BASEBALL: Comeback bid falls short

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Photo by Graham Harboe.

The Yale baseball team put together an incredible comeback against No. 3 LSU earlier this season in its first series of the year, scoring eight runs in the last five innings to claw back from an early 6–0 deficit in the third game against the Tigers. But in their Ivy-opening doubleheader against Penn, the Bulldogs failed to complete their rally, losing 6–1 in the first game and 11–9 in the second despite four runs in the eighth and ninth innings.

“Penn simply played better baseball today,” shortstop and captain Cale Hanson ’14 said in an email. “The key for us going forward is to not panic. We need to realize it’s only two games and we have plenty of time to recover and win our half of the league.”

In stark contrast to the snow that blanketed New Haven, sunny skies and 55 degree temperatures welcomed the Elis (7–11, 0–2 Ivy) to Meiklejohn Stadium. The weather was not a sign of things to come in the first game, however, as Penn pitcher Dan Gautieri tossed a four-hitter en route to his first win of the season.

The lone Bulldog run came when center fielder Green Campbell ’15 singled with two outs in the seventh and third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 doubled him home.

“Their guy did a great job of working in and out on us, and we had a tough time making the adjustment to his sinking fastball early,” Campbell said. “All the credit goes to him.”

Game two got off to a much better start for Yale. First baseman Jacob Hunter ’14 ignited a two-out rally in the first with a double in the right-center gap, and after a walk by designated hitter Kevin Fortunato ’14 and a single by Hanson, Campbell singled to drive home a pair of Bulldog runners.

Though the Quakers (8–10, 2–0) notched a run off starter Michael Coleman ’14, Hunter got it back and then some with another two-bagger in the second. This hit came with a pair of runners on base, both of whom came around to score. After Coleman went three up and three down in the second and right fielder Brent Lawson ’16 hit an RBI single to extend Yale’s lead to 5–1, things looked good for the Elis.

“To me, that is a sign of a team that is not giving up on an inning,” Hanson said of the team’s penchant for clutch two-out hitting. “[But] to get the offense going a little earlier, we simply need to have a more aggressive mindset. We need to do a better job in those early at-bats of not missing pitches that we can drive.”

But the Bulldog bats went quiet just as Penn’s heated up. A homer from Rick Brebner cut Yale’s lead to 5–3, and a bases-loaded single in the fourth tied the game. Four more runs in the fifth, courtesy of a double and a homer, gave the Quakers a 9–5 lead they would never relinquish.

With just six outs left, the Elis finally started their rally, but the clutch hitting present earlier in the game was not quite there. Campbell reached on an error and third baseman Tom O’Neill ’16 walked to put two on with nobody out. A single by catcher Robert Baldwin ’15 loaded the bases with a single out.

An RBI fielder’s choice from second baseman Nate Adams ’16, however, was the only run that the Bulldogs could scrape across. In the final frame, Yale notched three more runs on a long bomb by O’Neill, but a strikeout ended the game at 11–9.

“Baseball is a weird game,” Hanson said. “I am still very confident in our ability to win games regardless of what happened today. Sometimes a team gets hot at the plate right when they need to. That just wasn’t us today.”

Campbell agreed, saying that one of the great things about baseball is the ability to play day after day and move past previous struggles.

Yale plays a doubleheader today at Columbia, with the first pitch coming at noon.

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