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The Harvard baseball team needed a break. And in the bottom of the eighth, with two outs and runners on second and third, the Crimson got it.
Junior shortstop Jake McGuiggan stepped to the plate and lofted a lazy fly ball down the right field foul line on the first pitch he saw in the tie ballgame against visiting Boston College. The Eagles right fielder sprinted in; the second baseman drifted out. The outfielder called out, “I got it!” only to have the ball drop at his feet.
Fair ball. Just like that, the Crimson had taken a 6-4 lead, its first of the game.
Although the Eagles managed a run in the top of the ninth, Harvard would hang on to defeat its crosstown rival, 6-5, in the first round of the Beanpot at O’Donnell Field Wednesday afternoon.
“It looked like it was going to be caught; it was a pop-fly,” sophomore outfielder Brandon Kregel said. “Luckily we had a strong gust of wind today, and the sun played into hit…. That’s luck. Sometimes that plays into it. Today, we got lucky and we did things right.”
However lucky, McGuiggan’s hit would go down as a two-run double in the scorebook. The knock capped a three-run bottom of the eighth for the Crimson that began when Kregel ripped his second double of the day to left field.
A strikeout followed by an infield single moved Kregel to third, bringing up sophomore third baseman Mitch Klug. The Crimson had already botched an earlier squeeze attempt, but Klug laid down a perfect bunt that allowed Kregel to dive headfirst into home to tie the game at four. McGuiggan would come through for his team just moments later.
While Harvard owned the later innings, it was all BC early on. Indeed, it seemed as if the Eagles would run away with the game when they stormed out of the gates to put four runs on the board in the first inning.
After retiring the leadoff hitter, Harvard freshman starting pitcher Kevin Rex surrendered two consecutive singles and walk to load the bases. BC’s Joe Cronin then smacked a double down the right field line to score a pair, and another run came home on an RBI groundout.
Two walks, a pitching change, and a wild pitch later, the Eagles had seized a 4-0 lead and seemed to possess all the momentum.
But that was all the scoring the BC offense could produce until the ninth inning, as a committee of Harvard relievers shut the door. Sophomores Nick Scahill and T.J. Laurisch, along freshman Greg Coman and junior Matt Timoney, combined to hold the Eagles scoreless for seven straight innings.
Of the four pitchers, Laurisch stood out the most. The sophomore contributed three-and-two-thirds innings of scoreless, one-hit ball. His most dominant frame came in the top of the sixth, when Laurisch set down the Eagles in order by working ahead and striking out two.
“I thought our bullpen did a wonderful job,” Harvard coach Bill Decker said. “It was a really good win for these kids…. We’re going to keep on going and try to develop our bullpen. It hasn’t always worked out for it, but today it worked out for us.”
Down four runs early, the Crimson offense systematically chipped away at the BC lead in the middle innings. In the bottom of the third, Klug led off with a hit-by-pitch and came around to score after an error and a McGuiggan RBI groundout.
After Laurisch held BC scoreless, the Crimson came right back with another run in the bottom of the fourth, as a single from junior outfielder Jack Colton plated classmate Mike Martin to make the score 4-2.
Harvard pulled within one in the bottom of the sixth. On a 2-0 count, Kregel saw a pitch he liked and launched it just short of the wall in right-center for a double.Kregel would eventually be tagged out attempting to score after a failed squeeze attempt. But BC miscues bailed the Crimson out, as an error followed by a bases-loaded hit batsman plated junior catcher Ethan Ferreira.
At this point, the Crimson had scored three runs on just three hits. Offense was hard to come by for Harvard all game—Kregel and Colton notched four of the team’s six total hits—and the top three hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-for-11.
It was the other way around for BC. Each of the team’s nine hits came from the third through sixth hitters, highlighted by a four-for-five performance from cleanup hitter Chris Shaw.
But Harvard’s scrappiness, timing, and a bit of good fortune—especially in the eighth—allowed the home team to finally pull ahead. Sophomore pitcher Sean Poppen took the hill in the ninth, and although he allowed a run, the team’s ace had enough gas to secure the save and notch the win for his team.
“It’s just about stringing hits together, not giving up, and putting the ball in play,” Kregel said. “Stuff like that, it’s baseball. You can’t ever give up, and I don’t think we did that today.”
—Staff writer David Steinbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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