The baseball team was well on its way to repeating a midweek lapse when the Eli batsmen fell 4 runs behind Sacred Heart University on Tuesday.
But the Bulldogs (9-17, 3-5 Ivy), who sputtered to an 8-2 loss against Iona last Wednesday, regained their poise — and their strokes — in a 9-7 win over the Pioneers (11-14) in Bridgeport, Conn.
“What we did today, which was good, is we showed composure and didn’t go into the tank,” said second baseman Steve Duke ’03. “We scored some runs and kept forging on.”
The Eli offense gained momentum off the strength of a three-run homer by Dave Fortenbaugh ’03 that tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth inning. Duke contributed two RBIs and Chris Elkins ’03 went 3-5 at the plate.
“They threw a lefthander [Charles Ristano] who throws to location but doesn’t throw very hard,” Yale head coach John Stuper said. “We came out a little flat, but nobody panicked and we started to swing the bat a little.”
After two early Bulldog errors helped Sacred Heart run out to the 4-0 lead, Yale responded by stringing several hits together before Duke recorded his first RBI of the game with a single to right field that scored Fortenbaugh.
These efforts paved the way to the top of the fifth, which didn’t look promising after Ristano retired the first two Eli batters. But catcher Chris Young ’04 was walked and outfielder Zac Bradley ’05 singled to left field, setting up Fortenbaugh’s three-run play. The shot to right field was his second home run of the season and the team’s seventh.
The Bulldogs continued the onslaught, adding two more runs — one off an RBI double by Darren Beasley ’03 and the other off a Duke single — before the side was retired with the score at 6-4 Yale.
“We did some good situational hitting with men on base,” Stuper said.
Yale extended its lead to 9-4 with an RBI from Bradley, who also stole his team-leading ninth base of the season, followed by RBI singles from Chris Esper ’05 and Young.
Strong pitching by Nick Grass ’05 gave him his first career win.
“My curveball was working pretty well, but most importantly I was throwing strikes, and that keeps the defense in the game,” Grass said. “They made all the plays for me.”
The Bulldogs were indeed strong defensively after giving up the two early errors, with the infield combo of Justin Walters ’03, Duke, Mike Hirschfield ’03, and Esper collaborating well and picking up a double play.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Sacred Heart’s Matt Lemanczyk recorded a three-run home run of his own, but it was too little, too late for the Pioneers, as they were stymied by closer Doug Shimokawa ’04.
Shimokawa retired four batters in picking up his second save on the season.
“I think we finished off real strong,” Shimokawa said. “Nick Grass threw real well, and our guys came alive through the fourth inning and we just piled it on and found a way to win.”