It’s that time of year again—the 2018 Ivy League baseball slate is underway and the Ancient Eight is off and running.
This weekend, the Harvard baseball team kicked off its conference games in New York, N.Y., against Columbia, a team that has had the Crimson’s number for the past decade. The Lions’ dominance of Harvard squads has remained constant despite the regular cycling-through of student-athletes.
The head-to-head record tells the whole story. Dating back to the 2008 spring season, the Crimson has locked horns with Columbia 20 times and lost 18 times, including an ugly 24-1 blowout in 2010. In fact, Harvard has been outscored 141-45 in those 18 losses. The going has been particularly rough when the Crimson is the away team, as Harvard is 0-10 in that stretch at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium.
If the fact that the Crimson has long struggled against its opponents from New York weighed on the players’ minds, it didn’t show as Harvard (9-13, 1-2 Ivy league) ignited its confidence with an 11-6 Ivy-opening victory against the Lions (7-18, 4-2) on Saturday afternoon. The Crimson couldn’t sustain the momentum, however, dropping 7-1 and 9-6 decisions on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
A series win against Columbia will have to wait longer yet.
The players, however, took positives away. The self-dubbed Bad Boys of the Ivy League don’t get beaten down for long.
“We definitely gained some confidence out of the series,” said junior first baseman Pat McColl. “We’ve shown that we can definitely beat anyone. We’ve got a lot of confidence, and that’s what you need coming into these games, just the mentality that you’re going to win every game you play.”
Part of the confidence gained is in the fact that Saturday’s lone victory was Harvard’s first win visiting Columbia since 2007. The other part is in the fact that the team was within striking distance late in its two losses.
“Columbia’s definitely a good offensive team,” said junior center fielder Ben Skinner. “We were in most of the games, except for the second, and we were pretty competitive in the first and third game.”
The Lions are second in the Ivies with a .260 team BA, while the Crimson sits second-to-last at .243. In addition, the Harvard pitching staff now ranks dead last in the Ivies with a 7.43 overall ERA, while Columbia ranks second-to-last with a 7.30 ERA.
COLUMBIA 9, HARVARD 6
Down 6-1 in the third inning of the rubber match, Harvard conjured up a comeback powered by the usual suspects. Senior outfielder Austin Black, Skinner, sophomore outfielder Jake Suddleson, and McColl contributed RBIs to bring the scoreline back to a 6-6 tie in the top of the sixth.
With momentum on its side, the Crimson may have tasted a rare series victory in New York, but the Lions shut the door with a three-spot in the bottom of the sixth and a pitching clinic the rest of the way. Down by three, Harvard couldn’t get a single hit through the rest of the game, sealing its fate in a 9-6 loss.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start, battled back and tied it, and then, in the end, just couldn’t quite come up with the hits we needed,” said McColl, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
On the mound, junior Kevin Stone got the start for the Crimson, lasting 1.1 innings while giving up six earned runs. Stone only gave up four hits while struggling with his command, hitting three Lion batsmen and walking one.
On the offensive side, Suddleson led the team by getting on base three times, driving in two, and drawing two walks. The rest of the Harvard offense never shifted into the next gear after tying the game, however, putting together just seven hits and leaving nine runners stranded.
COLUMBIA 7, HARVARD 1
Late Saturday afternoon, sophomore lefty Ben Wereski scattered seven Harvard hits over 7.1 innings pitched, senior righty Bryce Barr struck out four of the five Crimson hitters thereafter, and Columbia beat Harvard 7-1 to tie the series up at one apiece.
The Crimson pitching kept the deficit manageable for awhile, but the offense’s lack of run support was fatal.
Junior righty Simon Rosenblum-Larson pitched six innings, giving up five runs, one unearned, on eight hits, striking out four. Rosenblum-Larson, leading the team with nearly 11 K’s per nine innings, also walked a man and gave up a homer.
Suddleson and junior outfielder P.J. Robinson led the offense both with 2-for-3 days at the plate, but Robinson’s third-inning RBI single was all Harvard could muster.
Junior John MacLean, after making his collegiate pitching debut against Holy Cross, struck out both batters he faced in the seventh.
HARVARD 11, COLUMBIA 6
Crooked innings were the key to the Crimson’s 11-6 series-opening win over the Lions. Fresh off a 10-2 beatdown of Holy Cross earlier in the week, Harvard fueled its confidence with a four-run fourth inning and a five-run fifth inning to erase a 4-0 deficit, cruising to a comfortable win on Saturday afternoon.
All the facets of the game, all the ingredients for a winning recipe, were there—the Crimson garnered 15 hits and committed zero errors in the field. Senior righty Noah Zavolas went seven innings, striking out nine and walking none. Freshman two-way player Buddy Hayward, a top Ivy League rookie, pitched a strong relief effort, closing out the eighth and ninth innings without allowing a single baserunner.
Skinner and junior catcher Jake Allen got on base five times at the top of the order, while McColl and Suddleson drove in three runs in the 3-hole and cleanup role.
The middle of the order had a big game, as Black, sophomore third baseman Hunter Bigge, and Robinson, five through seven in the order, went a combined 7-for-14 and crossed the plate seven times. Bigge, in particular, went 3-for-4, while Robinson hit a rally-starting RBI double in the fourth and a two-run insurance bomb late.
Though Harvard wasn’t able to close out the series, the win was the Crimson’s first at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium in eleven years.
Harvard resumes play on Tuesday against Boston College at the 2018 Beanpot.
—Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.