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Split weekend at Harvard gives baseball team first two Ivy wins

After Head Coach Marek Drabinski quits abruptly, Bears show resilience in visit to Cambridge

Despite the sudden resignation of Head Coach Marek Drabinski, the baseball team had its best weekend of the season, defeating Harvard twice to break its conference losing streak.

The Bears (8-17, 2-10 Ivy) had come close to grabbing a few Ivy wins, losing multiple games by just one run, but could not break through until they faced the Crimson (8-20, 3-7). The combination of great pitching, which had come and gone earlier in the season, and clutch hitting, which had been absent in most of the team’s losses, carried the Bears over the Crimson.

Friday, the day Drabinski’s resignation was announced, the Bears won their first Ivy League game of the season, defeating Harvard 5-4 in extra innings.

The Crimson took an early lead off Anthony Galan ’14, putting them ahead 3-0 after three innings. But Bruno struck back, scoring four runs in the fifth on five hits. Down to its final out in the bottom of the seventh, Harvard notched two straight hits and scored a run on a Will Marcal ’15 error in right field to tie the game and send it to extras. The Bears rebounded in their first extra-innings chance of the game, scoring the eventual winning run on a Daniel Massey ’14 sacrifice fly. Taylor Wright ’15 (W, 1-0) pitched a hitless bottom of the eighth to seal the win. Marcal and Marc Sredojevic ’17 led the way on offense, each going 2-for-4, while Josh Huntley ’17 went 1-for-4 with two runs batted in and Dan Kerr ’15 was 0-for-2 but walked twice and scored a run.

Nate Kukowski ’14 said he was happy the team secured its first Ivy League win of the season, calling it “definitely a step in the right direction.”

It was “a relief,” he said, but added that “we’d like that to happen a little bit earlier.”

“It was just a hump we needed to get over,” said J.J. Franco ’14.

In the second game, a rough outing from the bullpen prevented Bruno from sweeping the twin bill, as they fell to the Crimson 10-8. Four home runs by Kerr, Huntley, Marcal and Massey helped the Bears build a 7-3 lead after the fifth inning. Christian Taugner ’17 was cruising as usual, allowing only three runs through six innings, though only one was earned due to three errors behind him. But things fell apart in the bottom of the seventh.

Taugner was pulled after allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach base. His replacement, Nathan Mann ’15 (L, 1-1), struggled even more, facing three batters and putting all three on. When he was pulled for Jake Spezial ’17, the Bears led just 7-6 and Harvard had runners on second and third. Spezial fared decently in his own right, allowing three hits while getting the three outs to end the inning, but the two inherited runners and a passed ball contributed to four more runs scoring on his watch, putting Harvard on top 10-7. The Bears scored with two outs in the top of the ninth, but could not rally to tie the game. Huntley and Massey each reached base three times, Huntley scored three runs and Robert Henry ’17 and Kerr knocked two hits apiece.

On Saturday, the Bears rode a complete-game shutout from Dave St. Lawrence ’15 (W, 1-4) to defeat the Crimson for the second straight day, 1-0. St. Lawrence did a great job of inducing weak contact, allowing four hits over seven innings while striking out two and walking none. Harvard’s Nick Gruener did a good job holding the Bears’ offense in check, allowing just three hits. Henry led the game off with a single, but only one of the next 15 Bears reached base, and that was via a dropped third strike. But the first two batters of the top of the seventh each got hits, and a Marcal RBI single with two outs was enough to win the game for Bruno. Each of the Bears’ four hits came from a different hitter.

As encouraging as the first game was, the nightcap was just as brutal. The Crimson jumped out to a 10-0 lead after two innings and never looked back, crushing the Bears 13-3 to secure the split. Lucas Whitehill ’14 (L, 1-3) had an extremely difficult time, allowing eight earned runs on six hits and a walk while recording just two outs before being pulled. He had significant problems with controlling his pitches, throwing just 13 of his 33 pitches for strikes. Chris Smith ’15 saved the team from having to use many relievers, pitching 4.1 innings and allowing four runs, three of which were earned. Following Smith, Austin French ’16 allowed a run in one inning before Max Ritchie ’17 and Kevin Guthrie ’16 each tossed a scoreless frame. On offense, Franco had three hits and Massey hit a two-run home run, but the game’s outcome was no longer in question by the time Bruno scored.

Third-base coach Grant Achilles, who now manages the offense and shares duties with the other assistant coaches, said he was happy with the team’s showing in Cambridge.

“I thought the guys played well,” he said. “I think we battled a lot.”

Even when the team faced tough situations, like its 10-0 deficit Sunday, Achilles felt the team remained resolute — something it may have lacked in the past.

“At no point did I feel that we were giving in,” he said.

In the shadow of a long-tenured coach’s abrupt resignation, many teams would be distracted, but Achilles said he thought the players handled themselves well.

“I think our guys did a good job of taking a step forward and not using anything as an excuse,” he said.

The team will look to carry its momentum into next weekend, when it takes on Dartmouth (10-17, 5-7) in four games at home.

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