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Harvard Loses to Boston College, Fails to Advance in Beanpot

Senior first baseman Chris Snopek prepares to square up a pitch in a game last weekend against Brown. Snopek drove in five against BC, but Harvard still couldn't complete the comeback.
Senior first baseman Chris Snopek prepares to square up a pitch in a game last weekend against Brown. Snopek drove in five against BC, but Harvard still couldn't complete the comeback. By Courtesy of Dylan Goodman/Harvard Athletics

The Harvard baseball team’s offense has scored more than eight runs three times this season. Its record in those three games is 0-3. Unfortunately for the Crimson (4-17, 2-4 Ivy), its loss to the Boston College Eagles (16-11, 5-7 ACC) on Tuesday — in the semifinal game of the 33rd Baseball Beanpot — solidified a puzzling trend for the team: when the offense is firing on all cylinders, its hitters seem to be playing a constant game of catch-up. This time, the final score was 17-9.

“We gave it our all today in a three plus hour dogfight,” junior outfielder George Cooper said. “No one on either side of the field had any idea how the game was going to end.”

With the loss, the Crimson misses the chance to play for the Beanpot trophy for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Crimson took the Eagles to the wire in the championship, taking a heartbreaking loss when then-freshman infielder Nick Wang went deep off of then-freshman reliever Callan Fang for a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. In today’s game, Wang and Fang were both on the field, but Fang was in the batter’s box instead of on the mound, and the overall complexion of the contest was much different.

Coming off a taxing three-game series over the weekend against Brown, the Crimson’s pitching staff was depleted. The Joseph J. O’Donnell Head Coach Bill Decker elected to go with an opener, sending junior reliever Tanner Smith out with a one-inning mandate and hoping that the bullpen strategy would keep the Crimson competitive in the early innings.

The strategy had mixed results. Smith struggled to find the strike zone early, walking four Eagles’ batters and allowing BC to score a run without a hit. The Eagles also managed to establish their running game early, swiping two bags in the inning and testing freshman catcher Dominic Brancel’s resolve in just the rookie’s second start of the season. Smith pitched out of a jam by coaxing a groundout to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded and BC up 1-0.

The Crimson looked like it might strike back early in the bottom of the frame. Decker elected to start freshman shortstop Tyler Shulman in the lead-off spot, who grounded out, but junior outfielder George Cooper and senior outfielder Ben Rounds singled to put two men on for senior first baseman Chris Snopek. Snopek bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, though, ending the threat.

The Eagles extended the lead in the second, at first by taking advantage of Harvard miscues. Junior pitcher Cole Cleary, who replaced Smith, issued a walk to BC’s Nate McHugh and then made an errant throw on a pick-off attempt, allowing McHugh to advance to third. Then, with Patrick Roche at the plate, Cleary threw a low breaking ball that skipped past Brancel, allowing McHugh to scamper home. By the end of the inning, the Eagles had extended the lead to 4-0, dinging Cleary for two more runs off of a single, double, and a sac fly.

This Crimson team has gotten used to early deficits though, and quickly clawed back. After being held scoreless in the second by Eagles’ starter Brian McMonagle, Harvard got on the board in the third. Shulman and Cooper both reached on fielding errors, bringing Rounds up. The senior chopped a ball to second base that was bobbled by second baseman Vince Cimini, the third consecutive defensive miscue from the Eagles. The play was ruled a single, scoring Shulman and bringing up Snopek with two runners on. The senior fouled off four pitches before eventually lining a 1-2 fastball into left, bringing in Cooper and Rounds. Fang exacted revenge on the Eagles with an RBI single to center in the next at-bat, and the game was tied 4-4.

But the theme of playing catch-up continued, in part because of some dismal fielding from the Crimson’s infielders in the middle innings. Senior southpaw Uday Narrotam allowed four runs to the Eagles across two innings, in part due to back-to-back errors by freshman second baseman Jack Rickheim and sophomore third baseman Jordan Kang in the top of the fifth. The top of the sixth was the climax of the defensive disaster, with Brancel sailing a throw into center attempting to throw out a runner and Shulman booting a ground ball up the middle, leading Decker to swap Shulman and Rickheim in the middle infield. Still, the Eagles got one more gift in the top of the seventh, when an errant throw from Kang allowed two runners to score.

At the same time as it looked utterly listless in the field, the Crimson was constantly making up for its sins in the batter's box, starting in the bottom of the sixth. At the beginning of that inning, the Crimson trailed 10-4, but the lead quickly narrowed when Brancel blasted a hanging curveball over the trees in left, his first home run of the year. The Crimson continued to grind, using a single from senior outfielder Peter Messervy, a single from Rickheim, and an intentional walk to Rounds to load the bases for Snopek. The savvy senior made the Eagles pay for pitching around Rounds, working the count full and then clearing the bases with a double off the wall in center. The Crimson trailed 10-9.

With a runner on second, the batter was none other than Fang, who had a chance to flip the script and hit the go-ahead knock to complete the comeback. Fang gave veteran Eagles lefty Charlie Coon everything he had, battling through a nine-pitch at-bat before finally flying out to center to end the threat. Just like the last game the Crimson played against Brown, an impressive comeback effort meant that the Crimson trailed by just one run late in a game. Deja vú hung in the air.

In that game against Brown, the Crimson allowed seven runs in the final three frames and lost by eight. In a cruel turn of events, a very similar sequence played out against BC: Kang’s error in the seventh made the deficit 12-9, and an Eagles rally in the top of the eighth against junior reliever Nate Baxter extended the lead to 15-9. Kang came into pitch, hoping to limit the damage, but he promptly allowed a two-run single. Even after he navigated through the final two outs unscathed, the Crimson was staring at a daunting 17-9 deficit.

At that point, Decker seemed to wave the white flag. In the last two innings, the skipper pinch-hit freshman Lou Targoff for Rounds, junior first baseman Peter Levin for Fang, and sophomore infielder Justin King for Kang. Levin made the most of the unexpected at-bat, singling to center, but the infusion of youth didn’t otherwise light a spark in the lineup.

Despite the second straight ill-fated comeback attempt coming up short, Cooper noted the upside that the Crimson’s underclassmen showed in the loss. “Dom had an absolute breakout day at the plate,” the junior noted, shouting out Brancel’s three-for-five performance.

The Crimson will look to rebound in its second conference series on the road and its third Ivy series overall, a weekend bout with Cornell that kicks off tomorrow. The first game of the Saturday doubleheader will start at 2:00 p.m. in Ithaca and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.

—Staff writer Jack K. Silvers can be reached at

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