This time last year, the Bulldogs had slumped to a 1–12 record. But a lot has changed in a year, and the surging Yale baseball team (7–9, 0–0 Ivy) has had its best start to a season in three years. But it remains to be seen whether the Bulldogs can best last year’s 10–10 record in the Ivy League, the real focus of the season each year.
Yale will kick off Ivy League play against Penn (5–10, 0–0) and defending Ivy champion Columbia (5–12, 0–0) this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders. The four-game weekend is the first of five that make up Yale’s compact conference season.
“We have some momentum and a lot of confidence. We know how we’re capable of playing,” infielder David Toups ’15 said. “But none of the games in Florida matter now at this point in the season. We have to focus on every Ivy League game that we have.”
Yale will be playing this weekend in the wake of the unfortunate medical news that starting pitcher Rob Cerfolio ’14 received on Monday.
Dr. James Andrews confirmed during an appointment in Florida that Cerfolio has a mild tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Andrews decided that currently the tear currently does not require Tommy John surgery, but instead an enriched plasma injection, according to Cerfolio. Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon, has performed surgery on athletes such as Tom Brady, Roger Clemens and Michael Jordan.
Cerfolio, who led the Elis with eight starts last season and was drafted in the 34th round of the MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, said that the treatment will likely put him out for the regular season, if not the entire year.
“[Cerfolio] was definitely the best pitcher for us historically,” captain Cale Hanson ’14 said. “He’s an awesome leader, just a great presence on the mound … We wish we could have him as a leader on the field, but we’ll be alright. We’ll still have him in the dugout. He’ll still be making an impact on the team.”
Of the five Yale starters that are healthy, the team has not yet decided who will throw in what game, Toups said.
Yale’s games against Penn will take place on Saturday, the only time that the Elis will play the Quakers because the two teams are in different Ivy subdivisions.
Though Penn finished seventh in the Ivy League last season, its experienced pitching staff has already earned success this season and could prove difficult to conquer.
Penn returned its entire starting rotation from 2013, including ace Dan Gautieri, whose 2.17 ERA in nine starts was sixth best in the Ancient Eight last year. Freshman pitcher Jack Hartman adds another strong arm with a 1.80 ERA through four appearances this season.
On the offensive side, the Quakers were third in the Ivy League in both batting average and runs last year, but suffered a major loss this year as right fielder Ryan Deitrich transferred to Duke this season.
Deitrich led the league with a .382 average, and currently no starter on Penn’s roster has a batting average above .300. By contrast, the Elis have four starters over the .300 mark so far this season.
Regardless of what any statistics indicate, Toups said that no team in the Ivy League can ever be overlooked.
“We’re expecting a challenge,” Toups said. “Everyone competes in the Ivy League, so teams are pretty solid year to year.”
A day after the matchup in Philadelphia, Yale will travel north to face Columbia, the defending Ivy League champion and another team that will only meet up with Yale once this season.
The Bulldogs narrowly lost both games of this doubleheader at home last season, largely because the Lions held them to a combined three runs over the two games.
It remains unknown what pitchers Yale will face against Columbia, but because Brown, the team that will play Columbia on Saturday, is a weaker opponent, it is possible that the Lions will throw the same two pitchers on Sunday that the Elis faced last year.
Those two pitchers, aces David Speer and Joey Denino, went 6–3 and 7–0, respectively, in 2013. Their win totals were both among the top five in the Ivy League last year.
“What will be important is just putting good swings on balls,” Toups said. “Not chasing and staying with our offensive approach.”
Offensively, the Lions have suffered from the graduation of last year’s leading hitter Alex Black, but have seen strong opening performances from several players. Middle infielder Jordan Serena is currently batting .358 in the 16 games he has played.
Weather forecasts predict temperatures in the high 40s for the weekend. Both doubleheaders will begin at noon.