Shaking off the rust and applying a renewed focus across the board, senior Brian Lentz surpassed expectations as he led the Harvard baseball team to the Red Rolfe division title.
In addition to his collegiate accolades, Lentz recently signed with the Seattle Mariners. Lentz was able to sign as a free agent due to his status as a fifth-year senior.
After sitting out the 2002 season for academic reasons, Lentz’s literal comeback began in March, when Harvard officially began its season with him in the lineup.
“A second chance to come back, it’s nice,” Lentz said. “You have a chance to come and play college baseball again, go to school, do all the things that you like to do.”
As the season progressed, the numbers tell the story. Lentz finished the year third in batting average in the Ivy League, hitting .373 for the season and leading Harvard in hits (57) and doubles (16).
Lentz earned first-team All-Ivy honors again as a catcher and has also been named a Division I second-team All-Star by the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Coaches Association. Lentz was the only Harvard player to be so honored.
In his 2001 junior season, Lentz hit just .269 but did place second on the team with 26 RBIs. As a sophomore, he was named to the All-Ivy League First Team but still only hit .283. But it was not until this season that Lentz finally showed his full potential at the plate.
“A lot of professional scouts, especially before this season, have questioned whether Brian can hit at the next level, but I think he proved he can hold his own this year,” senior pitcher Madhu Satyanarayana said. “Brian should have good success in the minor leagues after Harvard. Good catchers are not easy to come by.”
But Lentz’s accomplishments were not defined solely by his prowess on offense.
At the start of the year, Harvard coach Joe Walsh knew that he would need to find a way to play both Lentz and sophomore Schuyler Mann, both of whom excel defensively behind the plate. While Walsh wanted to platoon Lentz and Mann at catcher, he needed both bats in the lineup. Lentz learned how to play first base and the outfield in order to stay on the field with Mann. But when junior Trey Hendricks went down with a season-ending injury with two weeks remaining in the regular season, Lentz’s versatility became invaluable.
“I thought Lentz was our most consistent ballplayer all year long,” Walsh said. “It’s easy to forget that he played first base and the outfield for us in a year that he was being looked at by scouts as a defensive catcher. That he was willing to go and do that for us so we could get Schuyler’s bat in the lineup was pretty unselfish for a senior.”
Lentz became the Crimson’s full-time first baseman when Hendricks’ knee injury forced him out of the lineup. He also moved into the cleanup slot to pick up the slack.
Although Harvard’s division title hopes seemed slim without Hendricks, Lentz took it upon himself to carry the load. He was at his best in the team’s biggest games, including the final regular season weekend against Dartmouth.
With the Rolfe Division Championship up for grabs, Harvard needed to sweep the Big Green at home to come away with the title. After winning game one, Harvard’s season came down to a do-or-die game two—and Lentz came up with his finest performance of the year. He went five-for-five from the plate, scoring three runs and driving in two as Harvard emerged victorious, 14-10.
“I was happy for him that he had a pretty good day at the plate, and he shut down their running game as well,” Walsh said after the game.