CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Needing a win to finish second in the Ivy League standings and qualify for the Ivy League Championship Series this weekend, Dartmouth produced its biggest offensive showing of the season, scoring 17 runs on 19 hits. The only problem was that Harvard clubbed five home runs, the last a two-run shot by Matt Rothenburg in the eighth to rally the Crimson (22-20, 12-9 Ivy) from an eight-run deficit and defeat the Big Green (17-22-1, 12-8-1 Ivy) at O’Donnell Field on Monday afternoon in a wild 18-17 affair.
The team that benefitted from Harvard’s victory was Columbia, who moved ahead of Dartmouth into second place with a 13-8 conference record. The Lions will play at Yale (22-19, 15-6 Ivy) in the best-of-three series in New Haven beginning on Saturday.
Senior Dustin Shirley led the Big Green with four hits while four others — senior Kyle Holbrook, and juniors Sean Sullivan, Nate Ostmo and Steffen Torgersen — all had three knocks. Sullivan also scored a career-high four times and drove in two, and the other four each had three RBIs, including Torgersen who blasted his first home run of his career to straight-away center.
Rothenburg was 2-for-3 with three runs and five RBIs with both hits being round-trippers, the first a three-run shot in the second to begin the Crimson scoring and the second the two-run blast in the eighth to conclude the eight-run comeback. Harvard scored 13 of its 18 runs on home runs as Jake Suddleson and Devan Peterson also launched three-run blasts, and Hunter Bigge added a two-run clout.
The Big Green went to work right away as Sullivan and Holbrook sandwiched a walk to junior Matt Feinstein between singles to load the bases with nobody out. A balk brought home the game’s first run, followed by an RBI single off the bat of Shirley and a fielder’s choice by sophomore Blake Crossing to score a third run.
In the second, Harvard tied the score on Rothenburg’s first home run, and after a two-out double by Ben Skinner, Dartmouth summoned left-hander Michael Parsons from the bullpen to replace senior starter Clay Chatham. But left-handed-hitting Austin Black foiled the strategy by lining a single to right-center to give the Crimson a 4-3 lead.
The second of five lead changes on the day saw the Big Green put three more on the board in the third, all with two gone. Sophomore Michael Calamari provided the first of three consecutive RBI singles, followed by Ostmo and Torgersen for a 6-4 advantage. Harvard shortstop Chad Minato denied more with a diving catch on a line drive with two men on to end the inning. Bigge got hold of a 2-0 pitch in the bottom half for a game-tying, two-run four-bagger to left-center, his fourth of the year.
Dartmouth went back on top in the fourth against southpaw reliever John MacLean when Shirley ripped an RBI double with two gone into the gap in left-center, scoring Sullivan from first after he had walked to start the stanza. The bottom half began ominously as a routine fly to left was lost in the bright sun for a double. Following a walk and a grounder to first, Suddleson launched his three-run homer to left-center, his team-leading sixth, to put Harvard back on top, 9-7.
Torgersen provided a game-tying blow in the top of the fifth with his long home run. But the Big Green weren’t done as Sullivan singled, Feinstein doubled and Holbrook ripped a hard grounder inside the first-base line for a two-run single and an 11-9 lead.
The Big Green lead ballooned to eight runs in the sixth with six more runs. Sullivan stroked a two-run single, Holbrook and Shirley each had RBI base hits and Ostmo capped it with a two-run single of his own.
An eight-run lead on this day was not safe, however, as Harvard quickly got back into the game with seven in its half of the sixth. Four straight singles ended the day for reliever Tyler Fagler, and sophomore closer Austen Michel came in to stem the tide. Bigge greeted him with a two-run double just inside the right-field foul line, and after a walk, Peterson hit the first pitch he saw just over the fence in right to close the gap to one, 17-16.
At this point, the offense quieted down. Bigge, who had moved from third base to the mound during the top of the sixth, kept Dartmouth off the board in the seventh and eighth, while Michel put a goose egg up in the bottom of the seventh. But Bigge led off the eighth with a base hit, and Rothenburg jumped on the first pitch to him and sent it over the left-field fence for his second home run of the day and fifth of the season, putting the Crimson up, 18-17.
In the ninth, Bigge walked Torgersen with one down, then Sullivan with two out to put the tying run in scoring position. But on a full-count pitch, he got the final out swinging at strike three to end the madness in three hours and 50 minutes.
Bigge (3-2) earned the win, hurling the final four frames and surrendering two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four.
Michel (3-2), who began the day as the Ivy League’s ERA leader, was stuck with the loss, allowing five runs in two innings of work. The only pitcher to not allow a run on this day was Big Green senior Patrick Peterson, who struck out the side in the eighth after replacing Michel.
Notes: Harvard won the final two games of the series, giving the Crimson consecutive wins against Dartmouth for the first time in eight years, and their first series win against the Big Green since 2005 … the 35 runs were the most in a game between the two since the very first meeting in 1869 when Harvard handed Dartmouth a 38-0 defeat … the last Dartmouth game that featured at least 35 runs was a 25-10 loss to Akron in 2010, and the last one with more was a 19-18 victory over Army in 2008 … this was the highest scoring Ivy League game for the Big Green during head coach Bob Whalen’s 29-year tenure.