Not only will the men of Eli baseball have four chances to embarrass archrival Harvard at Yale Field this weekend, the Bulldogs will also have an opportunity to move to the top of the Red Rolfe Division.
Yale (10-14, 5-3 Ivy) will come into the weekend’s pair of double-headers two games behind the division-leading Crimson (13-9-1, 7-1). The Cantabs are in the midst of a seven-game Ivy win streak but if the Bulldogs come away with a sweep, they will likely knock the Crimson off its pedestal.
But Yale needs no extra motivation.
“We tend to bring the same intensity to every Ivy League game we play — more so Dartmouth, Brown and Harvard than the others since they are in our division,” Eli right-hander Josh Sowers ’05 said. “However, Harvard has had their way with us since I’ve been here so I would love to get some revenge.”
In 2002, the Elis had a chance to take first place from Harvard going into a four-game set at Yale Field. But by the weekend’s end, Yale found itself at the bottom of the division after losing all four games to the Crimson. In that series the Cantabs outscored the Bulldogs 24-11.
In last season’s dual double-headers, Harvard took three out of four games at O’Donnell Field in Cambridge, Mass. In those four games the Elis gave up 34 runs while only scoring 15. The lone Yale victory came in extra-innings in game two of the first double header, when the Bulldogs scored twice in the top of the 11th to secure a 9-8 victory.
A year later, the Bulldogs expect the results to be the exact opposite, with Yale dominant at the plate and off the mound.
“Hitting has been [Harvard’s] motor all season,” Eli lefty Mike Mongiardini ’07 said. “But I think we’ve got the pitching to stop them. Also, our hitting has been on lately. We can swing with anyone in the Ivies right now.”
The Crimson has relied heavily on its offense this season while winning seven straight Ivy League games. Harvard opened their Ivy schedule with a loss to Cornell (4-19, 1-5). The Big Red have the worst record in the Ivy League and succumbed twice to the Elis last weekend at Yale Field, where Yale won two games by scores of 6-3 and 6-2.
But the Cantabs rebounded to win seven straight, including successive sweeps of Princeton (14-12, 3-5), University of Pennsylvania (7-18, 2-8) and Columbia (9-17, 6-6).
To counter the Cantab bats, Yale will throw ace right-hander Alec Smith ’06 in game one on Friday, followed by big righty Jon Hollis ’06 in the nightcap. Sowers, who leads all Ivy pitchers with a league-low 2.20 ERA, will pitch game one on Saturday, followed by Mongiardini, who looks to duplicate his dominant performance last weekend against Cornell, when he pitched a complete game four-hitter while giving up one run and striking out nine. For his first collegiate victory, Mongiardini earned Ivy Rookie of the Week and Pitcher of the Week honors.
If everything comes together for the Bulldogs, they will not only overtake Harvard but also possibly Brown (7-14, 4-2) and Dartmouth (12-9, 4-2). The Bears and the Big Green play four games against each other this weekend in Providence. Even if one team sweeps the series, four Eli victories would still put the Bulldogs atop the division.
“The traditional Yale-Harvard rivalry is intense in every sport, and baseball is no exception,” infielder Justin Ankney ’07 said. “These four games are going to be particularly meaningful because Harvard is already 7-1 in the league, and we need to win at least 3 out of the 4 to put ourselves in a good position to win the division.”
Though this weekend’s contests have the potential to stir up the divisional rankings, Ankney said the Elis will be playing as they do every time — as hard as they can. He added that the team is focusing from game to game, and not thinking about the implications that these contests have on the divisional title. The winners of the Red Rolfe and Lou Gehrig divisions play each other in an Ivy League Championship Series, whose winner gets the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I think I can speak for the team when I say that we’re not looking that far ahead,” Ankney said. “Sweeping Harvard would put us in a great position to win the division, regardless of the Brown and Dartmouth series.”