With a crucial four-game series coming up this weekend against Ivy rival Harvard, the Yale baseball team toyed with its lineup for its game yesterday against Sacred Heart, inserting reserve left fielder Derek Brown ’17 in the leadoff spot and putting normal center fielder Green Campbell ’15 on the bump.
But the changes worked to perfection, as Campbell threw five innings of one-hit baseball on his 21st birthday and Brown went 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Those two moves, along with the contributions from captain Cale Hanson ’14, delivered the Bulldogs a 5–2 win over the Pioneers.
“I was very impressed with Green Campbell,” Hanson said. “He’s keeping hitters off-balance, he’s getting a lot of weak contact, and I’m very excited to be playing behind him. He made a very good hitting team look pretty uncomfortable at the plate.”
Yale (14–18, 6–6 Ivy) put many of its usual backups into the starting lineup. Catcher Andrew Herrera ’17 and outfielder Charles Cook ’15 also made the starting nine, and five different hurlers combined to allow just four hits all game.
But none of head coach John Stuper’s moves worked as well as putting Brown in the starting lineup. It was Brown’s first time hitting leadoff in his nascent Yale career, and he responded by getting on base all four times he came to the plate.
“We were facing a soft lefty, so we were just trying to put the ball in play,” Brown said. “You have to trust your guys and get on base for them. That’s what you try to do as the leadoff hitter.”
The Brown-Hanson combination, which scored all five Yale runs, started out hot in the first inning. Brown lead off the game with a walk, and Hanson pulled a double to left field, with Brown scoring on a throwing error by the outfielder. A sacrifice fly from first baseman Robert Baldwin ’15 brought Hanson home.
In the third, Brown and Hanson each singled, and after designated hitter Kevin Fortunato ’14 struck out for the second out of the frame, Baldwin again played the hero, singling to plate Brown and extend the Yale lead to 3–0.
With the top of the order finding so much success getting on base, it was up to the big boppers in the heart of the lineup to deliver, and they did. All five runs scored on plate appearances from Baldwin or third baseman Richard Slenker ’17.
“Real clutch hitting in RBI situations … is something we’ve been lacking in years past,” Hanson said. “This year, I’d say it’s the opposite. We have a lot of guys that we can turn to [in order] to get that big hit.”
Even with the timely hitting, however, it was pitching that carried the day. Campbell excelled in his second start of the season. The Shreveport, La. native allowed just three baserunners across five innings while striking out six. He now leads the team in strikeouts per nine at 11.48, a figure that would put him in the top 10 in the nation if he had thrown enough innings to qualify.
Beyond Campbell, who earned his first career victory, four other pitchers threw an inning apiece. Michael Coleman ’14 worked the sixth, Chasen Ford ’17 came out for the seventh and Chris Moates ’16 extended his scoreless innings streak to 7.2 consecutive frames. Finally, Hanson earned his fourth save of the season, striking out a pair of Pioneers in the ninth.
Sacred Heart (17–12, 4–0 Northeast) mustered only four hits all day, going hitless from the second through the sixth innings.
“The entire staff did a great job,” Brown said. “They pounded the zone, threw strikes and kept the defense alive. They weren’t afraid to attack the strike zone. Pitching is definitely our foundation.”
With Campbell sporting a 2.02 ERA and a WHIP of 0.91, Hanson said that he could very well keep seeing more action on the mound in future Ivy League games.
Campbell, however, said that he sees himself as primarily a center fielder and he expects to stay in center for the remainder of the season.
“I love pitching, and I felt great today,” Campbell said. “But maybe next year I can work towards pitching a lot more should the team need me to step up into the starter role.”
The Bulldogs only have conference games remaining: four at home against Harvard and four games against Brown April 25-26.