It took extra innings, an extra day due to a weather delay, and a great deal of resilience, but the Harvard baseball team is back in the Beanpot final.
The “Bad Boys” Crimson squad rolled into Brighton Baseball Field on a freezing Wednesday night and took down Boston College, 7-4, on junior outfielder P.J. Robinson’s three-run homer in the eleventh.
A year after losing to the Eagles (9-17, 4-8 ACC) in the annual four-team tournament final, Harvard (10-13, 1-2 Ivy League) exacted revenge in this year’s semifinal match, getting out to an early lead and overcoming multiple BC comebacks. With the win, the Crimson will play Northeastern, which beat UMass on a grand slam, for the crown on Tuesday, April 17.
Robinson, the Crimson’s Male Breakout Athlete of the Year last year, played hero for the visiting Harvard squad in extras against a strong Eagles team.
With the game knotted at four in the top of the eleventh, junior first baseman Pat McColl and sophomore outfielder Jake Suddleson started the rally by getting on base with one out. Robinson then took advantage of junior BC righty Thomas Lane’s poor command and sent an 0-1 pitch sailing over the wall to give the Crimson a 7-4 lead.
“I got a fastball away and just managed to get my bat to it,” Robinson said. “[The game] ended up going to extras and it was good to get the game over with.”
The duo of Robinson and McColl was potent all night long. Each garnered four-hit days, combining for an 8-for-11 performance that has come to be expected since the two emerged as Harvard’s offensive leaders last season.
“Pat [McColl] had a huge day, it’s always good when you can be that guy who can step up and come up big for your team,” said sophomore two-way player Hunter Bigge, who got the start on the mound against the Eagles and held BC scoreless through four innings of work.
McColl went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and has a team-leading 23 RBIs to complement a .272 average on the year. Robinson hit 4-for-6 at the dish and drove in the winning runs. He appears to be heating up halfway through the season, a good sign for his comeback from a concussion. The Melbourne, Fla. native is now hitting .288.
“We have [P.J. Robinson] back from a concussion, and it’s great to see him back in his form of just raking every single time he’s on the field,” Bigge said.
McColl and Robinson’s heroics were needed on a night when BC staged multiple comebacks to prolong the game on a freezing night in Brighton. First down 3-0 after the first inning, the Eagles tied the game at three in the seventh, and after the Crimson tallied a run in the top of the eighth, plated a run in the bottom of the ninth to force extras.
The blown leads, however, did nothing to dampen the atmosphere in the Harvard dugout.
“We were laughing, just trying to stay positive throughout the whole thing,” Bigge said. “It was freezing outside, it was a close game against a really good team. It was a really disorganized situation coming into the game, and we were kind of just like, ‘alright, let’s not care about anything, have a positive attitude, have a smile on our face.’”
Especially as the semifinal was originally scheduled for Tuesday night, the postponement derailed many student-athlete schedules. In addition, as Robinson noted, the Crimson squad is very much in the Beanpot but is also focused on Ivy League play, which continues this weekend against Penn.
The combination of light-hearted play and a collective team resilience contributed to the big team win against Boston College, ranked 104th on the RPI Division I Baseball rankings as of April 4. The Crimson, with its upset, jumped 37 spots to 153rd. Harvard’s next opponent, Northeastern, slots in at a cool 13th place.
“Collectively, we had a lot of resilience, which is something we’re trying to do as a team, build an identity around,” said Robinson on his team’s play under the circumstances. “It was really good to see that everyone was in the game, everyone was cheering on their teammates. It was really a good collective team win.”
Senior third baseman Jake Forte and freshman shortstop Buddy Mrowka collected RBIs for the Crimson. Senior Matt Rothenberg also collected a hit and an RBI in his pinch-hit appearance in the eighth inning.
A big part of Harvard’s success was its pitching, which did enough to keep the Crimson in the game and the Eagles off the board. The pitching staff collectively held BC to just six hits while the Harvard offense got 16 knocks.
Bigge, a utility player capable of pitching and playing in the field, got the start on the mound and went four clean innings, striking out two, walking two, and only giving up two hits.
“This was my first time pitching in about three weeks, and it was definitely good to get a good start this week,” Bigge said. “It’s been a fun season on the mound.”
Junior outfielder John MacLean continued his newfound hotstreak on the mound, coming into a jam in the bottom of the sixth and getting a crucial strikeout in a bases-loaded situation to preserve a 3-1 lead. Freshman righty Jack Mahala pitched tossed 1.1 no-hit relief innings and sophomore righty Grant Stone mowed down the Eagles hitters in the bottom of the eleventh to get the save.
The Crimson staked itself to a 3-0 lead on RBI singles by Forte and Mrowka, while junior center fielder Ben Skinner got it started with a leadoff single, coming around to score on a wild pitch.
Before the semifinal match against Boston College, Skinner said the Harvard team hoped to bring the “Bad Boys” moniker into not just the Ivy League, but to the rest of Boston as well. The Bad Boys of Boston now look to bring their swagger into the Beanpot finals, which, originally set for next Tuesday, has been postponed to Tuesday, April 17.
—Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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