In football, there is The Game. In squash, there is The Match. In baseball, there is … The Four-Game Series.
Although the name of the Yale-Harvard baseball contest is not quite as catchy as some of its other athletic counterparts, this weekend’s series at O’Donnell Field promises to be a showdown of epic proportions.
The Elis (15-10, 5-3 Ivy) roll into Cambridge on the crest of a five-game winning streak, while the Cantabs (14-9, 7-1) have lost two of their last three, including a 6-0 shutout defeat at the hands of Boston College on Tuesday. Though Yale and Harvard have almost identical overall records, the Cantabs boast the best mark in Ivy play, leading the Bulldogs by two games in the Red Rolfe division.
“We are expecting a dogfight this weekend,” outfielder Josh Zabar ’06 said. “We are going to have to battle each and every game in order to come out on top. Harvard is a good team, but so are we. We have a positive attitude, but we know that we have to come ready to play on Saturday and bring our best stuff. It’s important to take one game at a time.”
The Cantabs boast a powerful lineup that includes third baseman/pitcher Steffan Wilson, first baseman Josh Klimkiewicz, and designated hitter Zak Farkes. Wilson ranks third in the Ivies in slugging percentage (.671) and Klimkiewicz ranks fourth (.663). Last year, Farkes led the Ancient Eight in homers (14), one short of the league record, but this year he has hit only one round tripper in 16 games.
Despite Harvard’s offensive firepower, the Elis should be in great shape this weekend if the old adage that good pitching beats good hitting proves true. Though the Cantabs have a good staff, the Bulldogs’ is arguably the best in the league. Yale’s top four starters occupy the top four slots on the Ivy League strikeout leader board — Josh Sowers ’05 and Jon Hollis ’06 lead the league (42), followed by Mike Mongiardini ’07 (36), and Alec Smith ’06 (35). Sowers also paces the circuit in ERA (1.13) and innings pitched (39.2) and is tied for the lead in victories (4).
When the starters get tired, the Yale bullpen will be there to put out the fire. Brett Rosenthal ’07 leads a strong relief corps and is tied for second in the league in saves (3).
“The pitching staff has done a great job thus far,” catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “They’ve been keeping us ahead in games where the offense hasn’t been so good. This weekend, it’ll be the same game plan — throw strikes, get ahead of hitters, do what we’ve been doing all year.”
After sweeping four Ivy games against Columbia and Penn last weekend, the Elis are looking to catch up to Harvard in the Red Rolfe division standings.
“We did what we needed to do last weekend,” third baseman Matt Stone ’06 said. “After a tough Ivy opening, [it] put us back into a position that makes this upcoming series very interesting. All series within the league are important, so it’s difficult to put emphasis on one particular series, but we cannot rely on other teams to help us out. We need to take care of what we control and that is how we play. Hopefully we can come out with some big wins.”