With spring break around the corner, the Yale baseball team is preparing for its first games of the season.
The team finished in last place in the Rolfe Division last season for the second consecutive year with an 8–12 Ivy League record, 21–22–1 overall. Despite that weak overall season, the team had a strong spring break last year, 9–4–1, and will look to repeat that performance when it hits the road and starts its season at the RussMatt Invitational on Saturday.
The team will play Lehigh, Xavier, Miami (Ohio), Toledo, Bowling Green, Michigan State, and Ohio State in successive days at the tournament. They will then play Central Conneticut State and Navy to wrap up the break. The Bulldogs will see their first Ivy League action against Cornell on April 2.
“We have never looked better in my years here,” pitcher Vinny Lally ’11 said. “We are trying to take everything from last year and build on it.”
Pitching has been a problem for the last two years. Last year, the team recorded a 6.22 ERA, a slight improvement on its 6.82 ERA in the 2008–’09 season. Lally said that the team needs to focus on improving its pitching and defense if it wants to have a better season.
The team will be heading into the new season with six new freshmen that are capable of helping on both defense and offense.
“Guys are getting older, more mature, and it’s really about refining everything from last year,” pitcher Pat Ludwig ’12 said. “We don’t have any reason not to be successful.”
This year’s core pitching staff will include Brook Hart ’11, Vinny Lally ’11, Ludwig and Christopher O’Hare ’13. Lally led this year’s returners with a 4.37 ERA last season. Captain Andy Megee ’11 said that the pitchers gained additional experience by competing over the summer. He also added that the team is more experienced this year, with at least one year of experience at each spot.
“I think we will be able to handle the highs and lows of the season,” Megee said. “We did not handle our slump well last year.”
Megee will look to lead the team on the offensive side after a strong season last year. He batted .310 last season and was one of three players that competed in all of the Bulldogs’ games last year. But he said all of the top nine hitters on the team will be critical to the team’s success this year and that any of them could have a big season.
The team has only competed against itself and is eager to get back into collegiate competition. Ludwig said that the team wants to use the RussMatt Invitational as an opportunity to see how they size up against other teams.
Megee added that the starting lineup for this weekend has yet to be determined, but that the coaches would let the players know on their way to Florida. According to Ludwig, all of the freshmen have been on the mound and could find themselves on this year’s pitching staff.
“The freshman class will be able to contribute,” Lally said. “They are talented and are ready to compete now.”
Columbia was the run away winner in the Lou Gehrig Division last season with a five game lead over the second place team. Dartmouth, who won the Rolfe Division for the third consecutive year and the Ivy title, had the highest overall winning percentage in the Ivy League last year. The Big Green won the division last year with a three game margin over Harvard and Brown. The Bulldogs had a 0–4 record against Dartmouth last year, and may have trouble with the team again this year. Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Hunter return this year to the Big Green pitching staff, one that led the country in fewest walks per nine innings last season.
The Bulldogs will kick off their season on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the RussMatt Invitational in Winter Haven, Florida.