It’s always nice to beat archrival Harvard (6-22, 3-5 Ivy), but for Yale baseball this weekend, it is shaping up to be crucial.
After a 3–2 Wednesday loss to Fairfield followed by a weekend that saw Yale go 1–3 in Ivy play against Columbia and Penn, the Bulldogs (6-19, 3-5 Ivy) will head into a huge weekend series in Cambridge, Mass., looking to climb the ladder in the Rolfe Division playoff race. The Elis have recently enjoyed a string of excellent pitching, highlighted by LHP David Hickey’s ’14 dazzling shutout of Penn last Sunday, and the Elis look to build on the confidence of their pitching staff.
“I do think we’re a better team than [Harvard],” outfielder Josh Scharff ’14 said. “These games are just about as close to ‘win or go home’ as we’ve had in my time here.”
Yale holds a 3-5 Ivy record going into a season-ending stretch, and 12 of its last 13 games will be against opponents in the Ivy League’s Rolfe division, which the Bulldogs must win to make the playoffs. Yale is currently tied with Harvard and is one game behind 4–4 Dartmouth.
“I’d be lying if I said these games weren’t big,“ captain Chris Piwinski ’13 said. “They’re big games, everyone knows it.”
The Bulldogs’ pitching has proven itself to be strong. Hickey and LHP Rob Cerfolio ’14 are both coming off dominant starts, and the pitchers aim to ride that momentum into the weekend, preserving their focus on minimizing walks and hit batters.
His teammates expect nothing less than that type of focus.
“Rob Cerfolio handles himself like a professional,” Piwinski said. “You can look at his face and not know if he’s winning or losing.”
Piwinski added that the poise of the pitching staff can be a starting point for the mental adjustments the rest of the team needs to make to avoid last weekend’s pitfalls.
After stranding runners in scoring position against Columbia and Penn, the Elis need to improve their approach at the plate to put pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses.
With the team’s strong pitching, Scharff said the offense could not wait any longer to step up.
“We’re out of time,” he said.
Yale’s offense could find its groove against a beleaguered Crimson pitching staff featuring only one starter with an E.R.A. under 5.0.
“If a guy doesn’t have a lot of walks or strikeouts, we have to be aggressive,” Piwinski said. If a guy has a lot of walks, make him prove he can throw a strike.”
The Bulldogs will need that same discipline on defense after committing five costly errors last weekend.
“Mistakes are going to happen,” Scharff said. “When you take yourself out of it mentally, that’s when you’re beat.”
Yale played error-free baseball against Fairfield on Wednesday and hopes to continue to do so this weekend. But they left runners in scoring position and lost focus on the mound, which team members said should not be repeated.
Many of the mental adjustments the team has to make, Scharff said, stem from confidence.
“The key, for us, is to remember how to win,” Scharff said.
First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Harvard.