In only the second week of Ivy play, the baseball team already finds itself in a must-win situation.
After dropping three league contests last weekend, the Bulldogs (6-15, 1-3 Ivy) hope to avoid falling out of the hunt this weekend when they return to Yale Field for doubleheaders against Cornell (9-14, 1-3 Ivy) Saturday and Princeton (11-15, 6-2 Ivy) Sunday. Both twin-bills begin at 12:00 (WYBC 1340-AM).
The Elis’ goal is deceptively simple: to try to get all phases of the game — pitching, hitting and defense — to come together at the same time. While the team is strong in all three areas, consistency has been a problem all season.
“Hopefully, we’ll just get everything to come together at once,” second baseman Steven Duke ’03 said. “That has really been our problem. It needs to happen if we want to stay in the race.”
Starters Matt McCarthy ’02, Josh Sowers ’05, Mike Elias ’05 and captain Craig Breslow ’02 all pitched well last weekend and will return to the mound again. In 36 innings Breslow is holding opposing hitters to just a .179 batting average.
On offense, Chris Elkins ’03 continues to lead the team in batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage. Catcher Darren Beasley ’03, who was named to this week’s Ivy League Honor Roll, drove in 9 runs last weekend and is batting .444 with the bases loaded. Elkins and C.J. Orrico ’05 both bring six-game hitting streaks into the weekend.
A few key mishaps notwithstanding, Yale’s consistent defense has kept the team in nearly every game. First baseman Justin Walters ’03, whose fielding percentage is .989, has made 160 putouts and been involved in 14 double plays. Shortstop Mike Hirschfield ’03 has caught 105 balls while racking up 57 assists.
Saturday, the Elis face a Big Red team that has an identical Ivy record after being swept by Harvard and splitting with Dartmouth.
“Well, we’ve been good and bad,” Cornell head coach Tom Ford said. “It really depends on the times with us.”
To say Cornell is led by pitcher/outfielder Erik Rico would be an understatement. The Ivy League Co-Player of the Week is leading the team in nine offensive categories, including home runs and RBIs, while also striking out 30 from the mound, and picking up the team’s lone win over Dartmouth.
Cornell’s major question mark remains its spotty defense. Last week the Big Red committed 18 errors for 14 unearned runs.
“We’ve had some breakdowns defensively which has led to us not being able to get on a roll,” Ford said.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs will face a Princeton team that has already played eight Ivy games due to an early weekend against the University of Pennsylvania. The Tigers swept the Quakers in four games and defeated Dartmouth twice but dropped both Harvard contests to give them a 6-2 Ivy record.
“We’re starting to play a little better,” Tiger head coach Scott Bradley said. “Like a lot of Northern teams we go down and get beat up pretty good on our spring trip. But we got some questions answered, and at this point we’re pretty set about who’s playing with our pitching rotation.”
One of those pitchers, Jason Vaughan, was awarded Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honors this week. Princeton’s staff also includes last season’s Ivy Pitcher of the Year in Ryan Quillion, who has struck out 23 batters this season.
“Pitching is without a doubt our strength,” Bradley said. “I don’t think a lot of teams in the league have the kind of depth we have.”
The Tigers also have an all-around weapon in their captain, shortstop Pat Boran, who is batting .341 and has driven in 18 runs this year.
For Yale, this weekend is pivotal. If the Bulldogs continue their strong pitching, cut down on defensive lapses, and increase their offensive production, the team could find itself right back in the thick of the Ivy race.