With both the Major League season and Ivy League play debuting last weekend, one thing is clear to fans of Bulldog baseball — unlike the pros, the Ivies are about as even a field as you can find.
In the Elis’ (6-10, 2-2 Ivy) Red Rolfe Division, every single team is .500 after the first weekend. Columbia sits atop the Lou Gehrig Division after going 3-1 over the weekend, including a sweep of perennial powerhouse Dartmouth. This is the same team that stumbled its way to a 0-11 start only a month ago.
This parity bodes well for the Bulldogs, who are young and bouncing back from a disappointing 2000 campaign. After splitting doubleheaders with reigning league champion Princeton and Cornell this past weekend, Yale finds itself in the unfamiliar position of running neck-and-neck with the rest of the pack. The Bulldogs fell to host Seton Hall Tuesday 5-2.
A three-run homer proved the difference against the Pirates, but an encouraging sign emerged from the midweek non-conference loss. This game marked the first solid performance by Yale starter Doug Feller ’02 since coming off shoulder surgery in the winter.
With doubleheaders against Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania at Yale Field this weekend, the Bulldogs hope to come away leading the Rolfe Division. But head coach John Stuper expects every league win to be a hard-fought affair.
“This might sound odd, but it’ll be the team that plays the best that wins,” Stuper said. “Not necessarily the best team.”
Stuper will stress consistent pitching and good defense this week in practice, and will hope some big plays at the plate come the Elis’ way as well this weekend.
“Every Ivy League game is a stress test,” he said. “There aren’t usually any blowouts.”
The kind of large margins of victory Yale saw in its triumph over the Tigers and loss to the Big Red were a league-wide phenomenon last weekend, with Harvard beating Columbia 14-0 and Dartmouth defeating Penn 16-1. But it is not the norm, and certainly does not point to an imbalance in the talent pool. In the same day, Columbia rebounded to beat Harvard 3-2. After Penn beat Harvard 14-2 Sunday, the Crimson turned around and nipped the Quakers 3-2.
Columbia is the closest thing to a “hot” team in the league. After their disastrous start, the Lions have won eight of their last 11, including the sweep of Dartmouth. And the Quakers are an impressive 13-6 overall.
But Stuper seems totally focused on his own squad and on eliminating costly mistakes that, in this tight league, will cost games.
“I don’t know that much about either team really,” he said.
The Seton Hall loss was an apt dress rehearsal for the next round of Ivy League competition. It was the kind of low-scoring baseball — in which one missed opportunity can change a game’s outcome — that the league is known for.
The Bulldogs’ staff turned in six solid innings on the mound. Feller went four innings with seven strikeouts and no walks on three hits.
“I had surgery in December. Up until yesterday, I hadn’t expended myself in innings,” Feller said. “This is the longest stint I’ve had so far. It’s a big lift to go into an Ivy League weekend pitching well.”
Matt McCarthy ’02 replaced him and promptly retired the side in the fifth and sixth innings.
But poor fielding in the seventh inning cost Yale its two-run lead, and then the pitching began to falter. The score knotted at two, a three-run home run in the eighth sealed the win for the Pirates. Sophomore pitchers Michael Marone and Eric Naison-Phillips followed McCarthy on the mound and were able to retire the side without sacrificing any more runs.
The Elis went down in order at the plate in the ninth. McCarthy (2-3) was hit with the loss.
Captain R. D. DeSantis ’01 sat the game out, after leaving the second game against Cornell Sunday with a sore hamstring. He should be rested and ready for a weekend return.
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