BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Harvard baseball team played back-to-back extra-inning games on the first day of the 2018 season. The Crimson dropped the first game 6-5 in 10 innings but rallied for a 5-3 win on the tail end of 15 innings at Samford's Joe Lee Griffin Field on Friday night.
The 15-inning stretch marks the longest game since the Crimson went 17 innings with Princeton in April 2009.
Six different players contributed the 10 runs and six pitchers combined for 30 strikeouts on opening day. Additionally, Buddy Hayward, Jack Mahala and Buddy Mrowka made their collegiate debuts. Hayward batted in two runs off a double in game one, and turned around to pitch four innings, striking out seven batters in game two. Mahala pitched three innings of game two, earning three strikeouts while Mrowka helped shuffle the Crimson field to put Hunter Bigge on the mound where he earned his second career win.
Game One: Harvard 5, Samford 6 (10 Innings)
The Crimson opened the season with an extra-inning game, playing through 10 innings before falling 6-5 to the Bulldogs. Matt Rothenberg, Patrick McColl and Patrick Robinson tallied two hits apiece with Robinson adding 2 RBI and McColl and Rothenberg scoring twice each. Freshman Buddy Hayward went one-for-one at the plate, knocking out a double that sent two runners past home plate.
The Crimson held off the Bulldogs until the bottom of the third before McColl tied the game in the top of the fourth, reaching the bases on a fielding error.
Samford took the lead again in the bottom of the fifth on a double before extending the margin to 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh.
Samford would score in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, forcing extra innings.
Rothenberg would score again for the Crimson in the top of the 10th for a one-run lead but Samford responded with two in the bottom half for a walk off win to open the series.
Game Two: Harvard 5, Samford 3 (15 Innings)
Extra innings in game one seemed not to be enough, as the Crimson powered through 15 in game two to finish the day 1-1.
Four different pitchers touched the mound, combining for 23 strikeouts led by Simon Rosenblum-Larson who tallied 11 in six innings. Rookie Buddy Hayward saw his first pitching action through four innings, throwing seven Ks without allowing a single run. Ben Skinner and Jake Suddleson led the team with two runs each, while McColl and Rothenberg sent in two batters each. Suddleson also tallied Harvard's lone home run of the double-header.
Samford would chip back in the bottom of the seventh with consecutive scores to tie the game.
Jake Suddleson batted was at the top of the order to open the eighth and hit a home run to put Harvard up 3-2. Samford responded with its own home run to tie the game heading into the ninth.
Harvard and Samford allowed just one hit each innings 10 through 14 before Harvard's offense erupted with a double from McColl that sent in Skinner and Chad Minato, putting the Crimson up 5-3. Harvard put together three consecutive outs in the bottom of the 15th to earn its first victory of the 2018 season.
The Crimson will return to the diamond tomorrow, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. EST. Due to weather, Sunday's game has been moved to Saturday, and Harvard will finish out the four-game series tomorrow.