“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball,” hall of fame shortstop Rogers Hornsby once said. “I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Spring has finally arrived for the Bulldogs, who will begin their season tomorrow at Virginia Tech University (7–2). The Bulldogs hope new talent can replace the seniors who graduated last year and help the team improve on last year’s 23–19 record. Though Virginia Tech is from the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference, the Elis are confident they can compete with the Hokies.
“Just because they’re an ACC team doesn’t mean we don’t think we can go down there and win,” first baseman and outfielder Josh Scharff ’13 said. “This team has a whole bunch of confidence.”
After playing four games in three days in the newly renovated English Field in Blacksburg, the Bulldogs will play seven games in a week — one at the University of South Florida and six more in the 2012 RussMatt Invitational tournament. The Elis will square off against Bowling Green, North Dakota State, Bradley, and Lafayette universities and twice against Georgetown.
Scharff and first baseman and closer Kevin Fortunato ’14 said that spending a week in Florida living only with the other members of the team will bring the team closer together. Departing pitchers Vinny Lally ’11 and Brook Hart ’11 left a hole in the Elis’ rotation. Last year, they combined for nine wins and posted earned run averages of 2.67 and 2.23, respectively.
“[The freshmen] are going to get a shot to play right away,” catcher and captain Ryan Brenner ’12 said. “All of them are going to have to contribute.”
Led by left-handed pitcher Eric Hsieh ’15 and right-hander Ben Joseph ’15, the Bulldogs will look to draw from the newer players to replace their production on the mound. Both young hurlers will get a chance to prove themselves right away. Hsieh will get the ball in the season opener on Saturday, and Ben Joseph ’15 will make his first collegiate start during the series as well, several players said.
Pitcher Chris O’Hare ’13 said the Bulldog pitching staff is packed with talent even with the loss of four senior pitchers.
“We have a bunch of kids that sit around 90 [miles per hour],” O’Hare said. “We [also] have three lefties in the starting rotation. We may be the only team in the whole country [with three lefty starters].”
Pat Ludwig ’12 will be a starter for Yale this year. O’Hare said he and Ludwig will need to be leaders for the underclassmen on the staff.
Along with O’Hare and Hsieh, Rob Cerfolio ’14 is the third southpaw in the Eli starting rotation. Cerfolio is one of the most improved players from last year, Fortunato added.
“[Cerfolio] is throwing a lot harder,” Fortunato said. “His pitches are more polished. He’s really worked hard and it has showed — he’s been filthy.”
Pitching is not the only category where Yale lost production. There are holes from last year to fill as well. The Bulldogs no longer have the services of last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year Trey Rallis ’11, who batted .365, clouted four home runs and drove in 30 runs. He led Yale in all three of those categories.
Scharff said the whole lineup would have to shoulder the production lost when Rallis graduated.
“Maybe nobody hits [.365] like [Rallis] did last year,” Scharff said. “But there are going to be two or three who hit around .330.”
Yale will need players to step up in order to reach the lofty goals that the team has set for itself. The Bulldogs — who compete in the Rolfe division of the Ivy League along with Dartmouth, Harvard and Brown — are looking to win the Ivy League championship, team members said.
Fortunato added that Dartmouth and Harvard would be the toughest challenges on the way to winning the Ancient Eight.
Although the Bulldogs are aiming high, Brenner said setting lower goals would be underachieving for the Yale nine.
“My expectations are to win the Ivy League championship,” Brenner said. “To set the bar any lower would be selling ourselves short. This could be a special team.”
Yale will open at home March 17 against Stony Brook at 1 p.m.