Baseball faces tough test in Ivy opener

The baseball team has already played 16 games this year, but its first real test will come this weekend.

The Bulldogs (9-7) travel to New Jersey to play two-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton (4-7) in a noon doubleheader this Saturday, followed by two games against Cornell (4-11) in Ithaca, N.Y. on Sunday.

After starting the season 2-7, the Elis have won their last seven games in a row. Most recently, the Elis swept a doubleheader against Pace last weekend and defeated UConn, 1-0, on Wednesday.

“We’re playing really relaxed right now, which is great considering we start up with the Ivy League part of our schedule soon,” pitcher Mike Morgiandini ’06 said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to. It’s great to have a win streak like we’re having right now, but that doesn’t mean anything come this weekend.”

Princeton has won the Ivy championship three out of the last four years. However, the Tigers lost a number of key players from last year’s squad to the major league draft. Five Princeton players were selected in the first 20 rounds, including outfielder B.J. Szymanski (48th overall) and pitcher Ross Ohlendorf (116th overall).

“Princeton has traditionally been an Ivy League powerhouse,” second baseman Josh Cox ’08 said. “Last year they won the Ivy crown, but now they have lost a ton of seniors and two key players to the major league draft.”

Outfielder Will Venable was selected in the 15th round by the Baltimore Orioles, but decided to stay with Princeton for his senior season. Venable, the son of former major leaguer Max Venable and an All-Ivy basketball player, is currently leading the Ivies with a .444 batting average. The Eli pitching staff will also have to contend with outfielder Andrew Salini, who leads the Ancient Eight with 24 hits, and designated hitter Ryan Eldridge, who ranks first in the Ivies in home runs (5) and RBIs (18).

“Will Venable and Andrew Salini can swing the bat a little bit, and they have a couple of good starting pitchers,” third baseman Matt Stone ’06 said. “I’d still take our pitching over anyone else’s in the league. All we have to do is give them more than one run and capitalize on scoring and we should be okay.”

Cornell has struggled in its first 11 games, all of which have been played on the road in Florida and North Carolina. In its last two games, the Big Red has been pummeled by a combined score of 23-2.

However, most of Cornell’s losses have come against strong teams such as Illinois and Ohio State. Sunday’s game will mark the Big Red’s first game in the Northeast this year.

The Elis are confident about their chances in Ithaca.

“We swept them last year,” Stone said. “Once again, if we can score a few, our pitching and defense will take care of the rest.”

By the end of the weekend, the Bulldogs will have a solid idea of where they stand in the league. Given their recent success, they expect to end up on top.

“Yale has the opportunity to beat anybody any day that they step on the field,” Cox said. “If our phenomenal pitching continues, and our bats show up, I’m confident that we can leave this first Ivy weekend with a handful of wins. We are capable of playing with anyone when we come out and do our jobs. But hopefully, with continued hard work, we can call ourselves Ivy League champs when this year is over.”

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