The weather again kept the Yale baseball team from getting in four games this weekend, though judging by Saturday’s results, the Bulldogs were probably happy to get out of Boston a day early.
The Crimson (12-12, 7-3 Ivy) handed the Elis (10-21, 3-7) two lopsided losses, 5-1 and 6-0, to move themselves four games ahead of Yale in the Rolfe Division standings. The teams were scheduled for two more on Sunday, but the rains that swept through New England kept the squads off the field. A makeup date has not been decided.
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“We’re capable of going back up there and winning two,” captain Justin Ankney ’07 said. “It’s unfortunate we have to travel up there the day of the game, but that’s not really an excuse.”
Harvard extended its Ivy League winning streak to five games and now holds a firm lead in the division. Yesterday’s wins came largely thanks to two strong pitching performances by Max Perlman and Shawn Haviland. Perlman gave up only three hits and one run in his seven-inning Game One masterpiece. The Eli bats continued their silence in Game Two, when Haviland threw eight innings of no-run baseball. The nightcap loss marks only the second time the Elis have been shut out all season — the other goose egg came at Cornell two weeks ago.
“I think falling behind in the count is one of the problems,” second baseman Dan Soltman ’08 said. “We need to find a medium between swinging at 2-0 fastballs in the dirt and swinging at the first pitch.”
Ankney, whose solo home run in the first game represented the only Bulldog score, said the book is out on the Yale hitters, and that pitchers are learning what pitches to throw to keep the team from hitting the ball. He said players have to be aware of curveballs and have to work on staying away from pitches in the dirt.
The Crimson pitchers also managed to strike out 18 Yale batters, an element of their pitching arsenal they had not displayed throughout much of this season. The Bulldogs showed little ability to string together hits. They managed only 10 hits in the two combined games and also left 14 runners stranded on the bags.
The Bulldogs may have even more trouble when they meet their rivals to complete the four-game series. Harvard has yet to throw its two best pitchers, Eric Eadington (2.78 ERA) and Brad Unger (1.98 ERA). Those two are leading a deep pitching staff carrying an Ivy-low team ERA of 3.99 — the ERA against League foes is a mere 2.85.
“The one thing they did which allows you to be successful especially in this league is that they threw different pitches for strikes,” Soltman said. “They weren’t overpowering, but they threw within themselves.”
Ankney said both pitchers had changeups working and pretty good sliders to match. His team must make adjustments, such as moving up in the box, when pitchers are throwing accurately, he said.
The defense for the Elis was not much better than the offense. Yale’s problems in the field continue to hurt their ability to get pitchers out of innings. The team committed five errors in both games, which led to a total of five unearned runs. The Bulldogs are now averaging an inexcusable 2.32 errors per game and their 72 total errors are exactly twice as many as their opponents have recorded against the Elis.
“When you don’t do the easy things, it makes it really tough to win,” Ankney said. “[The errors] started early in the year, and it seems to be compounding. I don’t really have an answer for it.”
The errors indicate only one piece of good news: The pitching staff may actually be throwing better than it seems.
Stefan Schropp ’09 continues to work his team-leading ERA down after throwing a six-inning complete game and surrendering only three earned runs on eight hits. Ace Chris Wietlispach ’08 is still hoping to earn his first victory of the year after a Game Two loss in which he gave up four runs in the first two innings, before settling down a bit and regaining some of his control. But at that point, the Bulldogs’ deficit was too deep for their listless bats to overcome. He gave up a total of six runs in his four total innings of work, but only three were earned.
“Our pitching is getting better,” Schropp said heading into the game. “We’re settling into defined roles and working out the kinks.”
Schropp said the pitching staff is working on staying focused during games.
The Bulldogs need more focus than they’ve shown thus far this season. This weekend’s losses put the team deep in a hole in their division, behind Harvard and Brown (12-14, 7-3 Ivy).
After a cold snap forced Yale to postpone a series with Columbia last weekend, the Bulldogs came out the following day and looked impressive in two wins against the Lions. The Elis are probably hoping this weekend’s make-up games yield the same results.