BASEBALL: Bulldogs prepare for Ivy home opener

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Photo by Graham Harboe .

The Yale baseball team has had an up-and-down week, sweeping reigning Ivy champion Columbia on Tuesday but dropping three games on Monday and Wednesday by a combined score of 31–11. In the Bulldogs’ home Ivy opener this weekend, Yale will get a chance to end the week on a high note.

The Elis (9–12, 2–2 Ivy) will host Cornell (10–10, 2–2) on Saturday and Princeton (7–12, 2–0) on Sunday, both for doubleheaders, in the Bulldogs’ second set of conference games this season.

Yale is 2–6 in its last eight games, but the two wins over Columbia on Tuesday are clear evidence of what the team is capable of in Ivy League play. Left fielder Eric Hsieh ’15 said the key to replicating that performance is to play well defensively.

“Pitchers have to get ahead in counts, throw pitches for strikes and really attack hitters,” Hsieh said. “I don’t think we made an error against Columbia. That was huge in keeping the tempo of the game, keeping [pitchers] Chris Lanham ’16, [David] Hickey ’14 and [Chris] Moates ’16 on pace and minimizing the number of pitches they had to throw.”

Though Hsieh could not say with certainty who will pitch in each game this weekend, the Bulldogs are expected to use starters Chasen Ford ’17, Michael Coleman ’14, Lanham and Hickey for the four contests.

In the weekend’s games, the Bulldogs will attempt to end a slight offensive slump that they have faced recently. Yale averaged 6.10 runs per game through its first 10 games of the season but has averaged 3.50 in its last six.

“We started off pretty hot down in Florida, and we’ve cooled off a bit since then,” Hsieh said. “We still have a lot of talent up and down the lineup.”

A major obstacle in the way of jumpstarting the offense is the injury of first baseman Jacob Hunter ’14, who left the field Tuesday at Columbia with a shoulder injury and will not be able to play in this weekend’s games.

Hunter was second on the team with a .328 batting average before the injury.

The Bulldogs will play Cornell on Saturday, a team that was third in the Ivy League with an 11–9 conference record last year and could prove even more dangerous this year with an experienced pitching staff and improved offense.

The Big Red held a 3.16 team ERA last year, good for second in the Ancient Eight, and returned every member of its starting rotation for the 2014 season. That experience has translated to a league-leading 3.60 team ERA this season.

Cornell also leads the Ivy League offensively thus far with a .281 batting average, although statistics this early in the season are heavily influenced by the level of competition a team faces in its pre-Ivy slate.

“Cornell had a couple of hitters [last year] that are very good,” Lanham said. “We’ll have to watch out for that.”

Though the Big Red has dropped three of its last five games, all three defeats were decided by one run, including two extra-inning losses to Harvard and Dartmouth.

Princeton, Yale’s opponent for Sunday, is one of just two Ivy League teams that remain unbeaten in conference play, as its doubleheader against Harvard slated for last Saturday was postponed due to rain.

The Tigers swept Dartmouth in their first Ivy matchup on Tuesday. The 4–3 and 3–0 victories were largely a result of exceptional pitching, as Dartmouth could only tally one run in a combined 10.1 innings pitched by Princeton starters Keelan Smithers and Cameron Mingo.

“Like most Ivy League teams, they’ll have pretty solid pitching,” Lanham said.

If Princeton uses its four primary starters in its conference games this weekend, it is likely that Smithers and Mingo will be the ones hurling against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Both of their performances on Tuesday were outliers compared to the rest of the season, however, as Smithers currently holds a 6.75 ERA through his five starts and six appearances, and Mingo is 1–2 on the season with a 4.20 ERA.

Offensively, the Tigers have suffered from the graduation of four of their 2013 starting nine. This list includes pitcher and first baseman Mike Ford, whose .320 batting average and 0.98 ERA last season were good enough to earn the titles of both Ivy Player of the Year and Ivy Pitcher of the Year.

Numerous strong individual performers have assisted in recovering from those losses, as four members of the Tigers are currently batting over the .300 mark. Most notably, shortstop Danny Hoy has a .365 average as the second hitter in Princeton’s lineup.

Last year, the Bulldogs split both of these doubleheaders, a fitting result in a season when the team went 10–10 in Ivy League play. But Hsieh said that .500 is not the goal for this year’s team.

“It’s better than losing both games, but in order to get where we want to be, we don’t want to split with anyone,” Hsieh said.

First pitch for both doubleheaders will be at noon.

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