Just before five o’clock Monday afternoon, in what was supposed to be an off day for the baseball Bulldogs, a wild pitch went sailing to the backstop at Yale Field. As it soared, so too did the spirits of a reenergized Yale squad.
Charles Bush ’09 came to bat in the second game against Columbia with the score tied at nine apiece in the bottom of the ninth inning — two runners on, two outs. A cinematic setup for the designated hitter. The left-handed slugger could see his teammates on their feet, hoping for a walk-off hit. What they got was just as good. Columbia pitcher Daniel Bagjer tossed a pitch over the outstretched glove of his catcher, and Ryan Lavarnway ’09 sprinted from third, tagging home to secure the 10-9 victory.
“I was thinking that the tide has turned,” center fielder Josh Cox ’08 said. “I felt so encouraged to see things go our way.”
Things did look more cheery after Yale’s dramatic victory. The win capped the Bulldogs’ (9-18, 3-5 Ivy) first Ivy League sweep of the year after a 6-3 victory over the Lions (10-18-1, 5-7) in Game One. Starter Brandon Josselyn ’09 threw a seven-inning complete game, giving up only seven hits and two earned runs. The pitcher collected his second win of the season and continued to work down his ERA, which now stands at 6.75. Josselyn’s dominating performance was similar to junior ace Chris Wietlispach’s two-run, 15-strikeout display against Princeton that ended last weekend’s Ancient Eight road trip.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable,” Josselyn said. “In my last starts, when things went wrong I would get a little bit flustered. Today I was a lot more focused.”
Josselyn was aided by a solid offensive showing. The Bulldogs scored a run in each of the first three innings of Game One and helped themselves to three more in the fifth inning. All the runs came largely as a result of small-ball play. The Elis utilized singles and smart baserunning to advance the men on the bags and bring guys home.
Josselyn said that even though he always pitches games as though the score is tied 0-0, it’s good to know that his team can score runs at any point.
That was never truer than in Game Two, when the Bulldogs found a way to put 10 runs on the scoreboard with only eight hits — a runs-to-hits ratio the team has not managed thus far this season. A lot can be credited to Eli power at the plate and a convenient wind blowing toward the outfield.
“The second game today was a slugfest,” captain Justin Ankney ’07 said. “Our first two hits were solo home runs. That’s definitely another way to play offense.”
The first of those home runs belonged to Ankney, who smacked the ball deep over the right field fence in the first inning and added to a day in which he hit .500 and drove in three runs. Third baseman Pedro Obregon ’07 followed suit in the second when he turned on a ball and sent a solo home run to left field. Later in the same inning, Lavarnway connected on a fastball and sent it over the left field wall for a grand slam. The catcher, who continues to lead the Ivy League in the Triple Crown categories, went 4-for-8 on the afternoon and had five RBI.
“It wasn’t just the power,” Cox said. “We were able to get on base, keep the innings alive, and allow guys to drive us in.”
The Elis got off to an early lead in both games, including a 6-0 lead in the second game. But the team allowed Columbia to fight back and tie the score in the late game, bringing back memories of the loss to Penn on Saturday where the Quakers tied the score and won in extra innings.
Second baseman Ankney said it is good to get out to a lead, but the team needs to concentrate on winning each inning. He said his team needs to score and then make sure the other team gets three quick outs.
The formula should help the team continue to put up wins and take this momentum into the upcoming games.
“We’re a little more confident,” Josselyn said. “We didn’t really play great today and we still came away 2-0. It’s important to get everyone headed in the right direction.”
After a two-game series with Sacred Heart at home tomorrow, one direction the Elis are guaranteed to head is to Cambridge, where their first divisional opponent waits.