As the baseball team heads into another crucial four-game series, hopes for an Ivy League championship are still very much alive.
The Bulldogs (23-14, 8-4 Ivy) will make the trek up to New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth (14-14, 9-3) in a pair of doubleheaders this weekend. The Big Green currently lead the Elis by one game in the Red Rolfe division of the Ancient Eight and are tied with Harvard for first place. Yale will need to take three games in order to have a realistic shot at tops in the division.
Glancing at the Big Green’s stat sheet, they appear a far cry from the dominant Cantab squad that forced a split in last weekend’s series against the Bulldogs. Though their lineup is solid, the Big Green lack the same raw team power that helped the Crimson score 29 runs and steal 17 bases over four games.
Nevertheless, the Big Green have come up with timely hits and big wins, and deserve their spot at the top of the division.
“It’s a pretty even matchup,” pitcher Jon Hollis ’06 said. “It’s just going to come down to who executes in critical situations offensively and defensively.”
The Big Green boast a solid all-around threat in center fielder Will Bashelor. The junior leads the team in batting average, hitting at a .386 clip with six doubles and two homers, as well as in stolen bases (12). Though they have four regulars hitting over .300, the Big Green have only seven home runs as a team, compared to Yale’s 13.
On the other side of the ball, Dartmouth has senior captain Josh Faiola to anchor its rotation. Faiola boasts a paltry 2.17 ERA on the season, as well as four complete games in six starts. Despite lacking some of the depth the Yale staff enjoys, the Dartmouth arms have limited their opponents to a stingy 2.4 walks per nine innings. If the Yale lineup is going to score runs, they will have to hit their way onto the bases. Look for speed to play a big role in this series, as it did in the Fairfield series this past Wednesday.
One factor working against the Bulldogs on Saturday and Sunday will be the venue itself. The Elis have played much better within the spacious confines of Yale Field, posting a 10-3 home record, compared with their 9-9 record away from New Haven.
The Dartmouth crowd will also endeavor to make this as much of a factor as possible. Having won the Red Rolfe division for three of the last six years, the Big Green have developed a solid fan base, which is known for its ruthless heckling of opposing teams. But the Bulldogs have experienced this in the past, and shortstop Dan Soltman ’08 said he thinks the team’s dedication and preparation will carry them through the weekend.
“We’re going to be very focused on the task at hand. I think our focus will be able to overcome [that obstacle]” he said.
Lefty Mike Elias ’06, who picked up his second win of the season in the Sacred Heart series, also said he realizes the weight of this series and the value of the team’s practices this week.
“It’s always tough going on the road for four games knowing you need to win the series to stay alive,” he said, “Especially against Dartmouth, who is always one of the strongest teams in the league. It’s no secret we’re going to have to play our best baseball.”