Riding hot bats and a two-game winning streak, the baseball team hopes to maintain both as it begins its Ivy schedule on the road this weekend.
Saturday the Elis (4-11) travel to New York to play Columbia (10-11) before facing the University of Pennsylvania (4-16, 0-4 Ivy) on Sunday. Both days consist of doubleheaders made up of a nine-inning and seven-inning game.
For Yale, which hit solidly in wins over the University of Vermont and the University of New Haven after getting off to a sluggish start, the weekend will be a test to see how the Bulldogs match up against league opponents.
Last year, the Bulldogs compiled a 6-14 league record, finishing at 12-22 overall.
So far this season, Yale has relied on powerful pitching coupled with consistent defense to keep the team in every game. This weekend, the team will return to its regular rotation after a stretch when starter Bailey Jackson ’05 led a staff of nine pitchers who all turned in strong performances.
On the mound, weekend starters Craig Breslow ’02, who is the team captain, Matt McCarthy ’02, Mike Elias ’05, and Josh Sowers ’05 hope to continue to pitch far into games, as they have for much of this year.
Breslow, who was named to the Ivy League Honor Roll for the third consecutive time this week, boasts a 1.20 ERA and 23 strikeouts on the season. He will pitch against Columbia, as will Elias, who has made an instant impact in his rookie season with an ERA of 3.57.
McCarthy and Sowers, who have 19 and 10 strikeouts, respectively, will battle Penn on Sunday.
“We’ll hit the ball, but good pitching stops good hitting,” Penn coach Bob Seddon said. “If McCarthy is pitching against us, he’s tough. Pitching dictates a game.”
Yale’s defense will need to improve on its last effort and return to its usual solid play. The Elis’ lapse on defense in the last game was an aberration.
“Our defense was a little rough around the edges,” center fielder Chris Elkins said. “We’ll just have to work a little harder these next couple of days to make sure we’re playing defense like we have been.”
On the other side, Yale hopes its improved hitting will continue through the weekend. Elkins hit a grand slam Wednesday against New Haven, upping Yale’s home run total to four on the year. First baseman Justin Walters ’03 has contributed two, with designated hitter Dave Fortenbaugh ’03 adding one.
“He gave me a fastball over the middle of the plate, and I ended up hitting it well,” Elkins said of the shot. He is one of four Bulldogs with a batting average above .300.
Columbia, whom the Elis face first, is an offensive force that has won eight of its last 11.
Senior Matt Buckmiller is five home runs short of breaking the Columbia career record and leads the Ivy League in multi-hit games.
Buckmiller also has the longest hitting streak for Columbia with 12 games. Billy Hess has hit .778 in the Lions’ past two games, going 7-9 with seven RBI in the pair.
“We’ve swung the bats extremely well,” Columbia head coach Mik Aoki said. “We haven’t pitched as well as I was hoping, but we’ve got some older guys and hopefully they’ll snap out of a little funk that we’re in.”
Yale coach John Stuper noted that the two teams are “polar opposites.”
“We have great pitching but our hitting hasn’t been there, and their team is the reverse,” he said.
Penn, despite featuring one of the Ivy League’s top players in infielder Nick Italiano, has struggled this year.
In the Quakers’ first league matchup, they lost four to Princeton last weekend. Italiano was nevertheless named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his .474 batting average with five extra base hits last week.
“Everyone’s got their good player,” said Seddon. “But we’re not hitting with men on base, we’re leaving a lot of men on, we’re not bunching anything. We should be better defensively. There is three phases of this game: hitting, fielding and pitching. We’ve failed at two out of three on a regular basis.”