think the team’s going to really pull together and get better.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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