Skidding to a stop: Big Green drop doubleheader to Harvard

  • Dartmouth pitcher Cole O'Connor gets the out at first with Harvard's Jake Allen on Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Hanover, N.H. Harvard won 2-1. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth pitcher Jonah Jenkins follows his pitch to Harvard's Hunter Bigge during their game in Hanover, N.H., on Sunday, April 21, 2019. Harvard won 2-1 in the first game of their double header. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth's Sean Sullivan is welcomed back by his team after bringing in a run during their game with Harvard, on Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Hanover, N.H. Harvard won 2-1, the first game in thier doubleheader. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, April 21, 2019

HANOVER — What appears like it will be the Dartmouth College baseball team’s worst season in more than a decade continued to unravel Sunday when the Big Green suffered a doubleheader sweep against Ivy League arch-rival Harvard. It was Dartmouth’s sixth consecutive home defeat and its ninth setback in its last 11 games.

The Crimson, battling for the league lead, won the first contest, 2-1, singling home the winning run in the ninth inning. The visitors then eased to an 11-3 victory in the second game at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park.

The day’s action ended in thematic fashion when, with two runners on base and two outs in the ninth inning of the second contest, Dartmouth first baseman Michael Calamari struck out looking. The Big Green stranded 17 runners during the twinbill and dropped to 11-21 overall and 5-9 in Ivy play with seven league games remaining, all of them at home. Harvard and the Big Green play their three-game series finale today at noon.

“The history here has been that you’re playing meaningful games in the last weekend of the season,” said senior second baseman Sean Sullivan, whose team is seventh in the eight-team league standings. “It’s surprising and some of my classmates are shocked, like we all are, that this is what’s going on.”

Dartmouth last year squandered an eight-run lead in the sixth inning of its regular-season finale at Harvard. That caused the Big Green to miss what would have been its ninth visit to the Ivy League championship series during an 11-year span. The program captured Ivy titles in 2009 and 2010.

“We’ve got to show the younger guys how to get this program back to what it’s been, and that’s been winning,” Sullivan said. “It might be too little, too late, but hopefully it sets the tone for them.”

Senior pitcher Drew O’Connor started Sunday’s first game and allowed seven hits and one run during seven innings while striking out two batters and walking three. He was relieved by Jonah Jenkins, who issued a leadoff walk in the ninth, followed by a two-out intentional walk and Jake Suddleson’s winning single through the infield’s left side.

Harvard ace Hunter Bigge (5-1) allowed six hits and one run during eight innings while striking out seven and walking one during the first game.

“It seems like we can’t put everything together this season,” Sullivan said. “One game we’ll hit but the pitching isn’t there or, like today, O’Connor throws an absolute gem and we can’t put up any runs.”

Bob Whalen, Dartmouth’s 30th-year head coach, said Harvard’s batters repeatedly forced his pitchers into deep counts, fouling off offerings they couldn’t hit squarely against a somewhat inexperienced staff beset by injuries. The boss also lamented his team’s inability to better support O’Connor.

“When he gives up a hit or a walk, he finds a way to then make a pitch to minimize (the damage),” Whalen said. “I love the kid. He’s ultracompetive and athletic and he always gives you a chance to win. I just wish we had scored another couple runs for him.”

Freshman Justin Murray started Dartmouth’s second game on the mound and threw three scoreless innings on just 34 pitches before the Crimson scored four runs in both the fourth and fifth frames. The North Carolinian pitched and played in the field in high school, but was recruited to do the latter with the Big Green. That plan was altered during the preseason, so the righthander has been learning how to hurl at the collegiate level as he goes.

“I thought he competed well and had a good pitch mix, but he left curveballs up a couple of times and they found the barrel (of the bat),” Whalen said of Murray, who allowed eight hits and eight runs, all earned, during five innings. 

Whalen said he hasn’t slept all that much this spring, his mind churning over how to try and lift one of Dartmouth’s most successful programs back to prominence. The Big Green visits Siena on Wednesday and hosts Yale next weekend.

“When things don’t go well, I’ll get out front and take the blame,” the coach said. “You’re always trying to think what you can do better or do more of to give our team a better chance.”

Notes: Harvard is 20-9 overall and 10-4 in league play, trailing just first-place Columbia (16-16, 11-4). ... Harvard won a series with Dartmouth for the first time since 2005. The last time the Crimson won as many as two games in Hanover during a season was 1999. ... Sullivan’s online biography notes that he “enjoys the outdoors and fishing, yet oddly enough does not like seafood.” ... Harvard has won a league-best 18 baseball championships, but its last came in 2005. ... A Saturday gathering of several hundred at Dartmouth’s Rollins Chapel remembered the life of former Big Green men’s and women’s hockey coach George Crowe, who died Jan. 6. Among those eulogizing Crowe were current Dartmouth men’s hockey coach Bob Gaudet and onetime women’s hockey leader Judy Parish Oberting.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.