Harvin living the dream in Northwoods League

Harvin hurls during Birmingham-Southern's season.

What do Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Tristan Harvin have in common?

Several years ago, Scherzer, currently ace of the Washington Nationals pitching staff, and Sale, a Boston Red Sox southpaw, both did what Dothan native Tristan Harvin is doing this summer, i.e. pitch for the La Crosse (Wisconsin) Loggers in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer league in its 26th year.

Harvin, whose parents Brian and Juelie (nee Enloe) Harvin are Enterprise natives, is a well-mannered, 6-0, 195-pound Birmingham-Southern sophomore psychology major, currently pitching on mounds Scherzer (2004) and Sale (2008) both manned throughout the 10-team Great Plains Division of the Northwest League; the Great Lakes Division has 11 teams.

The Northwoods League has teams scattered over Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Harvin, who played on several travel ball teams in and around Enterprise several years, had a banner 2019 post-season for the BSC Panthers of the NCAA Division III Southern Athletic Association, coached by Jan Weisberg, J.D. Hulse and volunteer Ivy Starling.

“He’s living the dream,” Brian Harvin said of the oldest of three athletic sons. “Tristan pitched well at Regionals to get to the Super Regional, then got the win in the semifinal game at the World Series to advance to the championship round.”

In his first regional game May 18, with the Panthers trailing LaGrange College, 2-1, in a five-game series, Tristan Harvin took the mound with the score tied at the end of the sixth inning of the fourth game.

Harvin pitched three scoreless innings and got the win in the 8-5 decision that forced the series’ fifth game.

In that game, the following day, Harvin drew the starting nod, allowed one run and left with Birmingham Southern ahead, 7-1, after four innings, an inning shy of getting an official win.

At the Super Regionals, BSC faced Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the same stadium that days later hosted the World Series.

The Panthers swept Coe, 6-4 (12 innings), 11-2; Harvin pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the second game.

In his next outing, in the semi-final against Johns Hopkins, Harvin started and pitched six innings, allowed four runs and left the game ahead, 11-4.

Then came the championship games two days later.

The Panthers lost to World Series champion Chapman University of Orange, California, 6-4, 11-0, on June 4.

On June 23, Harvin flew to Wisconsin and in his June 25 debut for La Crosse against the Waterloo Bucks, the Loggers’ lone Alabamian pitched a hitless, scoreless one-third inning in a 6-5 loss before a crowd of 1,000 in Iowa.

Other La Crosse pitchers on the 16-man staff are from Penn State, Arkansas and Cincinnati, among other colleges and universities.

Position players for La Crosse come from California, Washington, South Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Texas A&M, George Washington, Arizona and several smaller schools.

In addition to Scherzer and Sale, Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs), Brandon Crawford (San Francisco) and Curtis Granderson (Miami) are among more than 200 Northwoods alumni to reach the Major Leagues.

Three former Northwoods’ players were taken in the first round of the 2019 MLB draft in early June.

Tristan Harvin wouldn’t be disappointed if he’s drafted down the road.

“Like everyone else, I’d love to get to the Major Leagues one day,” Harvin said Tuesday night. “Right now, I’m having lots of fun.

“I just joined the team and was a little intimidated by all these guys from major colleges; I’m from a Division III program and I don’t face the level of competition these guys do.

“But I’m excited, especially because I really didn’t know if I’d be playing summer ball this year until recently.”

In previous summers, Harvin played in an amateur league in Florida with top high school players, all of whom on his team are now playing in college or professionally.

Among them are Tommy Mace, now a sophomore pitcher at the University of Florida, and C. J. Van Eyk, a Florida State sophomore pitcher.

Mace in 2018, and Van Eyk and Harvin, this year, have now played in their respective World Series.

 This summer, Harvin’s stepped up a notch, thanks to contacts between his college coaches and those in La Crosse, who invited him to Wisconsin.

“I’m not sure but I’m feeling like I’ll probably pitch in relief at first, like I did today,” Harvin said. “The season will soon be halfway over, but we play into August, so I’ll go out every day and be ready.”

And he’ll do the same thing he’s done since the first day he picked up a baseball; he’ll have fun.

“Yessir, it’s all been fun,” Harvin concluded. “I’ll go out and give it my best and enjoy every game.”

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