After the wackiest weekend of Harvard baseball in quite a while, the Crimson returned to Cambridge two weeks ago with a lot to build on—and a lot to work on, too.
Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated.
With O’Donnell Field covered in snow most of this week, the team was pushed back indoors as it readied itself for its second test of the season—a weekend slate of two-games each with Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette which begins tomorrow in Lafayette, LA.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said earlier this week. “You have to go out there, and there’s a rhythm you have to get yourself in. And in the Northeast, that’s hard to do, because you aren’t playing every day because of the weather.”
Still the Crimson (2-2, 0-0 Ivy) isn’t making any excuses and expects to shake off some of the early season rust displayed during its four-game, season-opening stop in Texas two weeks ago—even if it has been practicing in Lavietes Pavilion again.
“It’s pretty frustrating going back inside for two weeks,” sophomore second baseman Zak Farkes said. “Everyone’s going kind of stir crazy, but we’ve been getting our work in.”
In the season’s first four games, Harvard’s offense was scarily good, and its pitching just plain scary.
The Crimson lineup combined to score 44 runs in two games each against Texas Tech and Air Force—including a school-record 25 in a 25-20 win over the Falcons—and blasted 10 homers during that same stretch.
But defensively, Harvard was not nearly as impressive.
Three of the Crimson’s four starters—all of whom were part of last year’s Ivy weekend rotation—struggled mightily, with only sophomore Frank Herrmann emerging, tossing a complete game in a 5-1 win over Air Force.
But considering Harvard played four games in two days—including a tripleheader on Saturday—all the while battling solid teams 10 games into their schedules, swirling winds and jet lag, the performances are probably not indicative of what the season holds.
“The field we played at (in Texas) was pretty ridiculous, with the turf infield and the win blowing out on Saturday,” junior catcher Schuyler Mann said. “But I’m confident that this weekend is going to be completely different for our pitching staff.”
And as in previous years, the opening stretch of non-conference games is hardly about wins and losses. Instead, it’s about improvement—figuring out pitching rotations and lineup combinations against solid competition—before the Ivy schedule heats up along with the weather.
“I think [playing tough competition early] really prepares us for the season,” Farkes said. “Our weaknesses get exposed early, so there aren’t any surprises when it comes time to play the Ivy season.”
The Crimson will face a particularly tough challenge in the Wolverines (6-5, 0-0 Big Ten), who have won five of their last six games, and are one of the most talented teams in Big Ten, though their record may not reflect it.
Two of Michigan’s losses came playing at No. 16 Florida in the Wolverine’s opening series. The Gators were already playing their 10th game of the season and cruised to a pair of wins, but were still impressed by their opponents’ talent. All-Southeastern Conference outfielder Ben Harrison said Michigan was probably one of the two best team’s they have faced, second to only No. 6 Miami.
“A lot of times [the early season schedule] is tough because they have the advantage of having played outside,” Mann said. “But it gives us satisfaction to go out there and beat teams when we have all the odds stacked against us.”
—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.