While the rest of Yale was celebrating the University’s 300th birthday with Ben Harper Sunday, the baseball team was fighting for a little peace of mind.
The Bulldogs (11-19, 5-11 Ivy) finally got what they have been looking for all season — a taste of success against another Red Rolfe Division team. After a frustrating 1-3 campaign in Cambridge last weekend, the Elis rebounded to split a four-game home stand with Dartmouth (13-15, 9-7 Ivy). During Friday’s practice, the squad got pointers and encouragement from former team captain and President of the United States George H.W. Bush ’48, who was in New Haven for the weekend’s festivities.
“We were all on cloud nine,” said captain R.D. DeSantis ’01 of Bush’s visit. “Even people on the team who might not like him politically — he was a very humble and personable guy.”
Everything came together for Yale in Sunday’s two wins, 7-2 and 3-2, from reliable pitching to effective hit production to almost flawless fielding. The squad even topped things off with a little last minute heroics in the nightcap.
Game two starter Jon Steitz ’02 pitched eight innings, allowing only two runs while striking out nine. The second run came in the eighth when Dartmouth’s Scott Shirrell moved to third base when Keith Reams ’02, who had just replaced DeSantis in right field for the Elis, dropped a popup fly ball. Reams was charged with an error. A wild pitch by Steitz gave Shirrell enough time to race home and tie the game at 2-2.
“I was cramping from the heat, getting a little tired,” Steitz said. “[The wild pitch] was a slider. We were pitching around the guy because there was a base open — he was [Ivy League] player of the year last year. I threw it too far out of the zone and [the] ball took a weird bounce.”
After Shirrell scored, Steitz was able to secure the third out without any more damage.
Yale was unable to put anything together at the plate in its half of the eighth, but reliever Eric Naison-Phillips’03, who came on in relief of Steitz, held the Big Green scoreless in the top of the ninth.
That’s when the Bulldogs’ bats, which had remained mostly quiet since two big scoring outbursts in the day’s first game, came to life.
Consecutive singles by Dave Fortenbaugh ’03 and Luis Costa ’01 kicked off the bottom of the ninth. Then Steven Duke ’03 dropped a single of his own. But when Fortenbaugh tried to take home from second base, Shirrell threw him out at the plate from left field.
“[Head coach John] Stuper sent me, which he said in retrospect was a bad idea,” Fortenbaugh said.
Instead of stalling out, though, the Yale rally capitalized on the runner it still had in scoring position. Mike Hirschfield’s ’03 single to right field sent Costa home and secured the hard-fought win for the Bulldogs.
“It was nice that we were able to hit up and down the line a bit [this weekend],” Fortenbaugh said. “That meant if I got thrown out, someone else would come up and bring a run home.”
Costa also led the way in the Elis’ first win of the day. He scored and had an RBI bunt in their four-run fourth inning. Darren Beasley ’03 also scored twice in the first game, and Fortenbaugh dropped in one run.
Starter Craig Breslow ’02 threw another impressive complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits and four strikeouts.
Yale’s twin successes came on the heels of a heartbreaking 9-8 loss to Dartmouth in Saturday’s nightcap. Down 9-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Bulldogs capitalized on some shaky pitching by Dartmouth ace Jeffrey Dutremble and made some plays of their own.
Putting four runs on the board already in the inning, Yale sent Beasley to the plate with two outs and men on second and third. He was unable to capitalize, however, and struck out to end the game.
In the first game of the series, starter Matt McCarthy ’02 was shelled, giving up 10 runs on 13 hits in just over five innings. Costa scored the Bulldogs’ only run of the game on a single to center field by Hirschfield in the fourth inning.
Chris Miranda led the way for the Big Green, scoring twice and notching seven RBIs. The final tally was 14-1.
By splitting the series, the Bulldogs begin to look more respectable in the Red Rolfe Division. With four more division games — two Friday and two Sunday against Brown — they will get a last chance to make the case for legitimacy in the Ivy League, despite being out of Ivy title contention.
“Brown has a good club, but Harvard creamed them this weekend, and I don’t know how they’ll react,” DeSantis said. “That could be good or bad for us. We’ll have to see.”
But first, Yale has a non-league contest tomorrow at Yale Field against Fairfield.