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Harvard Opens Ivy League Play with Sweep at Cornell

The Crimson celebrate during a playoff game versus Columbia in May of 2019.
The Crimson celebrate during a playoff game versus Columbia in May of 2019. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Miles J. Herszenhorn, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard men’s baseball team opened Ivy League play with a sweep of Cornell University last weekend. After enjoying warm weather during road trips to Texas and California, the Crimson fought through the elements to put on a dominant offensive performance in Ithaca, N.Y., scoring 30 runs over the three-game series.

During the first game of a Friday doubleheader, the Crimson scored early and held onto its lead to win its first game of the season against an Ivy League rival 7-5. During Friday’s second game, Harvard benefited from some late offensive support to win its second game against Cornell 11-5. On Saturday, the Crimson staged an impressive come-from-behind win to shock the Big Red and leave New York with a sweep.

In an interview on Monday, Coach Decker attributed his team’s win to their ability to play through “all the elements, including sunshine.”

“But they got through it,” he said. “And that’s what you have to do. Specifically at Cornell, it’s a tough place to play.”

HARVARD 7, CORNELL 5

The Crimson scored first during game one of Friday’s doubleheader. Sophomore shortstop Jake Berger led off the second inning with a single and quickly scored after the next batter, freshman catcher Sawyer Feller, hit a triple to drive in Berger for the first run of the game. Freshman first baseman Peter Levin hit a sacrifice fly to the center fielder to drive in Feller to put the Crimson up 2-0 after the top of the second.

Harvard added another two runs in the top of the third inning. With two outs and sophomore designated hitter Ben Rounds on third base, Berger hit a two-run home run to right field to increase the Crimson’s lead.

Junior left-hander Tim Williamson started game one for the Crimson and didn’t allow a hit through the first two innings. However, Cornell scored three runs against Williamson in the bottom of the third inning to lower Harvard’s lead to 4-3.

In the top of the fourth inning, sophomore right fielder Peter Messervy hit a solo home run to left field, but the Big Red responded in the bottom half by scoring a run on a wild pitch. In the top of the fifth, Levin hit a two-run double down the left field line to increase Harvard’s lead to 7-4.

In the bottom of the fifth, Williamson got one out before allowing a single and a double to put runners at the corners. Coach Decker then brought in sophomore right-hander Chris Clark to end the inning. The first batter Clark faced hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score the runner on third, but the runner on first base was thrown out at second base after attempting to advance on the play.

Clark earned his first win of the season as he silenced the Big Red through the second half of the game. Clark struck out seven batters and allowed one hit, zero runs, and zero walks over four and two-third innings.

Coach Decker said he was very pleased with Clark’s Friday performance.

“Timmy Williamson went as far as he could have gone and then we handed it to Clark,” Decker said. “And Chris did an admirable job, I mean, it was awesome.”

HARVARD 11, CORNELL 5

The Crimson completed its doubleheader sweep on Friday with an 11-5 win over Cornell in a game that saw the lead switch hands four times.

Freshman right-hander Sean Matson started Friday’s second game for Harvard.

Cornell scored first after Matson gave up a solo home run to the first batter he faced, but after the first inning, Matson settled in and didn’t allow another run for the rest of his outing. Matson struck out the side in the bottom of the third, going on to end the game with nine strikeouts over five innings while only allowing one run, two hits and two walks.

In the top of the second inning, Feller was on second base and junior catcher Zach Brown on third with only one out, when Brown scored on a wild pitch to tie the game 1-1.

In the top of the fifth, the Crimson scored two runs to take the lead. Messervy got the rally started with a double to center field. Freshman second baseman George Cooper hit a bunt single to put runners at the corners. The next batter, Rounds, drove in Messervy with a single up the middle of the diamond. Sophomore left fielder Chris Snopek hit a single to left field to drive in Cooper for the second run of the inning.

The Crimson went to the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, bringing in freshman right-hander Tanner Smith. After getting the first two outs, the third batter of the inning reached second on an error by Snopek. The error cost the Crimson as Cornell’s shortstop Ryan Porter hit a two-run home run to tie the game. The Big Red took the lead during the next at-bat with sophomore second baseman Matt Barnhorst hitting a solo home run to give Cornell the lead.

Harvard struck back half an inning later. After Snopek walked to load the bases, Cooper managed to score on an error by Cornell’s catcher. With Berger at the plate, two wild pitches allowed Rounds to score from second base and allowed Snopek to advance from first to third. Berger finally walked on a third wild pitch, allowing Snopek to score and the Crimson to lead 6-4.

Cornell scored an additional run in the bottom of the eighth inning to cut Harvard’s lead to one, but Harvard’s offense exploded in the top of the ninth to put an additional five runs on the board. Sophomore right-hander Jay Driver was brought in during the eighth inning and pitched one inning and two thirds, tallying two strikeouts to secure Harvard’s victory and earn his third save of the season.

HARVARD 12, CORNELL 11

Harvard started senior right-hander Jaren Zinn in the third game of the series, which was delayed until 1pm because of bad weather. The Crimson fell behind early after Zinn gave up two runs in the bottom of the first.

Levin drove in a run with a single in the top of the second inning to cut Cornell’s lead to 2-1. In the top of the third, Berger hit an RBI double to drive in Snopek and tie the game. However, the Big Red took back the lead in the fifth inning after Zinn walked the bases loaded and then gave up a bases-clearing double to take a 5-2 lead. Sophomore right-hander Porter Jordheim came in to relieve Zinn and get the last out of the fifth inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Jordheim loaded the bases by hitting two batters and walking one. Driver then came in to pitch for the Crimson, but he allowed three runs on three wild pitches. After the Crimson managed to get out of the sixth inning, it was losing 8-2.

In the top of the seventh, Harvard began to chip away at the Big Red’s lead by scoring three runs. Rounds walked with the bases loaded to drive in Levin. Later, Snopek hit into a fielder’s choice which scored Messervy. Cooper scored the third run of the inning after an error by Cornell’s shortstop allowed him to race home and cut the Big Red’s lead to 8-5.

However, with sophomore left-hander Uday Narottam pitching for Harvard in the bottom of the seventh, the Big Red responded. After Jacobsen allowed the first batter of the inning to reach base, Narottam allowed a single and a walk to load the bases. The next batter hit a single up the middle that scored two runs, giving Cornell a 10-5 lead.

Despite being down by five runs in the eighth inning, the Crimson refused to give up. With two outs and runners at the corners, Rounds hit a two-run double to score Cooper and Jacobsen. Snopek followed Rounds’ example with another double to score Rounds and again cut Cornell’s lead to 10-8.

Narottam stayed in the game to pitch the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and a runner on first base, Narottam gave up a single that should have left runners on second and third, but Jacobsen, the third baseman, committed an error which allowed a run to score.

The Crimson headed to bat in the top of the ninth down 11-8. Brown led off the inning for the Crimson with a strikeout, but a walk and two singles allowed Harvard to load the bases. Messervy drew a walk which brought home a run and kept the bases loaded. Cooper hit a sacrifice fly to center field which left Harvard down only one run, 11-10, but also left Cornell an out away from winning the game. With two outs, Rounds hit a single through the left side of the infield, past a diving shortstop, to tie the game at 11-11. A batter later, Snopek hit another single to drive in Messervy and allow Harvard to take the lead for the first time of the game.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jacobsen moved from third base to the pitcher’s mound. After getting the first two batters of the inning to strike out, Jacobsen hit a batter. However, he managed to secure the win and series sweep for Harvard by getting the last batter of the inning to fly out to left field.

Coach Decker said he told his team to just focus on the inning as they went into the ninth down three runs.

“My comment in the dugout was ‘win the inning, we win the game,’” he said. “And we won the inning and the game.”

“We just try to keep the line moving at that point, get to the next guy,” he added.

Decker said the series sweep did not mean that his team played good baseball.

“I don’t know if we're playing well, because we didn’t,” he said. “We misplayed some balls in the outfield, we misplayed some balls in the infield, we walked too many guys, but we just found a way to win.”

“That’s what good teams do,” Decker added.

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