Call them what you will – winners, fighters, survivors – the 2002 Ivy League champion baseball team, who just won all the marbles with a two-game sweep of Princeton this past Saturday (May 11) at O’Donnell Field, is a sneaky bunch. Since the second half of the season, the Crimson, who entered the Ivy arena in early April nine games under .500, have conducted a below-the-radar drive toward the Ivy title, picking their battles, and picking up wins.
They split a pair of doubleheaders against Dartmouth on May 4-5 (including a 25-1 Big Green massacre), to stay alive in the Red Rolfe Division hunt. Harvard bagged that trophy on May 8, beating Brown 2-1 with two runs in the bottom of the ninth, setting up the best-of-three Ivy title showdown with Lou Gehrig Division Champion Princeton this past weekend.
It was against the Tigers that the sneaky Crimson squad, managing a fifth-place Ivy showing just a season ago, pulled the ultimate trick – knocking off the reigning league champs with a pair of wins – upsetting Princeton 5-1 and 2-1.
In game one, down by a run in the third inning, sophomore switch hitter Trey Hendricks hit a two-RBI single with the bases loaded to bring home senior Javier Lopez and first-year shortstop Ian Wallace. In the fifth, Lopez stole home to put Harvard ahead 3-1. A Tigers error proved costly in the next inning, as a misplayed base hit by Marc Hordon ’04 scored teammates Hendricks and Josh San Salvador ’02, as the Crimson cruised to the 5-1 victory. Senior pitcher Justin Nyweide notched a career-high 14 strikeouts in the win.
Harvard’s pitching staff was equally impressive in the second game. Starter Chaney Sheffield ’02 limited the Tigers to just three hits in five innings, while junior relievers Kenon Ronz and Barry Wahlberg fanned a combined seven batters in the final four innings.
The Crimson struck first, when Hendricks hit a single to plate Mark Mager ’02 in the opening inning. Princeton then managed to knot the contest at 1 in the third inning, scoring its sole run of the game when Pat Boran lined a single to left field to bring home Steve Young. Crimson catcher Schuyler Mann ’05 responded with a deep double in the fifth. After advancing to third on a sacrifice fly by San Salvador, Wallace singled down the middle to plate Mann for the subsequent game-winner. With the win, Harvard earns its 18th Ivy title and a bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 31. Tourney brackets will be announced on May 26.
As the baseball team celebrated with a dog pile, the Harvard softball team – playing next door to the new Ivy Champs – were in the thick of winning a championship of their own, defeating Cornell 4-3 in the final inning to advance in the ECAC Tournament. The Crimson clinched the conference championship, the program’s first, the following day (Sunday, May 12), swamping Columbia 10-2.