Friday, March 31, 2006

Crimson Beats St. Thomas, Ivy Season Starts Saturday

Things we'll probably see slightly less of starting this Saturday, a partial list:
1. Matt Brunnig, outfielder

Because it's unsure how often we'll get to do it again, we'll mention here that Matt went 0-for-3 with a walk as the starting left fielder, reached on an error and scored in Thursday's 8-5 win over St. Thomas. Adam Cole and Shawn Haviland got light work in a game in which Harvard used seven pitchers. That should put them in line to start the Saturday games at Princeton, with Cole presumably taking the hill in the early (7-inning) game. We expect Brunnig to start the Sunday 7-inning game against Cornell. The identity of Sunday's other starter is a bit murkier, but the official SoBB guess is freshman lefty Ryan Watson gets the nod over Javy Castellanos, Brad Unger and Jake Bruton.

Matt Vance played center field for the first time since shoulder issues forced him to DH. One can assume that he'll be a fixture there with Salsgiver in right and perhaps a few different looks in left--Tom Stack-Babich (whose bat will likely be in the lineup every game one way or the other) and freshman Matt Rogers will be your likely LF/DH candidates, with Chris Mackey becoming a part of the conversation again with his strong hitting over the course of the break.

How many of those games does Matt Kramer start at catcher? The sophomore has started five games over the past week and it .389 in 18 at-bats so far, including his first home run. Kramer went 0-for-4 tonight before being lifted late in the game for junior Andrew Casey.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Yesterday's Final: Fla. Int'l 10, Harvard 1

Another rough go of it last night. A Tom Stack-Babich double in the eighth was responsible for Harvard's only run, as the offense has been quieted two nights in a row since Monday's explosion. Josh Klimkiewicz and Steffan Wilson had two hits apiece, but the top three guys in the order were 1-for-12 last night.

Taylor Meehan, who had pitched well in two relief appearances so far this season, struggled as last night's starter. He did bear down to escape unscathed from a jam in the third with runners at second and third and one out, but was lifted in the fifth for Jason Brown.

Tonight's game, against St. Thomas at 7pm, is Harvard's final tuneup before heading north for Saturday's doubleheader at Princeton.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Name that Starter

Harvard meets Florida International tonight. At 7 pm, you'll be able to follow the game live here.

So, who gets the start tonight? Post your prediction in the comments section anytime in the next hour. Winner gets a prize. Keep in mind that Princeton looms on Saturday, which would seem to preclude Adam Cole or Shawn Haviland except maybe for a shortened stint. My guess: junior Jake Bruton gets a turn to show his stuff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Looking for a lefty, Walsh leans on rookies

Besides figuring out his weekend rotation, skipper Joe Walsh seems also to be using the Crimson’s nonconference schedule to identify a reliable lefthander that he can use at will out of the pen.

It’s an important role: many are the late-game situations where a critical out against an opposing team’s lefthanded slugger can be the difference between preserving a lead or blowing it, keeping a game close or seeing it slip away. During the stretch run of Harvard’s 2002 title run, southpaw Kenon Ronz thrived in this spot. Between Ronz and then-senior Mike Dryden, Harvard had a reliable lefty-righty combo setting up for that year’s closer, Barry Wahlberg. It made for predictable late-game situations, which, in turn, inspired confidence in close ballgames.

While much remains up in the air with regard to the respective late-inning roles of righties such as Steffan Wilson, Lance Salsgiver, Jason Brown and Taylor Meehan, among others, a hierarchy may be emerging among the team’s lefties. Senior Mike Dukovich entered the season as the incumbent, but has struggled in his first four appearances. Meanwhile, Walsh has displayed growing confidence in a pair of rookies: Ryan Watson and Hampton Foushee. Of the two, Watson makes for a particularly interesting case, since Walsh seems inclined to give him every chance of making the rotation, but both have been relied on-—and both have showed hints of promise—-in this early going.

Consider the trial-by-fire manner Walsh has utilized his two rookies, starting with Watson:

· In the team's second game against Florida, with Harvard trying to stay in striking distance down 4-0, Walsh brings Watson on for his first collegiate appearance with one out and a runner on third to face the lefthanded hitting Brian Jeroleman. Watson retires Jeroleman on a fly-out, though it's deep enough to get the run home, and later induces a groundout to retire the side. Despite encountering some expected jitters--Watson walked four, threw a wild pitch and committed a balk--he only allows one run, unearned in two full innings.
· In the seventh inning of Saturday's loss to Jacksonville, with two runs already home to grow the Dolphins' lead to 8-3, Watson is brought in to face the lefthanded-hitting Logan James with runners on second and third and just one out. He has a rough go of it, giving up four singles before getting the inning's final two outs.
· Then, just last night, Watson earns his first start against Barry. He struggled--he walked five and served up back-to-back gopher balls--but got four of his first five outs on Ks (all swings-and-misses), showing flashes of promise likely to earn him another shot at starting before the week is out.

Foushee has been introduced into the mix more gradually. He’s gotten just as many appearances, but they've been more abbreviated.

· Against Jacksonville last Friday, he went three up, three down in his first-ever inning of relief work.

· On Sunday's series finale with the Dolphins, Walsh brings in Foushee to turn around Jacksonville switch hitter Tony Bernazard after seeing Bernazard single from the right side off Matt Brunning an inning earlier. Bernazard hits into a fielder's choice, and Foushee, his job done, is lifted.

· Then, tonight, Foushee gets the ball with a man on second and one out in the sixth, and turns in a pretty solid performance. Take away two errors that weren't his fault but opened the floodgates for five unearned runs, and Foushee would have hurled 2.2 scoreless innings. As it is, his ERA still stands at 0.00 through his five innings this year.

What does all this mean? Nothing for sure, but in a crowded pen with plenty of righthanders who have yet to settle into a precise niche, Walsh seems to have certain plans in mind for his two young lefties. The hoped-for scenario may play out like this: Projected as a starter, Watson continues to get an open-ended audition to make the rotation, persisting as an option perhaps into the Ivy season as Walsh waits out his early control struggles. In the meantime, Walsh is fearless in inserting him in important relief situations, even to face righties and for extended stretches as merited. Foushee, for his part, gets a growing number of appearances, but on a situational basis. In time, he becomes a stabilizing influence in the go-to specialist role Walsh loves to reserve for a steady lefthander.

Tonight's Final: FAU 11, Harvard 1

Five costly errors and more strikeouts (10) than hits (8) spell defeat tonight.

Walsh goes to his bench ...

... as the game has slipped away. Harvard heads into the eighth trailing 11-1 with most of its starters pulled. The Owls got four unearned runs in the seventh when a Brendan Byrne throwing error extended the inning.

Harvard Trails FAU 6-1 in the 6th

Castellanos hasn't been hit outrageously hard--a two-run homer after a hit-batsman in the second was the biggest single blow--but he hasn't had an easy inning since the first. Three Harvard errors haven't helped. Castellanos does have six Ks to show for his five innings, another sign of the pure power we all know he has in deep supply. Sophomore catcher Matt Kramer, who is quietly doing a heck of a job at the bottom of that order, has belted a homer for Harvard's lone run.

Casting Call for Castellanos

After a string of pretty good relief appearances (5.1 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 4 K in last three appearances), senior Javy Castellanos gets a second chance to make a first impression as a starter right now against Florida Atlantic.

Never one to recycle lineup cards, Walsh is trying a revamped top of the order tonight, with Morgan Brown at leadoff, Salsgiver second, and Vance third. This is Vance's fourth different home in the order, and Salsgiver's third. Hmmm. Also, senior Chris Mackey gets the nod in right after his solid hitting performance yesterday.

We'll provide an occasional update during tonight's game, as well as get some other, non-time-sensitive material up for your collective consideration. Go Crimson.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Live from Spring Break, it's the Lance & Vance Show

More great news from Florida on Monday, as Harvard pulled out an 11-9 win over Lynn University and persevered through a 6-6, 11-inning marathon tie with Barry: Harvard's bats are heating up, and none more than the ones belonging to sophomore Matt Vance and senior Lance Salsgiver. The pair--two of the Crimson's toolsy-est guys--had seven hits apiece in today's double-dip, combining for 10 runs and, my favorite stat of all, six steals.

Cliff Notes version of today's action, courtesy of the boxscores:

In Game One against Lynn, the Northeast's swiftest designated hitter legged out a two-run triple in the eighth innning to knot the game at 9-9 after Harvard had trailed, then raced home from third with the winning run on a suicide squeeze play. You read that right: a suicide squeeze play. Love that call. Given the situation, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to Lynn, but that just makes the execution of it by Morgan Brown all the more impressive. The squeeze, by the way, was the second of two occasions in this particular game that Brown bunted to advance Vance. Brown didn't have a hit in Game One, but he continues to do all the little things necessary to win. In fact, the whole team was executing today. The aggressiveness stands out just by reading the box score, as it seems Walsh had the green light on the whole game. Consider this: on the day, Harvard had 17 runs and just one homer, a solo shot at that. The power will come, no one is worried about that. That Harvard can score 16 runs--all but one earned--by means other than the homer is vintage Crimson baseball.

The one homer Harvard did hit? Belonged to what's-his-name, Salsgiver, who didn't do much else in Game One except come up a double short of the cycle. And welcome back, Chris Mackey, who matched Lance and Vance with three hits of his own against Lynn, to go along with three RBI. His RBI single in the ninth provided a valuable insurance run that gave a little extra cushion for sophomore Shawn Haviland, who was available today thanks to his abbreviated start Saturday and shut down Lynn over the final 3.1 innings to get the win.

In the second game, which was called after 11 innings, Salsgiver and Vance again provided instant offense. With Vance moved down to the two-hole in this game and Salsgiver working out of his customary third slot, the pair were hitting back-to-back and they went tit-for-tat with each other all game long, not just at the plate, but on the basepaths. Tell me this play-by-play from the seventh inning isn't a sight for sore eyes:

Harvard 7th - Mackey grounded out to 2b. Vance singled, bunt. Vance
stole second. Salsgiver singled to third base; Vance advanced to third. Bernat
to p for Davila. Salsgiver stole second; Vance stole home. Salsgiver stole

That's four stolen bases in one inning, including a swipe of home, and one run scored without a ball leaving the frickin' infield. Mercy.

And oh yeah, Salsgiver came in to pitch an inning later with an inherited runner, yet escaped the inning, and then went on to pitch three more shutout innings before the game was called. Tell me again: how is this kid is still in school, and not among his dearly departed classmates who signed and left early? Hell if I know, but thank you, baseball gods. He may be the best prospect of them all when it's all said and done.

I could go on, but there's way too much to digest from today's two games, and we're going to save the rest of it for tomorrow. A final thought for tonight, though: there are so many possibilities with this lineup, especially the top two-thirds, it's sick. Up until now, the offense has been overlooked a bit because the pitching has been finding itself and Harvard has been playing behind in so many games. Not anymore. O'Donnell is going to be a fun place to watch baseball this spring.

Harvard leads Lynn, 6-3, in the 4th

Listen to the game live by clicking here and following the "LIVE AUDIO" link in the upper right corner. Do so at your own risk--I'm pretty sure NASA's Apollo-era lunar module was equipped to transmit better audio.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thank You, Mr. Meehan

The pictures you've been seeing on the blog in recent days are courtesy of Mr. James Meehan, Taylor's dad. The elder Meehan snapped some pretty high-quality action shots during the season's first several games and was kind enough to share them with Marty last week. We greatly appreciate the contribution, which has certainly helped spruce up the content around here.

Seniority Rules.

Senior Matt Brunnig was back where he belonged Sunday: pitching on the weekend.

The 6'6 veteran (at right) went seven strong innings, making a compelling case to start one of next weekend's Ivy games, and fellow senior Josh Klimkiewicz jacked a clutch, three-run homer to lift Harvard to a 7-5 win over Jacksonville this afternoon.

Coming in on the heels of back-to-back blowouts that depleted Harvard's pitching corps, Brunnig came up big. He scattered eight hits (three were infield singles) and walked just one hitter to earn his first win of the year. After Harvard pieced together a four-run sixth to snap a 3-3 tie, Brunnig protected the lead for two more innings until giving way to the Hunch Bunch, as skipper Joe Walsh deployed a head-scratching hodge-podge of relievers to earn the game's final six outs. Steffan Wilson struggled in his curiously timed spring debut as a pitcher, but a 1-inning cameo by Friday's starter Adam Cole helped stopped the bleeding and Jason Brown recorded the final out to earn the save.

Today also offered a glimpse of the level of production Harvard's offense should be capable of this year. Harvard's scoring was confined to two innings, but those innings contained promising displays of patient hitting, moving along of runners, and raw power.

Trailing 2-0 in the fourth, Morgan Brown and Lance Salsgiver sprayed back-to-back singles to open the inning. Jacksonville then pitched carefully to Steffan Wilson, and Wilson didn't try to do too much, walking on four pitches. After Klimkiewicz also walked to collect one of his four RBIs on the day, Matt Vance--moved into the middle of the order after managing just three hits in his last 17 ABs in the leadoff spot--laced a two-run single to right-center.

In the seventh, Harvard broke the game open with four runs, first via some smallball. After sophomore catcher Matt Kramer reached on an infield single, Chris Mackey bunted pinch runner Max Warren over to second, Morgan Brown grounded out to the right side to move Warren to third, and Wilson scratched out another infield hit to give Harvard a 4-3 lead. Then up came Klimkiewicz, who clubbed a 3-2 pitch over the left field with two on and two outs. Pretty clutch job--the runs later proved critical as Harvard's bullpen only narrowly preserved the win.

Certainly a lot of positives to take away from today's game. The win should provide a big momentum boost going into a busy week of contests, which begins tomorrow with a day-night doubleheader. Another senior (and weekend candidate) Javy Castellanos is a strong possibility to pitch in one of tomorrow's games, coming off a strong 2.2-inning appearance yesterday. If he does go, and can match Brunnig's effectiveness, the Crimson's pitching situation may finally begin to come into focus.

Go Get 'Em, 7

It is indeed Brunnig on the hill. Also, Harvard's lineup moves Matt Vance down to the six hole, and tries out rookie Matt Rogers in the leadoff spot.

Here we go, boys.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

On Deck: The Hippie in Game Three?

Save for Captain Morgan, really the only pitcher not to throw so far in Jacksonville has been senior Matt Brunnig, suggesting the shaggy-haired Floridian whom Sky Mann playfully calls the "hippie" may get the start in Sunday's series finale at 1 pm.

Let us know if you know otherwise, but assuming we're not misreading the situation and Brunnig does get the ball, this bodes as a potentially impactful appearance from Harvard's 6'6 question mark. It's no secret that skipper Joe Walsh is still auditioning pitchers for at least two of the coveted weekend starter roles, and with the Ivy League season less than a week away, now is really the time to make an impression.

Coming off a solid relief appearance last weekend against New York Tech, Brunnig seems positioned to earn the right to start against either Cornell or Princeton next weekend if he turns in an impressive outing tomorrow.

Since his rookie year, Brunnig has been hyped as a special talent, with all-Ivy potential. With Cole and Haviland struggling this weekend and only certain elements of the bullpen inspiring confidence so far, Brunnig could emerge as a difference-maker this season. More than a few times in the recent past, we've seen a Harvard pitcher go from unknown quantity to go-to guy in his senior season. Also working in Brunnig's favor is the fact that he has traditionally been one of the team's more reliable strike-throwers--so far this year, he's got just one walk in over five innings of work.

Long story short, he is definitely capable of replicating--or even surpassing--his rookie year success in 2006. We're rooting for him.

Control Problems Doom Harvard Again

Sophomore starter Shawn Haviland fell behind in too many counts and Harvard fell behind quickly on the scoreboard en route to a 16-4 loss in Jacksonville this afternoon.

Haviland (seen above) struggled every bit as much as rookie Adam Cole did Friday, and exited the game just as promptly. Back-to-back walks to start the game led to three first-inning runs. The second inning didn't go much better; after a single, walk and another single, Haviland was pulled for Jason Brown.

Despite trailing 5-0 after two innings, Harvard manufactured three runs in the next two frames. Lance Salsgiver provided a two-run double and Chris Mackey singled home another run to close the gap to 5-3. Also of note: Steffan Wilson (3-for-4, with three doubles, yesterday) apparently made enough of an impression on Jacksonville that he was intentionally walked with two outs in the third inning. It worked; Josh Klimkiewicz flied out to right to end the inning, stranding two.

This was a close game until the seventh, when things slipped away, again on account of control issues. Reliever Brad Unger faced six hitters and walked four of them. Five runs were eventually charged to him, spoiling what had been a 2.2-inning hitless relief stint by Javy Castellanos, as Walsh's trial-and-error approach with his pitching staff continued to produce mixed results.

Harvard looks to salvage one game in this three-game set tomorrow at 1 pm. The game can be monitored live by clicking here.

Walsh Reprises 'Captain Hook' Role at JAX

For the second time in as many days, Harvard's starter has failed to pitch into the third inning. Today, sophomore Shawn Haviland gets an early hook, lasting exactly 1.1 innings, as another lopsided loss looms in Jacksonville. Control issues continue to hurt Harvard's cause.

You can follow the game, in progress, via Jacksonville University's GameTracker. More later.

Friday Night Blights

In what is hopefully just a hiccup and not a setback for the rotation, freshman starter Adam Cole (pictured at left) was less than his usual self Friday, getting a quick hook after just 1.1 innings, as Harvard fell to Jacksonville University, 14-3, in the Crimson's spring break opener.

Jacksonville came as good as advertised. Validating Jason Brown's complimentary assessment in yesterday's Crimson, the Dolphins pounded out 14 hits and led 10-0 after just three innings. Harvard was never in this one, though Steffan Wilson snapped out of a 3-for-17 funk, slugging three doubles and knocking in two of Harvard's three runs. The other positive sign for the good guys: though the game was out of hand early, four relievers combined to give up just one earned run in the bullpen's final six innings of work.

As for Cole, he was wild from the outset, walking the first hitter of the game and three of the ten batters he faced in all. He escaped the first inning with just one run allowed, but a solo homer to start the second signalled more trouble. By the time Cole surrendered a one-run, one out double to the fourth batter of that inning, Walsh decided he had seen enough, pulling him for lefthander Mike Dukovich, who struggled mightly before being lifted for Taylor Meehan.

The burning question of this game: Was Cole bothered by something health-wise? Or was Walsh, seeing that Cole just didn't have it on this particular day, saving him for another start during this compact spring break stretch? Probably (hopefully) the latter. We'll know soon enough--if healthy, Cole could take another turn as soon as Monday, when Harvard plays a doubleheader.

The three-game series with Jacksonville continues through tomorrow.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hit the Road

10 days, 12 games. Jacksonville (3), Lynn, Barry, Florida Atlantic, FIU, St. Thomas, and then the first Ivy games (doubleheaders at Princeton and defending Gehrig Division champion Cornell) on April 1-2. One can only hope that by that time, they'll have a rotation set. The Crimson's Jonathan Lehman quotes Morgan Brown as saying that Matt Brunnig will get a start this week, along with Brad Unger, who pitched very well against NY Tech.

One can only hope that a Brunnig or a Castellanos really establishes himself here. (One can also idly wonder "what if"--like, "What if Frank Herrmann were still around to start the seven-inning game in New Jersey?"--but I say that now only because my gut tells me that's the last time this what if will come up this season).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spring Break Road Trip

Official preview here, including links to live scoring for the upcoming games.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fellow Submarines

Interesting (and interestingly timed and titled) piece on Jason Brown, Mike Myers and the art of the submarine delivery.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were at home for October’s American League Division Series with Chicago. On their roster was a 36-year old veteran pitcher named Mike Myers who, like Brown, threw from the rare “submarine” arm slot.

Unbeknownst to Brown, Myers kept in contact with Walsh, a former Cape League coach.

“I got a phone call that Mike Myers wanted to use [O’Donnell Field],” Walsh says. “He was going to work out a guy in the minors...who was dropping down.”

Brown was on his way to class in the afternoon when he received a call on his cell phone. It was Walsh.

“Hey, Mike’s going to be down here this afternoon at 1:00,” the coach said. “Would you want to go down and get a chance to work with him?”

Says Brown, “I immediately left class and went straight down.”

Brown worked with Myers for more than half an hour, correcting subtle kinks in his delivery.

For one, Walsh says, Myers instructed Brown to dip down as he attacked the plate rather than before, as he had previously done. Myers also helped him with his arm angle and demonstrated an improved sidearmer grip.

“He was a really nice guy, really patient,” Brown says. “Because nothing came to me quick when I was working with him...He was willing to just work with me. He didn’t count it as, like, a hassle or like I was bugging him or anything.”

All of a sudden, Brown was throwing darts. His pitch movement had increased. His slider broke harder. His control had improved.

“This fall,” Walsh says, “he’s throwing 83, nobody can touch him. Nobody. I can’t wait to wheel him out. His ball is just tch tch tch tch. When we have indoor workouts, if Jason’s throwing in the cage and somebody’s throwing 90 in the other cage, [the batters] all jump in the 90 cage. He’s making guys look silly.”
Also, Frank Herrmann contributes Part III of his spring training diary, which has been a delight. (Part II was here.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Solid contribution out of the bullpen? Check.

First victory of the season? Check.

Harvard's surprise super sub, senior RHP/LHP/PH Matt Brunnig, hurled four perfect innings of relief Sunday, preserving Harvard's first win of the year, 3-2, over New York Tech.

Starter (and emerging weekend option?) Brad Unger went the first five innings, allowing just three hits (all singles), to earn the win. He did allow five walks, which along with a couple untimely passed balls, paved the way for two unearned runs for NYTech.

Taylor Meehan had the at-bat of the game, ripping a two-run double in the fourth that put Harvard ahead to stay. Andrew Casey, Tom Stack-Babich and Matt Vance each had two base knocks, pacing a 10-hit attack for Harvard.

Back to Brunnig: 12 up, 12 down to earn his fifth career save. His ERA is still hovering at 9.00--this, thanks to a dubious relief inning in Harvard's 17-6 dismantling at Florida, where he had five earned runs charged to him after retiring the first two batters of said inning--and the jury has remained out on Brunnig for three-plus years. Still, today's outing--along with the random pinch-hitting success of late (he had his first career RBI yesterday)--is enough to stir an optimist to wonder if this isn't the year Brunnig might finally put it together. Here's hoping.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Still looking for the win column

Crimson dropped both today. 9-6 in the first game (Haviland 2 1/3, 7h, 6r, 4er, 2bb, 2k), 3-2 in the second (Cole 6 2/3, 6h, 2er, 4k). Interestingly, Javy Castellanos pitched in both games in relief. That would suggest that someone else is going tomorrow. Ryan Watson, perhaps?

Tom Stack-Babich collected his first four collegiate hits in the two games.

JV baseball guy makes good

A bit of self-indulgence for the writer types among us: Congrats to Jon Paul Morosi '04, former Crimson sportswriter, who was recently named a baseball beat guy at the Detroit Free Press, where he'll get the chance to cover his hometown team, the Tigers. Jon mostly wrote hockey during his stint with the Crimson, but he played plenty of baseball for Harvard's JV squad, and appreciated the Harvard baseball program as much as anyone.

For those of us who paid attention to these things, Jon followed in the tradition of one Daniel G. Habib, Sports Illustrated's baseball insider and all-around legend, as someone who understood not just the sport, but also the craft, better than almost anyone. A good example of Jon's talent can be found here. If we're lucky, maybe Jon will be able to pitch in with an occasional contribution here at SoBB. Props to Marty for finding out about this.

Again: congrats, Jon.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Media Roundup

The Crimson talks about throwing strikes. Rob Wheeler gets some mention in this article about ROTC. Harvard plays New York Tech in its first cold outdoor games this weekend. Cole and Haviland (who won his first ever decision there last year) will pitch on Saturday. Javy Castellanos will start Sunday's game.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mann alive

A hearty welcome to new SoBB contributor and Crimson catching legend Schuyler Mann.

Opening weekend losses, a Crimson tradition

With this my 5th year of emotional investment in Harvard Baseball, I can tell you that the beginning to this season is no different than any of the past four. In one respect, this is of course bad because the Crimson was handed 3 lopsided losses – not the most proud of traditions to establish. On the other hand, two of the last four Crimson squads went on to win the Ivy League with similar beginnings when pitted against ranked southern schools (i.e. Rice, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas Tech).

That said, this year’s edition has nothing to worry about. After four years of being on the receiving end of a few blowout defeats, one learns how to recognize the positives regardless of score. So here’s my take on why dem good ol’ boys should keep their heads up, and also where they’ll need to improve to keep the Ivy Title at O’Donnell.

Swingin’ the shillaly:
The biggest challenge the Harvard team faces every season is adjusting to “real” baseball after being cooped up inside basketball and tennis courts through the Boston winter. This year’s edition came out swinging, as always. With 26 hits over their first 3 games against nationally ranked pitching, the Crimson will not have to worry about offensive output as they have not over the past few seasons. Klem, Steffan, and Lance will all have great years at the plate and it sounds like some newcomers will have impact years as well. Captain Mo will have a good solid year all-around, having already contributed a long ball to his versatile offerings.

The guys will have to concentrate on walking more, and striking out less, something I always sucked at, but hey it’s gotta be done. This will give Walsh more chances to run, run, run.

Pitching Whoa’s!
24 BB's, 7 HBP’s, and 6 WP’s. That’s a lot of poorly aimed pitches for three games. A tremendous amount really. There’s clearly a lot of rust on the rubber, and the pitching staff will have to turn it around pretty quickly to give the team a shot at winning. There’s just so much talent in the Crimson arms though. As a catcher, I know it. There is absolutely no reason that Bruton, Castellanos, that hippie Brunnig, and Haviland shouldn’t have great years. All of them need constant reminders that there is a defense working hard out there for them. Bruton will need movement on his fastball and be able to throw his sharp slider and yakker for strikes. Javy C just needs to concentrate on filling the zone with his hard fastball. No need to get pretty out there. Haviland will find his rhythm with time. And Brunnig, with the best tools of them all, just needs to breathe out of his eyelids, stay loose, and let it fly.

The bullpen will be led by Jason Brown. He needs to set the tone for other relievers like Duke and Taylor Meehan. The objective for them is to challenge hitters with a mix of pitches. Keep them off balance and swinging. All three have plenty of good pitches to work with, if only they throw strikes.

Harvard’s catchers will have to work to get the most out of this pitching staff. Big Casey is a hell of a catcher and strong-willed. He knows how to keep those idiot pitchers in line.

Equal Opportunity Line-ups:
Walsh has never had any qualms about getting freshman into the line-up to “see what they can do.” Though I know little about this freshman class, I do see that many of them are getting playing time and making the most of it. Cole was outstanding in his debut and this Rodgers character delivered a big hit. Strong contributions from a freshman class are important to the success of the team. It drives the older guys to work harder to keep their spots, and it gives the young guys a chance at game experience in their first year. If you look at the past couple of years, guys like Haviland, Wilson, Farkes, and Klem all made huge impacts in their first go-around. This year should be no different as the young bucks seem to be earning respect from Walsh already.

(And I say this lovingly…) Walsh’s Wild Hair:
The craziest decision that Walsh made in the opening weekend, the one that has left me scratching my head a few thousand miles away, was putting Brunnig in to pinch hit. Then again, it worked. Unless there was a typo in the media, Brunnig got and AB and a hit. I remember Brunnig always telling me and the other hitters how easy our job was (to our chagrin) but I guess he proved himself right. Still, I think he should get his goofy ass back on that mound and throw heat.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gainesville Sweep

17-6, Florida. Salsgiver bats .500 for the series. Justin Roth, Matt Rogers get first career hits. Morgan Brown proves the most effective bullpen option of the weekend (2 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings with the game out of reach).

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The At-the-Game Report: Game Two

More from our eyes in Gainesville... LAS wrote this up AND took pictures for us... SoBB is grateful... and amused that she figured into the answer to between-innings Florida-Harvard trivia question...

"Haviland looked pretty good early -- a few too many balls, but good -- but this time of year all the guys don't have much stamina on the mound yet, and it showed as the game went on. His curve ball -- which looked sharp early -- started not to fall in, and Walsh had to pull him. Then the bull pen had some of the same difficulties as yesterday, though there were definitely fewer walks."

"The biggest difference between Florida and Harvard right now (when Florida's not really hitting and missing LaPorta) is the bullpen. The Augenstein was lights out again (with the exception of his last frame), and then the Gators brought in O'Day (a submariner, who is their closer), and he was very good after giving up a hit to open the inning. Lack of bullpen depth is clearly an issue for the Crimson in games like this. Ryan Watson battled hard in his debut -- I don't think he allowed an earned run -- but he walked too many guys. With a team in an offensive slump like Florida, you need strike throwers, and no one coming out of the pen the past two days seemed to come in and put the ball over the plate early and often. It's early in the season and this is the kind of thing that can be remedied. It will also get less important as you reach Ivies -- where starters go longer, and 1/2 the games are only seven innings -- but it will probably be an issue tomorrow. Let's hope Javi can eat up some innings, and someone can get the ball to Wilson with a Harvard lead (unless, of course, Chas is pitching)."

"Aside from that, let's see. Lance had a pretty good day, getting clean hits off of both Florida pitchers, and showing off his arm on a throw from the far right field corner that hit third base on what I think was one bounce. The infield play got a little sloppy near the end of the game, but overall the defense and situational baseball has been pretty darn good for this time of the season."

Florida 10, Harvard 2

Matt Brunnig singles, scores from first on a Vance double, plays right field.

More later.

Game One Observations

Former Crimson beat writer and utterly disinterested observer Lande submits the following notes from her seat in Gainesville:

Cole: "Adam Cole was great. He pretty clearly tired in the sixth(?), but before that he was really in control the whole game. The Florida lineup has been in a serious -- and for me, somewhat disturbing slump -- and when Cole was out there, it didn't look like there was any way the team was coming out of it. He mixed up his pitches and located well, got a lot of ground balls, it was a nice job by a kid making his first collegiate start."

Morgan Brown: "Morgan Brown looked great. Between his home run (which was a shot to left center), a pretty little bunt single, and an impressive day at short (highlighted by a diving stab of a line drive with a man on third), he looked as good as anyone on the field for either team. Ball got him swinging on what looked like a pretty breaking pitch, but overall, I was really impressed with Morgan, as I usually am."

And the obvious: "After Cole came out, things got ugly pretty quickly, just because the other guys we brought in (up until Meehan), really struggled to throw strikes. It was a little painful at times, especially with the whole Florida crowd chanting at them (the crowd inexplicably calls every pitcher 'Earl', and just rips on them the whole time...)."

More notes: Cole had his control problems, throwing only 37 of his 77 pitches for strikes. That he only allowed 2 hits in 5+ anyway is even more of a testament to his poise on the mound yesterday.

Morgan Brown had one home run all of last season.

The Gators had only given up five homers all season (17 games, 150 innings) before last night's two.

Game Two at 2pm. Live audio here. If last night was any indication, this team can be beaten if you can get 7 quality innings out of Haviland and turn it over to Salsgiver-Wilson. Tomorrow's Game Three has been moved up to noon to accommodate Harvard's travel schedule; no inning will start after 3.

Florida 12, Harvard 6

...despite a strong outing from Adam Cole. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Opening Day!

Freshman Adam Cole will indeed start tonight's game (6:30) at No. 13 Florida. Talk about a baptism by fire... or maybe not since the Gators really haven't been hitting lately. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy, lows around 60, highs around 90-91 on the gun if the advance press is any indication. Could be interesting. Shawn Haviland will start game two tomorrow at 2pm against Brian Augenstein (4-0, 1.15 ERA) in a battle of aces. Javy Castellanos starts the third game. I'd gotten some reports that his velocity was down this spring, maybe that's not the case.

Live audio here! (WRUF)

Or, tune in to Live Stats linked off Harvard's site here ("Gametracker")

The Crimson reports in its game preview that Matt Vance is DHing due to shoulder problems. This moves Tom Stack-Babich to the outfield.

Here is the Florida Preview.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Herrmann's Head

Good day for the Crimson. On the same day its baseball preview comes out, they debut one of the more intriguing features in a long while, Frank Herrmann's diary of Indians camp.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ask And You Shall Receive...

Some days after the Sons of Bart Brush Preview Spectacular, the Crimson has put its own baseball preview online. Very good stuff here, as usual. Some highlights:

* Morgan Brown is bouncing back from a horrifying summer ball accident, one that recalls an even worse event in recent Harvard baseball history.

* Walsh pretty much sums up the rotation:
Coach Joe Walsh traces a big question mark in the air with his forefinger.
He then pauses, before repeating the exercise and drawing an invisible exclamation point.
“You could throw either one of those on there,” he says.
A lot of other fun tidbits in here as well.

* Matt Vance, lone bright light from last year's NCAAs, wants to bat leadoff. You may recall that Vance had a coming out party this first March weekend last year, and must've had an OBP around .600. Let's see who they bat leadoff: Vance, Salsgiver, maybe this kid Rogers whose speed Walsh loves so much.

* Lance Salsgiver gets remarkably candid about his Harvard career and his expectations: "My college seasons here at Harvard, to be honest, have been pretty mediocre in terms of what I wanted to accomplish... For some reason, I haven’t been able to put together a good season. Every year, it seems as if there’s a slump or two hitting-wise, and the season’s so short that one bad day starts to snowball."

* An ode to the two-sport athlete, an endangered species generally, but less so at O'Donnell.

Read them all and enjoy. posts its season preview

Here. Pretty standard stuff. Everyone's awesome on paper. Typical downplaying of the freshmen (the odds of Adam Cole starting Game One against Florida are actually quite high).

Hopefully, we'll have some additional Crimson coverage this week. We're working on another multimedia feature idea, as well as the usual stuff we do, so stay tuned.