BY SAMMY KARDON
At least one champion was crowned on the diamond in Boston last weekend, even though the Yankees and Red Sox had to trek back to New York to settle their differences. With the specter of the ALCS hanging over their heads, a squad of Harvard Law School’s finest played its way to the school’s first ever title in the 3rd Annual Battle of the Boston Law Schools Softball Invitational on Sunday.
HLS sent two teams, humorously dubbed B+ and B-, out to Cassidy Playground in Brighton over the weekend where they were met by teams from Boston College, New England School of Law, Boston University and Northeastern.
B+ went 1-2 in the double elimination tournament, but B- razed a swath through the competition, including B+ in the Saturday nightcap, winning all five of its games to take home a giant, plastic trophy which will soon be on display to the general public in Harkness Commons, pending administrative approval.
“It feels good,” said B- captain Shane Fleenor, 2L, glowing in the aftermath of the gala awards ceremony.
“We’re proud to give everybody else yet another reason to hate Harvard kids.”
The weekend started off bright and early at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning for team B-, despite apprehensions about the playing conditions that awaited the team in the opener against one of BC’s three entries.
“I was a little worried when I got to the field and saw how muddy it was [from last night’s rain],” 2L captain Pat Bumatay reflected. “But I realized that it was pretty windy and most of us had brought sweatshirts and cleats so we would probably be okay.”
Exhibiting the balanced attack that would become its hallmark, the B- lineup worked seven walks and plated 10 in the opening frame which launched it to an 18-16 victory, setting up an afternoon matchup. HLS B- also made short work of one of the other BC teams.
While B- had a height and weight advantage, B+ s also put up an admirable performance thanks to the pitching of 1L Lauren Salvati and her devastating splitter.
Salvati heroically pitched all three games, working mainly off her fastball but relying on the aforementioned nasty forkball as her out pitch.
“Some people say that it’s folly to be so dependent on breaking pitches because of the harm it can do to your rotator cuff,” Salvati reflected.
“They are definitely wrong, though. I would have thrown a splitter every pitch if [captain] Bumatay had let me,” she added.
Late in the elimination game on Sunday morning against the New England School of Law, with B+ trailing 10-9 in what had been a tense and evenly matched see-saw struggle, Salvati pitched a shutout 5th and 6th before allowing a four-spot in the 7th and final inning.
The last defensive out was particularly memorable. With his team up against a wall, 1L Art Samuels fired a laser back to 1L first-baseman Sammy Kardon (the author of this piece) on a sharp line drive to right, forcing out the startled runner before she had reached the first bag she was convinced she deserved and kept the hope alive of a B+ miracle in the last at bat.
“It’s often said that good defense is the best offense,” a circumspect Samuels posited. “But that isn’t really true in softball since you don’t get to play defense while you’re hitting. I gave it a try anyway, though.”
Unfortunately, the B+ bats remained silent and elimination ensued. The team went back to Cambridge, tired and happy, but B- played on into the afternoon.
The eventual champs faced the third and most fearsome BC team in the semifinals and the finals and beat them 14-8 in each game.
Both times, they relied on a fearsome tandem of 2L Chris’s to put the games out of reach. The first was the pitcher, surnamed Szczerban, who gamely soldiered on despite pulling his hamstring in a whirlwind 4th inning that left everyone dazed.
The second was surnamed Monta, the producer of critical two-out, two-run doubles in both games. Thanks to her work, B- was able to keep the games’ outcomes uncontroversial.
All in all, it was a long hard tournament, but HLS’s commitment to excellence never lagged.
“They had the trophy sitting on tilted plastic card table, just winking at us from behind the backstop,” 1L Gregg Willsey, who played shortstop for B+ and B- and went 15 for 17 over the weekend, explained.
“It was kind of distracting because it was so big and shiny, but it also served as a valuable incentive.”
The softball team will continue practicing for the big national law school softball tournament at the University of Virginia later this year.
“We hope to continue applying the precedent we set in Boston at UVA,” said Fleenor, who is also the director of the entire HLS softball program. “The precedent being one of winning every game and taking championships in every tournament we play.”
Sounds like a good plan, Shane.