In the span of a single inning, the Yale baseball team saw its hopes for the postseason slim down to a single prayer.
With a three-spot in the bottom of the fifth frame, Dartmouth (17-16, 11-5 Ivy) took a lead that it would hold for the rest of the first game, and the Bulldogs (25-16, 10-6) were denied a sweep that would have greatly aided their quest for the Ivy League crown. After dropping the first game of the doubleheader, 8-5, Yale went on to pull out the nightcap in a 13-9 shootout.
The Elis entered this two-game makeup series with little hope for playoff contention to begin with: Even if they had swept the series, they would have had to get help from Harvard and Dartmouth. At this point, the only chance that remains is if the team sweeps Brown in four games this weekend, and Harvard either splits or drops three games to Dartmouth, in which case there would be a one-game playoff.
In the first game of the series, Yale sent Chris Wietlispach ’08 to the hill. He worked five solid innings, but got into trouble in the sixth when the first two batters reached on a single and hit by pitch. Matt Fealey ’06 entered with the two runners and allowed two hits without recording an out. The Big Green also rallied off of Adam Barrick ’06 for two earned runs.
Right fielder Ryan Lavarnway ’09 hit his team-leading fifth home run of the year, and center fielder Jake Doyle ’07 contributed three hits and two runs batted in.
“It’s really more important that we win games than any individual performance,” Lavarnway said. “Anything that we do individually is only truly important if the team does well. That’s what I care about.”
In the second game, Yale’s bats pounded Dartmouth starter Chase Carpenter, including an eight-run top of the fourth. First baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 was 3 for 6 with a home run and six RBI, making him one of four players who collected a trio of hits. Lavarnway again displayed his prodigious power at the plate by slamming his second homer of the series.
Left-hander Mike Elias ’06 started the game for the Bulldogs, turning in five solid innings before getting into trouble and giving up three runs in the sixth. The bullpen was again uncharacteristically shaky, with Fealey and John Henry Davis ’08 each giving up a pair of runs, but the Bulldogs’ bats picked up their pitching staff with the early lead.
As they go into their final series with their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs can reflect on a number of positive aspects of the season as a whole. The emergence of Lavarnway and third baseman Charles Bush ’09 as serious contributors to the lineup bodes well for Yale’s run-scoring potential over the coming years, and the lineup will be anchored by the return of Sawyer.
On the other side of the ball, Davis and Wietlispach will look to bring balance to a pitching staff that will be shaken by the losses of Alec Smith ’06 and Jon Hollis ’06.
“I have confidence in our pitching staff next year,” Davis said. “We’re losing some really great pitchers, but we have a lot of talented guys who are getting in quality innings this year.”
Yale has its final series this weekend against Brown (12-21, 9-7), including a home doubleheader at noon on Saturday. As in the past, the Bulldogs will look to the fans and atmosphere of Yale Field to aid them in their quest to sweep the series.
“You play the whole season so that you’re still alive for the final weekend,” closer Brett Rosenthal ’07 said. “And we’re still alive.”