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It was only fitting, on a night when Harvard men’s baseball and Northeastern would combine to score seven runs on just three total hits, that Kevin Stone and Kieran Shaw would pitch the Crimson into the Championship game of the 2019 Beanpot.
Despite a sloppy affair that saw more combined errors between the two teams than hits, a four-run fifth-inning outburst from Harvard (13-6, 4-2 Ivy) proved to be the difference. Coupled with nine solid innings from the Crimson pitching staff, three unearned runs helped the men from Cambridge hold on for a 4-3 victory, giving the team the opportunity to win the tournament for a second straight season.
“The Beanpot’s a pretty fun thing we get to do,” Stone said. “It’s super exciting and very meaningful to make it to the final in my senior season.”
Harvard’s defense of its 2018 title kicked off Tuesday night at Boston College, against crosstown rival Northeastern. The Huskies were a familiar foe for the Crimson, as the semifinal was a rematch of last year’s Beanpot title game, a contest that saw Harvard surrender six first-inning runs, but storm back for a dramatic 8-6 victory.
Like in the 2018 Championship game, Stone toed the rubber to start for the Crimson. The fourth-year starter put Harvard in position to secure the victory, tossing five hitless innings, but conceded five walks that accounted for two Northeastern runs. Despite falling behind like it did in the 2018 final, Harvard battled back, riding Stone’s strong performance and rewarding the senior with the semifinal win, allowing him to improve to 2-1 on the season.
“Gotta come out in attack mode, and I didn’t quite do that,” Stone said of his early struggles. “Just being able to make the adjustment and refocus after that first inning was huge for me.”
The senior, the elder statesman of the staff, has adapted to a different role than he has been accustomed to over the first three years of his career. Previously a stalwart in the weekend starting rotation, the Stamford, Conn., native has taken his transition to spot starts with grace, a testament to the team-first mentality that his teammates admire about him.
“This year we had some other guys step up, and Kev was given a new role,” said Stone’s battery-mate, senior catcher Jake Allen. “Kev has done an absolutely great job of taking that role and running with it.”
The Crimson carried positive momentum from its Spring Break training trip and the early Ivy League season into Tuesday night, a welcome sight for a team looking to establish self as the cream of the Ancient Eight, as well as the Massachusetts schools. Harvard had taken 2-of-3 games at Penn and at home against Princeton last weekend, setting the team up well for a six-game homestand against Yale and Cornell.
First baseman Patrick McColl entered the semifinal with a torrid start to the season, which saw him reach No. 1 in the country in batting average last week. But the senior was held down by the Huskies’ pitching, as was standout right fielder Jake Suddleson, who has shown exceptional power throughout the year thus far.
McColl and Suddleson were limited to a combined 0-of-6, with both reaching and scoring through bases on balls. Their runs, along with a Chad Minato single and a Northeastern fielding error, were enough offense for the entire evening for the defending champions.
In the sixth inning senior John MacLean, relieving Stone, came up with a huge strikeout with bases loaded to get out of the inning with the lead. MacLean, despite giving up a run in the frame, was a key bridge to the latter innings, tossing two innings of one-run ball, logging four strikeouts in the process. Freshman Harrison Stovern locked down the eighth inning without allowing a baserunner, setting the stage for junior closer Kieran Shaw to continue what has already been a historic season.
“I saw the staff do what they do best,” Allen said. “Fill up the zone, and every once in a while battle through the adversity.”
Shaw, who has already set the single-season record in saves for Harvard, locked down yet another flawless finish to a victory, despite lacking a single insurance run to work with. The Los Gatos, Calif., native entered the ninth inning, and secured the win with a flourish, mowing down the top of the Huskies’ lineup in 1-2-3 fashion for his ninth save this campaign.
“Kieran’s another guy who, first year or two, has been trying to figure out exactly his role on the team,” Allen said. “It’s been pretty cool to see him on the mound, I mean, I’m intimidated and I’m catching him.”
In the other semifinal, the University of Massachusetts defeated Boston College on the Eagles’ home diamond, winning by a 6-2 margin. Despite an abysmal 5-15 start to the season, the Minutemen advanced to the championship game, looking to secure the school’s first Beanpot Championship since the 2012 season.
The final will take place two weeks from tomorrow, on the afternoon of Wednesday April 17th. Harvard will have the opportunity to take the Fenway Park field that afternoon and secure a Beanpot championship, a dream come true for many Boston-area players donning the Crimson colors.
“It’s super exciting being a Red Sox fan, playing at Fenway, you feel like a little kid,” said Stone of the prospect of locking down a Beanpot title at Fenway Park. “It’s gonna be a moment I never forget for the rest of my life.”
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