Baseball ends season with losses to Harvard
By Eric Petitt, Sports Writer
Published on Monday, May 6, 1996
The Dartmouth baseball team laid it all on the line against the red-hot Crimson of Harvard this weekend.
For that reason, if nothing else, the outcome of this year's Dartmouth-Harvard four game season finale could not have been more painful.
Needing to win three of four against the Crimson to tie them for the Red Rolfe Division Title, Dartmouth came up with none. The four losses granted Harvard its first Red Rolfe Division pennant in the Ivy League baseball's four-year history.
It would have been Dartmouth's first Red Rolfe title if the team had pulled off the three wins.
"There were no bullets left in the gun," Head Coach Bob Whalen said after the final game, a marathon ten-inning heart-wrencher which the Big Green had led 6-0, but finally dropped 15-10.
Dartmouth, 12-25 overall this year and 8-12 in the Ivies, started with the lead in three of the four weekend games, but the Crimson, winners of 11 straight to close out the year, relentlessly fought back until Dartmouth had little left to give.
In Boston on Saturday, Dartmouth staked out early leads in games one and two, and with ace pitchers Eric Walania '98 and Scott Simon '97 starting both games, the Big Green seemed to be in the driving seat.
But, for the first time in a long time, Walania lost his groove in the opener, and sloppy field conditions caused by a continuous downpour aided in five Dartmouth errors to hand Harvard an 8-3 victory.
The momentum-setting loss for Walania, now 8-1 over two seasons, was his first ever in the Ancient Eight.
"I think our kids were really taken aback by Walania getting hit as hard as he did," Whalen said about the loss, which gave Dartmouth the next-to-impossible task of winning three in a row against the Crimson.
Simon set out to start the unenviable task in the nightcap, and in six innings he gave the Dartmouth Nine a chance to win, allowing three runs on only six hits and two walks.
But Harvard freshman Andrew Duffell, one of a slew of phenomenal young hurlers in the Crimson stables, hurled a three-hit, one-run gem of his own, and the Big Green's 1996 playoff hopes were dashed with the 3-1 Crimson victory.
Dartmouth lost the opener in Hanover on Sunday 5-1, despite strong pitching from Dan Godfrey '98.
Godfrey replaced starter Matt Tarver-Wahlquist '98 after only one out in the first inning.
One battle was left, the 10-inning fiasco in game four, which by the end had Dartmouth's third pitcher on the mound and third string walk-on freshman catcher Jeremy McCormick behind the plate.
"We had to make so many moves to get back in the game," Whalen said, who in the end ran out of manpower to attack the deep Crimson bench and bullpen.
"Give Harvard credit, they are the better team. Their depth showed at every position," he said.
For five players at Red Rolfe Field on Sunday, the doubleheader with Harvard held special meaning. Seniors Greg Gilmer, Jake Isler, Craig Pawling, Chris Van Vliet and Yusuke Watanabe all suited up for the last time in the green and white Sunday, marking the end of some extraordinary college baseball careers.
Greg Gilmer, a walk-on as a freshman who batted over .300 in each of his four seasons and served as captain for the Big Green over the last two years, leaves a tremendous void in right field and as well as in leadership on the team.
"Greg is an interesting kid to be around," Whalen said on the always-smiling, overgrown boy of a player. "He's a roller coaster guy ... but no one has ever played harder once the game starts."
Jake Isler, a transfer student from Pennsylvania State who served as co-captain this year, started every game at third base for Dartmouth in his three-year tenure, and batted consistently over .300 at the cleanup position for the Big Green.
Whalen knows the "Ice" man will be missed at the hot corner in years to come.
"Jake has come through so many times in the years. He's the guy I would want up there at the plate when the game is on the line. A real class act," Whalen said.
Craig Pawling, whose gone from All-Ivy honors to a platoon player in his four years at Dartmouth, has carried his sweet swing in the clutch for the Dartmouth nine often in his career.
"In the ups and downs this kid has always put the team first," Whalen said. "He's one of the most unselfish kids I've ever coached."
Chris Van Vliet, who sat out his first year at Dartmouth because of serious arm problems from which he never fully recovered, performed as a reliable reliever for Whalen in his three-year career.
"Its a testament to him to hang in there," Whalen said. "He always took the ball and did everything I asked of him."
Finally, Yusuke Watanabe, a senior walk-on from Japan, made quite a splash in his only year as a Big Green ballplayer, serving as a vocal supporter for the team while backing up Isler at third.