It was an up-and-down weekend for the baseball team, as the Yale nine went 2-2, but demonstrated a toughness that left players and coaches happy with their performances.
The Bulldogs (8-17, 3-4 Ivy) split Sunday’s doubleheader with Princeton, winning 8-1 in the morning before falling 6-3 in a 13-inning thriller in the afternoon. Saturday, Yale halved a twinbill with Cornell, losing 5-1 in the first game and winning the second 9-3. But it was Yale’s marathon matchup with Princeton (13-16, 8-4) Sunday afternoon that provided most of the excitement.
“That was one of the best collegiate games I’ve ever seen,” head coach John Stuper said.
The game lasted nearly four hours before Princeton finally put it away.
The Tigers got an early run in the second inning and increased their lead to 2-0 in the top of the fifth. In their half of that inning, however, the Bulldogs responded when Chris Elkins ’03 hit an RBI single to score shortstop Mike Hirschfield ’03.
In the bottom of the seventh, Elkins did it again, this time bringing home Zac Bradley ’05, who scored from second after recording his eighth steal of the year.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Princeton’s Lahey made things interesting when he hit a solo home run off of Mike Elias ’05 to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
Elias, like all the Yale starters this weekend, went deep in the game and was solid on the mound, striking out three. After the game, Stuper blamed himself for the home run.
“I made a huge mistake tactically by keeping him in for that long,” Stuper said. “He had thrown over 100 pitches and I had a right-hander ready in the bullpen, and I waited and waited, but waited too long.”
Yale would not die quietly, though, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and men on first and second, right fielder C.J. Orrico ’05 punched the ball to center field, where it dropped in to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Pinch runner Craig Breslow ’02 crossed the plate as the tying run to send the game into extra innings.
Neither team seemed able to get the decisive runs in extra innings. Reliever Doug Feller ’02 retired five of the six batters he faced before lefty specialist Adam Barrick ’05 stopped Princeton’s left-handed batters at the plate. But Yale was equally unsuccessful at putting a run on the board.
It came down to the 13th inning, when the Tigers loaded the bases before a Mike Chernoff single brought home two runs. Princeton added a third run in the inning off of a bases-loaded walk.
The Elis failed to rebound in the bottom of the 13th and took a tough loss to close the exhausting weekend.
“Princeton went through the same thing we did,” catcher Darren Beasley ’03 said in regard to the fatigue factor late in the game. “We just couldn’t come up with a couple of clutch hits.”
Earlier that day, the Bulldogs were able to find their stroke. Facing off against Princeton’s Ryan Quillion, last year’s Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, the Elis found themselves down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third.
At that point, they exploded offensively, batting around and picking up eight runs off of six hits. Hirschfield began the drive with a double, and seven Yale batters went up to the plate before the Tigers could record one out. Beasley, Hirschfield and Randy Leonard all picked up two RBIs in the effort.
Behind the strength of captain Breslow, the Elis finished the game by that 8-1 score. Breslow walked only one batter and gave up no earned runs while striking out seven. He lowered his ERA to 1.67.
“I felt like I had pretty good command of my fastball and was throwing my breaking ball for a strike,” Breslow said.
Saturday, Yale’s first game against Cornell (8-15, 2-4) was not quite as masterful. The game was scoreless until the top of the fourth inning, when the Big Red loaded the bases, setting up David Bredhoff’s grand slam to give Cornell a 4-0 lead.
Yale could muster only one run in response, and a solo home run by Cornell in the top of the seventh sealed the 5-1 Eli loss.
Pitcher Josh Sowers ’05 struck out four in the loss.
But Stuper was pleased with his team’s perserverance.
“I think we turned the corner after that first game,” Stuper said. “We were like caged animals — ferocious, tenacious, any adjective you want to put in.”
That ferocity explained the team’s second Saturday game, in which the Elis blasted 9 runs off of 13 hits. In the third inning, second baseman Steven Duke ’03 and Hirschfield each contributed RBIs to put Yale out to a 2-0 lead.
One inning later, the Bulldogs batted around, scoring six runs in the process. Duke, Elkins, Chris Esper ’05, Orrico, and Beasley all batted in runs to give the Elis their comfortable lead.
Cornell began to go on a tear in the top of the sixth inning, grabbing three runs off of four hits, but pitcher Matt McCarthy ’02 got out of a bases-loaded jam to ensure the victory. McCarthy pitched all nine innings, striking out seven and walking only three.
In the eighth inning, first baseman Justin Walters ’03 added an insurance run to seal the game.
“We got off to a slow start, but got the ball rolling in the second game against Cornell behind great pitching by [McCarthy],” Breslow said. “The rest of the weekend we really showed how well we can play.”
Yale’s next game will be on the road Tuesday at Sacred Heart.