Baseball: Elis fly south

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Photo by Kathryn Crandall .

A week after taking a game from No. 3 Louisiana State last weekend, the Yale baseball team is heading south again, this time to central Florida for its annual Spring Break trip.

The Bulldogs (1–2, 0–0 Ivy) are scheduled to play seven games over eight days in Florida beginning this Sunday. The first three will be a part of the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational, based in Winter Haven, Fla., and the next will be a single game against Ave Maria in Babson Park, Fla. The trip will end at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., where Yale will play three consecutive games from Friday to Sunday.

During the second week of break, Yale will return north to Hartford for a game, host UMass-Lowell the next day and then finish with two consecutive double headers against Holy Cross.

“We want to go down there and compete, win and start the season off right,” said second baseman David Toups ’15. “We definitely want to continue this momentum we have after beating LSU.”

Although the Spring Break schedule does not include any Ivy opponents, it will have a major impact on the Bulldogs’ overall record at the end of the season. The short length of the spring season means that almost 40 percent of Yale’s regular season will be over by the end of break.

Last season, for example, Yale was an even 10–10 in conference play but ended the season with just a 13–25 record, in part because it went 1–13 over Spring Break.

“Every time we step on the field, we’re trying to win,” said captain and shortstop Cale Hanson ’14. “But I would agree that these games have a little more of a developmental feel to them … We still won’t be in midseason form, so winning isn’t as important as the process of getting better. But it’s definitely a competitive atmosphere.”

Toups and Hanson agreed that most teams that Yale faces in Florida are comparable to those in the Ivy League, particularly the teams that are also from the north.

With 13 games in 15 days, the Bulldogs will need all hands on deck from the pitching staff. In its first three games, all against LSU, Yale has already shown that the depth of its pitching staff is well-suited for such a rigorous schedule.

Nine pitchers saw time on the mound in the opening weekend, including Chasen Ford ’17, who gave up just two earned runs in 6.1 innings to the No. 3 team in the country.

“This year we have tremendous depth across the board for our pitching staff,” Toups said. “We have five or six guys that can start for us, so I think we’ll be fine in that regard.”

The Florida trip will serve as a chance for the team to figure out its starting lineup.

Hanson said that during these beginning games of the season, the lineup will change from game to game.

“I am a huge fan of how coach [John Stuper] handles Florida,” Hanson said. “He makes sure that everyone gets a chance. Everyone gets a chance to show what they can do in the lineup … From there, after the first couple games, whoever’s performing gets to stay in the game.”

The Bulldogs played two of the five teams currently on Yale’s Florida schedule last year, Bucknell and Long Island. They bested Bucknell 5–2 for their only win of the vacation and fell 4–3 to Long Island, narrowly missing a comeback in the ninth.

Stetson, which squares off against Yale three times at the end of the Florida trip, last played the Bulldogs in 2006. In that game, the Hatters shut out the Elis 6–0.

Hartford and Holy Cross, which Yale will play back up north, are more perennial March opponents. The Bulldogs dropped all four games to Holy Cross last season and split a four-game series with Hartford in 2012.

Of the eight teams in the Ivy League, only Harvard will be joining Yale at the RussMatt Invitational. Princeton, Columbia and Dartmouth are also playing games in Florida this month, while Penn, Brown and Cornell will be seeking warm weather elsewhere.

The Weather Channel forecasts a high temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday in Winter Haven, Fla.

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