Boston College Eagles vs. Harvard Crimson
First Pitch: 3 PM
There's something sublimely traditional about Ivy League baseball and playing a game against Harvard.
Harvard baseball has been around since the Civil War ended; it played its first game in 1865. Next to rowing, it became one of the premier sports in the late 19th century at the school, and it's been a staple of student life ever since. With over 2,400 victories in 148 seasons, Harvard retains the name recognition across baseball's history, which is something that not even BC's affiliation with the ACC can take away from them, even if they've fallen on more hard times recently
That history backs Harvard as they prepare to host Boston College in an annual regular season matchup. There's a chance this is the only game they'll play against one another; Harvard lost to Northeastern in their Beanpot first round game, meaning the loser of tomorrow's BC/UMass game will play the Crimson in the consolation game. That means this is the one shot for the Eagles to put their stamp on the Boston city rivalry.
Record: 9-17 (2-6 Ivy League)
Last Time Out: Harvard split their weekend series with Columbia and Penn, winning the front end of both doubleheaders. They beat Columbia, 11-3, and Penn, 3-2, before losing the back end of both days in 11 innings (4-3, 6-5). The Ivy League plays doubleheaders on back-to-back days with travel partners, so teams play what amounts to four games across a weekend.
Harvard played at Northeastern last week in the Beanpot, losing 3-2, and being relegated to the consolation game. They haven't won a non-conference game since March 27th, when they beat Albany in the second game of a doubleheader, 3-2, though they do have a win over a power conference team (6-3 over Wake Forest in the Wake Forest Tournament back on March 5th).
Around The Horn
Any time a team is under .500, there's some struggles to point to. For Harvard, it's their bats.
The team is hitting only .246 on the season, and they only have a .330 on-base percentage. I'd like to say that's because they played incredibly tough non-conference games, but their numbers are actually better outside of the Ivy League. In league play, the Crimson are only hitting .212 with a .312 on-base percentage. That indicates significant issues with consistent performance at the bat.
Statistically, against as strong of a pitching staff as BC, this could be an issue for the Crimson. They only have 10 homers this year and have only scored 118 runs. They've struck out a ton (182), more than double the amount of walks they've had (78).
The team numbers, though, belie some individual strength. Matt Rothenberg and John Fallon are both hitting over .300 for the Crimson, with Fallon accounting for half of the team's homers at five. Josh Ellis is hitting at a .284 clip, and Patrick McColl is at .267. All four of those guys are capable of getting on base, as are some guys down the lineup who don't necessarily hit as well.
So there's some sneaky talent on the Harvard team. The problem is that the bottom of the lineup offsets the top of the lineup, and there are double the amount of guys hitting .235 or lower than there are guys hitting .275 or higher.
At the same time, this is one game. Over multiple games, averages and trends play out. In one game, though, against the midweek staff, Harvard is a more than capable baseball team. BC can't waltz in and just assume their uniform and stats will win games.
On The Bump
Midweek games are always tough to judge because you don't see the elite pitching staff. So some of the numbers of a pitching staff aren't necessarily the best of the best. That's understandable, since college baseball teams need to save their best starters for their more important conference games. A game between Harvard and BC might be a psychologically significant game for fan bases, but a game between Harvard and Columbia or Boston College and Virginia means more to the grand scheme of the season.
Harvard's pitching can be enigmatic at times. Even though they have a staff ERA at 5.40, they're capable of holding opponents through at bay; it's a matter of getting everything in sync with their hitting. With Harvard hits well, it doesn't hold up because the pitching struggles. On the other hand, good pitching has struggled with bad hitting. Against Northeastern, the pitching holds the Huskies to three runs but the offense only scores two. Against Holy Cross, they score four but give up 11. That type of inconsistency dooms a team.
Opponents are hitting just about .275 against Harvard, a number that drops on weekend series against conference foes. So for what it's worth, that may be a sign of drop-off in the middle of the week against better hitters. For BC, a team with tenacity against a pitching staff like Virginia, it's reasonable to expect hits in bunches if they can get rolling.
I'm not really sure when spring decided to not show up, but this has been a rough season for weather in New England. It's surprising considering the mild winter we had, but for some odd reason, the spring decided to be a hazard with unseasonably cold, wet, snowy weather. We're in for more of that on Tuesday.
Tuesday's forecast calls for showers throughout the day (70% chance of rain), but at least temperatures will finally start feeling seasonable. The day will get up to the mid or high-50s, with temperatures hanging right around there for first pitch. It'll get colder throughout the game, but it'll probably feel colder than the 40s because of the wet and wind.
Harvard bills Joseph J. O'Donnell Field as "widely regarded as the finest facility" in New England. Located in their athletic complex next to Harvard Stadium, the stadium seats approximately 1,600 people and has been the home of Harvard baseball since 1898. Adjacent to Soldier's Field Road, it's probably going to take Boston College longer to load the bus than it will to actually travel from campus to the game.
The stadium opened in 1898 as Soldier's Field before being renamed in honor of alumnus Joseph J. O'Donnell in 1997. O'Donnell, a former baseball and football player at Harvard, supported the team throughout the years and endowed the program in 1995 with a $2.5 million donation.
In 2004, it underwent renovations with a new backstop and new dugouts. The outfield fence was also elevated.
Dimensionally, the field goes 335 down both foul lines and 370 to the power alleys. It's 415 to dead center and is symmetrical on both sides.
Like Shea Field, Harvard is a natural grass field.
Music To Listen To As You're Sipping Fine Wine At Harvard
Dvorak - Symphony No. 9, 4th Movement "From The New World."
Far be it from me to throw stones at Harvard for being snooty, but I couldn't resist. Any time you're going to Harvard, you're not just battling the team because there's the reputation.
Harvard sports are put in the best place to succeed, especially from a resources standpoint. It's a school with endless resources, and their athletics programs reflect that. The baseball program plays in a extremely well-kept stadium, part of their complex surrounding Harvard Stadium. The hockey rink recently underwent renovations, and the term "Keeping Up With The Joneses" should more be that the Joneses are Harvard.
In terms of facilities management and in terms of baseball stadia, Harvard isn't necessarily what BC should shoot for because it's a premier Ivy League facility, but the new field cannot be worse than what Harvard - a team that beat BC two seasons ago - currently has.
Random Fact(s) of the Week
The Ivy League didn't sponsor baseball until the 1993 season. Prior to '93, the Ivy League schools played in the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League, a 10-team league featuring the Ancient Eight with Army and Navy. Following 1992, Army and Navy joined the Patriot League and the Ivy League went its own way.
The league formed in 1930, though Army and Navy didn't join until 1948, and if the EIBL champion was not an Ivy League champion, the Ivies declared an informal champion within the league ranks.
The Ivy League itself splits its eight teams into two four-team divisions. The winners of the division play a best-of-three series to determine the league's champion and the automatic bid.to the NCAA Tournament. The divisions are named after Lou Gehrig, who studied and played at Columbia University but did not graduate, and Red Rolfe, a former coach at Yale and longtime athletic director at Dartmouth.
The Gehrig Division is made up of the more south and west teams at Cornell, Princeton, Penn, and Columbia, while the New England-based schools of Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, and Harvard comprise the Rolfe Division.
Harvard has eight Rolfe Division titles to their name, most recently in 2006, with five Ivy League Championship Series victories, most recently in 2005. They've won 12 regular season Ivy League titles, including during the EIBL era, and 15 EIBL championships. They've been to 14 NCAA Tournaments but only two since the turn of the century (2002 and 2005). After going to Omaha four times between 1968 and 1974, they haven't been back.
It's not unreasonable to expect a win in this game simply because Boston College beat Virginia twice. If BC can beat Virginia, hang with Florida State, and defeat NC State, it's reasonable to expect them to handle a team like Harvard, who is struggling in a mid-major conference. I say that at the risk of sounding cocky or overconfident.
That said, it's a one game series, where anything can happen. BC can't take this game lightly. If they show up and handle their business, they'll be able to walk out of Cambridge with another victory.