The men’s baseball team dominated in its pitching and defense last weekend, just as it has throughout the season. But it wasn’t until the Elis’ bats finally came alive late Saturday that they were able to control the scoreboard.
In a three game series with the University of Vermont (7-8), the Bulldogs (4-11) fell 2-1 on Friday before splitting Saturday’s doubleheader with a 3-2 loss in seven innings in the first game and a 9-2 nine-inning victory later that day.
When asked the difference between the first two losses and the win, captain Craig Breslow ’02 laughed.
“We hit,” he said.
Dave Fortenbaugh ’03 hit a home run into the right field picnic tables, bringing the Elis back from a 2-1 deficit and helping spark an offensive rally in Saturday’s second game. The clutch hit was a welcome change for an Eli team who has had trouble finding timely shots this year.
“There are three elements to a game — pitching, defense, and hitting — and we haven’t hit very well so far,” said head coach John Stuper. “[Our hitters] broke out a little today.”
After two quick outs in the first inning, catcher Darren Beasley ’03 kept the Elis up at bat with a double to center field, and Justin Walters ’03 singled to bring Beasley home and gave the Elis a 1-0 lead.
But a leadoff homer by the Catamounts’ Derek Root in the second inning tied the game at 1-1, and after three and a half innings the game was in a 2-2 deadlock.
That was when the Eli bats finally began connecting, as the team scored six unanswered runs, including a two-run sixth-inning single by third baseman Chris Esper ’05 to pull away to an 8-2 lead.
“We need people to step up,” Stuper said. “Chris Esper did that. People think that when you’re up 6-2 the game’s over, but it’s not. He had a big hit for us.”
Esper’s hit followed a chaotic series in which the Catamounts thought they had ended the inning on a caught stealing at second, only to be reminded that the throw came on ball four. They then attempted a hidden-ball trick but failed to execute it properly.
The win went to pitcher Mike Elias ’05, with Josh Sowers ’05 recording the save. Yale’s defense was consistent as usual in an error-free game.
“The two freshmen did a great job,” Breslow said. “We’re going to need that for the rest of the season.”
Earlier that day, the Elis were less impressive on the offensive end despite similarly strong pitching and defense. Lefty Matt McCarthy ’02 pitched a complete seven innings, allowing only three runs off six hits, but Yale could not take advantage of several opportunities to drive in runs.
First baseman Justin Walters ’03 was the only Bulldog to do so, pounding a two-run homer in the second inning to tie the game at 2-2. That score remained until Root hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to put the Catamounts up 3-2, where they would remain. Walters is tied with Steven Duke ’03 for the team RBI lead at 9 each.
“We left a ton of people on base in that first game,” outfielder Chris Elkins said.
Both of Saturday’s games contained several controversial calls by the umpire, one of which prompted Stuper to chat with the umpire.
“No, I don’t think the calls affected our game,” Stuper said after the game. “If I think we’re being wronged I have to voice my displeasure, but I never leave a game thinking that the calls cost us.”
Yale’s Friday performance was, unfortunately, very similar to its’ first Saturday game. In a pitcher’s duel, Breslow pitched eight innings, allowing only three hits and striking out six, and Doug Feller ’02 struck out 1 batter in relief. But UVM’s Derek Miller struck out 14 Bulldogs, who could not find the offensive rhytym needed to back up Breslow.
“I’m happy anytime I can keep my team in the game,” Breslow said. “That’s all I’m going out there to do, but a 2-1 loss is tough.”
The Bulldog’s lone tally came when Elkins, whose .375 average leads the team, hit an RBI double to bring home Randy Leonard ’03. Elkins noted that the Elis should have been able to do more than that, however.
“If [Breslow] keeps them down to two [runs], we should be able to put enough hits together to give him a win,” he said. “The second game Saturday, we finally found out where we need to be and how we need to play to win.”
Yale will have one more non-league opponent before the start of Ivy League play on April 6. This Wednesday, the Elis will take on the University of New Haven at Yale Field at 3:00 p.m.
“We’re going to try to get a lot of pitchers some work,” Stuper said. “We’re playing to win, but a lot of our young kids haven’t gotten time, so Wednesday is a game where they can get in.”
Breslow added that the team also hopes to build momentum going into Saturday’s Columbia contest.
“We’re looking to tune things up and hopefully win back-to-back games going into the Ivy season,” he said.