Baseball sweeps Harvard, goes undefeated in Red Rolfe play

by Gayne Kalustian | 4/27/15 5:11pm

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The baseball team finished its regular season with a 4-0 sweep of Harvard University.
by Annie Duncan / The Dartmouth

With a clean sweep of Harvard University this past weekend, Big Green baseball (20-19, 16-4 Ivy) has completed its regular season, going undefeated in divisional play for the first time in 23 years and extending its win streak to 14 games — the third-longest win streak in program history.

The team’s perfect record over the last three weeks has been a testament to the its dominance in the Red Rolfe Division — yet, a perfect record does not a perfect team make. The streak, third baseman Nick Lombardi ’15 said, is not what is on the players’ minds.

“I think we’re just taking it one game at a time right now,” he said. “We’re trying to just win every game. It may not always be by big margins or it might be a come-from-behind win.”

Lombardi is referring to two close calls the team had this past weekend — game two of the doubleheader on Saturday in Hanover and Sunday’s first game in Cambridge.

On Saturday, a would-have-been loss was turned around by a seventh-inning, four-run offensive spark in what was otherwise a shutout against the Big Green. On Sunday, the men allowed a game to push into extra innings against Harvard. The contest started off with a three-run lead for Dartmouth following a strong opening inning, but the advantage was turned by the combination of a throwing error and wild pitch by the Big Green in the third inning.

The errors allowed the Crimson to score three runs of their own and tie the score. After the men collected another run in the sixth, Dustin Shirley ’18, a freshman who has recently been on the rise offensively for the Big Green, ended the game in the eighth and batted in two of his teammates to put pitcher Patrick Peterson ’18 in the position to close out the win.

“We kind of didn’t play our best baseball the first game yesterday and maybe the second game on Saturday,” catcher Matt MacDowell ’15 said. “We made some errors that aren’t really what we’re used to, and we just ended up finding a way to win. We’re not going to be able to make mistakes like that and expect to win in the Ivy Championship.”

The team becomes subject to this sort of microscopic criticism because it has not lost since the beginning of the month — pulling apart victories and finding out in what ways they could have been more sure-handed. From a confidence perspective, it is not a bad thing to see a team claw its way back to a win from behind or work its way out of a jam with solid showings of situational hitting, particularly when considering the level of competition the team will have to play to in order to take the Ivy League’s top honor in May.

While the weekend provided some necessary pressure for the team, the two softer wins were bookended by an 8-1 win, thrown mostly by Mike Concato ’17 and finished up by Sam Fichthorn ’18, and a 7-2 win, started by Chris England ’15 and finished by Adam Frank ’15 and Chris Burkholder ’17, the two of which allowed just a single hit in two and one innings of work, respectively.

“[England’s] been pitching great all year,” captain Louis Concato ’14 said. “He got an opportunity today, and he continued to pitch well, which is good to see and hopefully he can continue it in the next weekend or whenever we play.”

England, an unusual face in the weekend rotation, was not the only amendment to the rotation. Louis Concato said Duncan Robinson ’16, now sporting a 1.31 ERA in conference play, was moved to start the second game in preparation for the Ivy League Championship Series set to take place in two weeks.

The team shuffled around players in the lineup and on the field — Bo Patterson ’15 played some center field, John Melody ’17 caught a game, Justin Fowler ’18 took over for Matt Parisi ’15 at shortstop for a game and Jay Graham ’15 was slotted in as the designated hitter.

Graham was responsible for one of the weekend’s offensive highlights, hitting a two-run shot over the fence — his first career home run at Dartmouth — batting clean-up for the Big Green in the final of the four games. Graham deserved, MacDowell said, the opportunity to enter the game in light of the “hard work” he has put in for the team during practices.

Kyle Holbrook ’18 collected his first collegiate home run on Saturday, as both Shirley and Fowler continued to ramp up their offensive contributions, finding, perhaps, the swing in collegiate baseball not a moment too soon in the season. Shirley, Fowler and Holbrook — who can catch but mostly plays in right field — are almost certain to be on the field for at least part of the championship series, set to take place at an undetermined location on May 9 and 10.