Brandon Kregel has a pair of triples this year (photo Erik Williams).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – After having its two-game win streak snapped, the Harvard baseball team returns to action with its Ivy League openers this weekend, traveling to Columbia Saturday and Penn Sunday for a pair of doubleheaders to kick off Ancient Eight play.
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Harvard (3-15) has won two of its last three games entering Ivy League play, but it dropped its most recent contest, falling to Holy Cross, 9-4, Wednesday afternoon in the 2013 home opener for the Crimson. Brandon Kregel leads the team in runs (seven), doubles (five) and triples (two) and Mike Martin paces the squad in batting average (.353), stolen bases (two) and on-base percentage (.488) through the first 18 games on the season. Freshman DJ Link has a team-best eight RBI on 15 hits, while sophomore Ethan Ferreira has walked 15 times for a .411 on-base percentage.
On the bump, reigning Ivy League co-Rookie of the Week Sean Poppen anchors the staff. The 6-3 righty is 1-1 with a 3.92 ERA. He has fanned nine batters in a team-high 20.2 innings on the bump. Sophomore reliever Matt Timoney has a staff-high 11 strikeouts in just 12.2 innings on the mound, while junior Sam Dodge has made four starts.
Bill Decker comes to Harvard from Trinity (Conn.), where he went 529-231 (.696) during the last 22 seasons. A four-time New England Coach of the Year, Decker was one of the most decorated head coaches in the Division III ranks. His best season came in 2008, when he led Trinity to an undefeated regular season en route to a 45-1 record and the Division III national title. Decker was named the 2008 ABCA National Coach of the Year after leading the Bantams to a Division III record 44 straight wins. He takes over the Crimson from the late Joe Walsh, who tragically passed away after the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Like the Crimson, the Lions had their winning streak snapped on Wednesday, dropping a 4-0 decision to Manhattan to snap Columbia's five-game unbeaten span. Alex Baron has been the driving force for an offense that averages 3.7 runs per game. He has three home runs and 10 RBI in 19 games, while Nick Ferraresi has driven in a team-high 12 runs and homered twice. The Lions also like to run on the bases, successfully stealing 24 of 27 bags thus far. Jordan Serena tops the team with a perfect 9-for-9 mark on the base paths.
The Lions have a staff earned-run average of 4.21, and they are led on the mound by Adam Cline and David Speer. Cline is 1-2 with a 1.99 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 22.2 innings on the hill, while Speer is also 1-2 with 21 strikeouts and a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings over four starts.
Harvard leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1886, 85-55-1. The two teams split their meeting last year with the Crimson taking game one, 6-2, while the Lions won the second, 10-1.
Penn enters the weekend on a tear, winning six of its last seven contests. The Quakers took four of five games from Lafayette in the last seven days after winning two of their first three games at Meiklejohn Stadium the week prior. The Quakers like to use their speed on the bases, swiping 43 of 49 bags successfully, while also belting 10 triples in their first 20 games on the season. Michael Vallardo ranks third on the team in batting average with a .352 mark, but he has a team high 12 doubles and 21 runs batted in. Ryan Dietrich is batting .459 to top the squad, which is hitting a collective .294 and averaging 5.25 runs per contest.
On the mound, the Quakers have a collective 4.01 ERA, but their starting pitchers have done a fine job in the early going. Dan Gautieri has a 3-0 record and 1.73 ERA in 26 innings over the course of four starts, Jeff McGarry is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 25.2 frames, and Connor Cuff is 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA in 23 innings.
Harvard holds a 113-64-1 advantage in the all-time meetings, but Penn has won the last four games in the series, including both contests last year.
The Crimson makes the short trip to Boston College for a midweek meeting with the Eagles at 3 p.m.