The Harvard baseball team begins its conference schedule this weekend on the road. (Gil Talbot)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – After a week off following its spring trip to South Carolina and Florida, the Harvard baseball team returns to action this weekend with its Ivy League openers. The Crimson (4-13) is set to Princeton on Saturday and Cornell on Sunday for a pair of doubleheaders to kick off Ancient Eight play.
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A Look at Harvard
Sitting at 4-13 after trips to Oklahoma, South Carolina and Florida, the Crimson is prepped for Ivy League ball. Harvard has managed to keep things close late in ballgames all but once. A trio of Crimson has started in the field all 17 games this season, each of whom bring a fair amount of production at the plate as well. Mike Martin (.265/.353/.329) in center, Mitch Klug (.241/.259/.359) at third and Kyle Larrow (.254/.299/.315) at second have all seen every game for Harvard.
In 12 appearances, utility player Carlton Bailey paces the Crimson with his .323 batting average, adding seven RBI and a run scored. Co-captain Jack Colton is batting .271 and has plated a team-high 10 RBI and has scored five times himself. Seeing all but one game in right (the outlier coming in a DH appearance) is Brandon Kregel who is hitting .224 but has brought home nine runs on his 13 hits, four of which were doubles.
On the bump, the Crimson features a deadly quartet of starters in sophomore Sean Poppen (2-1, 1.44 ERA), freshman Nick Gruener (0-1, 4.01 ERA), junior Tanner Anderson (0-1, 2.82 ERA) and senior Sam Dodge (0-1, 4.19 ERA). In five appearances, including a start, junior Matt Timoney has earned a 2-2 record with a 2.89 ERA. Poppen and Gruener are one-two in strikeouts this season for the Crimson hurlers, punching out 21 and 18 batters, respectively.
Last Time Out
In nine games split between South Carolina and Florida, the Crimson came away with a 3-6 record on the road, including wins over Michigan State (7-3), North Dakota State (2-1) and Army (5-1). The three game slate between the Crimson and Spartans started off rocky for Harvard as MSU took the first two by a combined 5-0 margin, but the Crimson bats erupted on Monday, especially Kyle Larrow's. The senior second baseman slugged a bases clearing triple in the sixth to vault Harvard to its second win of the year.
The Crimson turned around to drop two straight to UConn (9-4) and North Dakota State (15-2), before downing NDSU and Army on back-to-back days in central Florida. After Harvard took the front end of the series against the Black Knights, it dropped the last two by 3-2 and 6-4 margins to close out the spring trip.
Four Crimson have already earned spots on the Ivy League's Weekly Honor Roll this season for strong performances. On March 4, both Jack Colton and Nick Gruener were given honor roll accolades, while Sean Poppen picked up the distinction a week later. Colton hit .400 against Oral Roberts in the season-opening series, while Gruener battled hard on the mound against the Golden Eagles, tossing 7.2 innings, striking out six, allowing just five and three earned runs. Poppen earned the Crimson's first win of the season in his dominant performance at Lamar. In 6.0 innings of work, he struck out eight batters and walked just three, keeping the Red Foxes off the board the entire day.
Most Recently, Poppen and Kyle Larrow were honored by the Ivy League after Poppen went 7.0 innings, giving up just one run and fanning six against Army in the Crimson's 5-1 win. Larrow picked up the weekly distinction after his four-RBI outburst against Michigan State on Monday.
|Sean Poppen||3||March 11, March 18, March 25|
|Nick Gruener||2||March 4, March 11|
|Jack Colton||1||March 4|
|Kyle Larrow||1||March 25
The Tigers enter their first weekend of Ancient Eight play with a 5-11 record to start 2014. Princeton split a four-game series with Michigan before downing UNC-Greensboro and taking two from Navy last weekend.
PU is led at the plate by four Tigers who are batting .300 or above in Danny Baer (.342), Danny Hoy (.333), Paul Tupper (.333) and Alec Keller (.318). Paul leads the club with 11 RBI, adding seven runs scored. Keller leads the team with three triples and has added four doubles for a team-high seven extra-base hits.
On the mound, Michael Fagan (2-1, 2.45 ERA) and Cameron Mingo (0-2, 7.00 ERA) are the probable starters against Harvard on Saturday. Fagan is the Tigers' ace, tossing a team-high 22.0 innings of work, striking out 27 and walking just seven. Mingo has three starts this season, but has lasted just all of 9.0 innings. He's given up seven earned on 14 hits, while striking out three batters.
The Series with Princeton
Harvard and Princeton have played 285 times in the storied history, one of the longest-running rivalries on the diamond. The Crimson owns a 140-120-25 series advantage over the Tigers dating back to June 24, 1868, a 17-16 Harvard victory. High scoring is still a feature in the series, as made evident by last season's meetings at O'Donnell Field. Princeton took game one of the doubleheader, 13-1, before Harvard escaped with a wild 20-19 victory in the second game.
The Big Red comes into the weekend at 7-7, tied with Yale for the most victories so far from an Ivy school. Cornell took two of three from Navy to open 2014, and three of four from George Washington the next week. After another series win on the season at James Madison, Cornell hopped on its current four-game losing skid thanks to Sacred Heart sweeping in Yaphank, N.Y., last weekend.
At the dish, four Red bats are hitting .340 or better this season, including Spencer Scorza (.364), JD Whetsel (.357), Kevin Tatum (.349) and Ryan Karl (.340). Karl leads the squad with 17 RBI this season, followed by Chris Cruz's 10. Karl also holds the team lead in round-trippers, belting five home runs, just ahead of Scorza's three and Cruz's two homers.
On the mound, Michael Byrne (2-1, 2.05 ERA), Brent Jones (1-1, 3.93 ERA) and Nick Busto (2-1, 7.71 ERA) have all accouted for three or more starts this season. Jones leads the staff with 20 strikeouts, as Byrne has fanned 16 and Busto, 12.
The Series with Cornell
The Harvard-Cornell series is another deep one for both sides, dating back to 1887, where the Crimson took the first meeting, 6-5. After a series split last year, Harvard owns a 103-47 record against Cornell in 150 meetings. The Big Red stole the first game in 2013, 3-1, before dropping the second to the Crimson in Cambridge, 10-7.