Eli freshmen make pitches to be starters

Quality may be better than quantity, but the Yale baseball team would prefer to have both.

“We don’t have many pitchers,” Eli captain Randy Leonard ’04. “However, we have great pitchers, they’re talented guys, and they’ve given us a lot of good innings.”

Yale’s starting staff — Josh Sowers ’05, Alec Smith ’06 and Jon Hollis ’06 — allowed only four runs and struck out 15 in 21 innings against Penn and Columbia this weekend. The only blemish on this weekend’s near-perfect pitching performance was the second game against the Lions on Sunday, where freshman pitcher Mike Mongiardini ’07 gave up five runs without recording an out in his start.

With a combined ERA of 4.06 for the season so far, the Eli pitchers — starters and relievers — maintain one of the lowest ERAs in the Ivy League. Harvard, by comparison, has an ERA of 9.27.

Sowers has been the number one pitching option this season with a season ERA of 2.39. His fastball and sliders have confounded opposing batters, and he leads the team with 31 strikeouts while allowing only six walks.

“[Sowers] has a great command of all his pitches,” reliever Doug Shimokawa ’04 said. “He’s definitely our number one guy.”

Smith is a similar pitcher who uses his versatility to get the outs. His play has led to an ERA of 2.92 and 20 Ks, with a strikeout to walk ratio of five to one.

“[Smith] has a multitude of pitches, maybe four or five, and he uses them all in any situation,” Shimokawa said. “He has great control.”

Hollis was a closer earlier in the year but earned a starting pitching spot after his strong pitching Saturday against Penn. Unlike Smith and Sowers, Hollis is primarily a power pitcher who plays off his fastballs and has been clocked in the low 90s.

“[Hollis] has a great fast ball and a great breaking ball,” Shimokawa said.

One of the Bulldogs’ advantages has been its stinginess in giving up free bags. Yale’s strikeout to walk ratio is a league-leading 3.08.

“We throw the ball well across the plate,” pitcher Chris Winkler ’07 said. “By keeping the ball in the zone it kind of keeps the fielders awake.”

But despite the strong play from all three starters this weekend, Yale still won only two of its four games. The Bulldogs will need more help from its other pitchers if they want to have a shot at the league title.

First of all, Yale’s starting pitching rotation is still undetermined.

“We’re still waiting for a fourth starter to step in and emerge,” Leonard said.

Freshman pitchers Winkler and Mongiardini have started several games, but have not yet produced consistently at the level of the other three starters. Both pitched in Sunday’s second game against Columbia and combined for 11 runs allowed and two strikeouts. Mongiardini plays a special role in that he is the pitching staff’s only lefty. But both will need to improve to take the last starting spot.

Part of their problem may be their youth. They may have the talent, but inexperience often translates to inconsistency down the stretch.

“A couple guys are young and they’re still learning but they have already been contributing well,” Shimokawa said.

Other potential starters include Shimokawa, Colin Ward-Henninger ’05 and John Janco ’05.

The pitching staff does not have many weaknesses, but the relievers and closers will have to improve in order to win games.

“We need a little more consistency farther down the rotation,” Winkler said.

Shortstop Chris Esper ’06 rounds third base against Albany last weekend. The baseball team saw its first Ivy League competition this past weekend, splitting doubleheaders with both Penn — a 1-0 loss and a 12-3 win — and Columbia — a 4-2 win and an 11-7 loss.
Kate Lawson
Shortstop Chris Esper ’06 rounds third base against Albany last weekend. The baseball team saw its first Ivy League competition this past weekend, splitting doubleheaders with both Penn — a 1-0 loss and a 12-3 win — and Columbia — a 4-2 win and an 11-7 loss.

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