The old baseball saying goes, “Momentum is only as good as the next day’s pitcher.” If the Bulldog pitchers throw as well in Boston on Wednesday as they did this weekend against Dartmouth, the baseball team should have all the momentum it needs.
Yale (14-23, 6-8 Ivy) won three of four against Dartmouth (6-22-1, 3-11), and effectively kept themselves in the Rolfe Division race. They now trail Harvard and Brown, who split their own series this weekend, by three games. The gap is fully surmountable — Yale’s final six games are slated against the Crimson and the Bears.
“We’re very aware of the scores [from Harvard-Brown],” pitcher Stefan Schropp ’09 said. “But really we just went out and took care of our own business.”
Yale starters gave up only nine earned runs in 26 innings on the hill and struck out 18 Big Green batters in the process. The work included two gems by Brandon Josselyn ’09 and Steve Gilman ’08. Josselyn pitched seven innings of one-run ball and gave up only five hits in Saturday’s Game 2, while fellow hurler Gilman followed suit and produced a near carbon copy seven innings (one run, six hits).
“The catching and pitch selection were great,” Gilman said. “Everyone got their work in, and it’s a good thing because now we have more relievers that are saved up.”
The starters seemed to finally find the consistency they have been lacking, yet even they were shown up this weekend by the relievers. As a group, Brian Irving ’08, John Henry Davis ’08 and Chris Walsh ’09 left the Big Green with zeros on the scoreboard in six innings of pitching. Yale appeared to have little problem closing out their opponent this weekend, something that has not always held true for the Bulldog bullpen.
“The relief pitchers have been great all year,” Gilman said. “When you start to get tired around 100 pitches or so, it’s comforting to know you have great pitching behind you.”
The pitching dominance put little pressure on Yale batters, though their performance became a cause for celebration this weekend as well. First baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 cracked a double in the bottom of the third inning in his second at bat of the series. The hit, the 214th of his career, broke Dan Thompson’s school record of 213, which has stood for more than 10 years. The double seemed a fitting way to break the record, and it served as a prelude for Sawyer’s next feat in Game 2, where another double in the first also broke Thompson’s school record of 50.
“To own these records says a lot about him as a player,” third baseman Pedro Obregon ’07 said. “He’s having an absolutely monster year. You get spoiled because he’s doing that all year, and you expect it.”
The all-time Ivy League career leader in hits is Brown’s Matt Kutler, who belted 260 from 2001 to 2005 for the Bears. Kutler is tied with fellow Brown alum Todd Iarussi (1998-2001) for the all-time league record for doubles with 56.
While five more doubles in the last six games of the regular season may be asking a lot of Sawyer, his teammate, catcher Ryan Lavarnway ’09, may eventually be able to bring the record to Yale Field anyway. The sophomore sensation, who continues to lead the Ivy League in batting average (.459), home runs (11), and RBI (45), hit his 16th double of the season this weekend to become the Yale all-time single season leader. Lavarnway now has 25 on his career and two more years to play.
“It’s just great to watch the two of them,” Schropp said. “You know if you get guys on [base] in front of them, you’re going to get a run and probably two. When they come up to the plate, you just know something good is going to happen.”
With hitting and pitching finally clicking for the Bulldogs, the only real question mark remaining was defense. The team entered the weekend with a league-worst .936 fielding percentage and had flubbed 72 times for errors, 15 more than anyone else in the Ancient Eight.
Yale pitchers had the additional luxury of a reliable defense behind them, a steadiness the Elis — who were averaging over two errors per game — had not yet found before this week. In the three wins, the Bulldogs committed only three errors, and none were terribly costly.
Obregon said the infielders need to make plays to back up their pitchers. He said as long as Yale pitchers continue to throw strikes, fielders will keep on their toes and get a good first step.
Bulldog fielders applied Obregon’s creed in the three Eli wins, but looked less impressive in Game 2 on Saturday. Yale led 5-4 heading into the top of the seventh on the strong pitching arm of Chris Wietlispach ’08. But two costly errors in the inning kept the Big Green alive and gave them the opportunity to send three runners across home. Dartmouth never relinquished the lead and kept the Bulldogs from completing the series sweep.
“We didn’t have a feeling like we had just given one away,” Schropp said. “We feel we should have won all four games this weekend, but sometimes in late innings, things don’t go your way.”
Nevertheless, Yale made good on what they set out to do: win the series, stay in contention and acquire some momentum for the final two games against rival Harvard on Saturday.
“It’s still a long shot,” Obregon said. “But if we can win out to go to 12-8, we still have a chance to win the league.”
Depending on how things go, the Bulldogs might not have to do quite that well, but winning the next six wouldn’t hurt.