It all came together for the men of Eli baseball this weekend: they had hitting, they had pitching, they had defense.
The Bulldogs (10-14, 5-3 Ivy) were rewarded for bringing the complete package to Yale Field with a split of the double-header against defending Ivy champion Princeton (14-12, 3-5) on Friday and a sweep of Cornell (10-14, 5-3) on Saturday.
“I think [this weekend] was the first time that the hitting, pitching, and fielding all came together,” infielder Justin Ankney ’07 said. “Even in the game we lost to Princeton we played well, just came up a little short.”
In game one against Princeton, Eli lefty Mike Mongiardini ’07 went in search of his first ever collegiate victory against Tiger ace Ross Ohlendorf. Mongiardini was also hoping to bounce back after a rough outing against Columbia last weekend in which he gave up five runs in the first inning before being relieved without recording a single out.
But Friday, Mongiardini was dominant, giving up just one run on four hits over seven innings while striking out a career-high nine batters. Yet it did not look like his performance would be enough as Ohlendorf took a perfect game into the seventh and final inning. In Ivy League double-headers the first game is always seven innings, and the nightcap nine innings.
With the Elis down 1-0, Ankney led off the seventh with a single to end Ohlendorf’s bid for perfection. Captain Randy Leonard ’04 sacrificed Ankney over to second to record the first out. Yale first baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 then singled to bring home Ankney to tie the game at one.
Zac Bradley ’06 came into the game to pinch run for Sawyer — Bradley’s first appearance in an Ivy game this season due to injury. Bradley advanced to third when outfielder John Janco ’06 was hit by a pitch and outfielder Matt Stone ’06 walked to load the bases. Then, on a 1-1 pitch to outfielder C.J. Orrico ’05, Bradley broke for home and slid under the glove of Tiger catcher Tim Lahey to give the Bulldogs the win and Mongiardini his first ever collegiate victory.
“Zac [Bradley] stealing home in the first game against Princeton showed us we have our biggest playmaker back; it was great,” pitcher Josh Sowers ’05 said.
Catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said the return of Bradley has boosted the team’s energy.
“[Bradley] coming back meant a whole bunch of energy was returning to the team,” Rasmussen said. “He is going to do stuff that makes the team excited. He’s one of those guys you look at and you try to follow.”
Rasmussen also praised Mongiardini for his effort.
“I have never seen Mike throw the ball as well as he did on Friday,” Rasmussen said. “He’s got the stuff to be absolutely incredible in this league.”
In the nightcap Friday, the Tigers and the Bulldogs battled the whole game, with the lead changing four times before Yale tied it up in the sixth to make it 5-5. Neither team would score again until the ninth, when Princeton scored the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice. That run eventually secured the split for the Tigers with a 6-5 game two victory.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs hit and pitched their way to two dominant victories over Cornell. In game one, Eli righty Sowers gave up just two earned runs in a complete game 6-3 victory. In game two, it was Eli ace right-hander Alec Smith ’06 who led Yale to victory, giving up just two runs on the way to a 6-2 victory. Ankney ’07 was 5-for-9 on the day, raising his average 24 points to .316 and leading the offensive charge for the Bulldogs.
Sowers said it was solid pitching that gave the Elis a chance to win this weekend.
“All weekend our pitchers were keeping the ball down and getting groundballs — we turned seven or eight double-plays that kept Cornell and Princeton from putting together rallies,” Sowers said.
Despite going three for four on the weekend to improve its Ivy record to 5-3, Yale is still last in the tough Red Rolfe Division. But Ankney said the team is not worried at all, saying that once divisional play begins, Yale will be a force to reckon with. Until now, most Ivy games have been inter-divisional, and the Red Rolfe Division has been beating up on the weaker Lou Gehrig Division where Columbia leads with a record of only 6-6. Harvard leads Yale’s division with a record of 7-1.
“Being last place in our half of the league is not even a thought right now,” Ankney said. “We’re 5-3, and Dartmouth and Brown are both 4-2. Our next three weekends are against teams in our half of the league, and if we play to our capability we will win our division, no doubt about it.”