Following a thrilling ninth-inning win over Fairfield University, the baseball team hopes to ride a wave of momentum heading into back-to-back doubleheaders against another struggling Ivy League squad.
The Bulldogs (10-21, 3-9 Ivy) travel to Hanover, N.H., this weekend to play four games at Dartmouth (15-17, 4-8).
After four disappointing losses to Harvard last weekend, the Elis look to climb the standings of the Red Rolfe division, which is made up of Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown.
“Last weekend was tough, but I was very proud of them yesterday,” head coach John Stuper said. “We were shorthanded and a lot of teams would have just come out flat or mailed it in, but they came out ready to play and it was a tough win.”
With shortstop Mike Hirschfield ’03 out of the lineup with back problems and infielder Blake Golom ’04 hurt as well, the Elis turned to pitcher Josh Sowers ’05, who performed well at third base. Chris Esper ’05 moved to shortstop for the game.
The Bulldogs have yet to find out if the injuries will alter this weekend’s lineup, but the team performed well against the Stags despite the mixup.
“That’s why you have depth,” Stuper said.
Pitchers Craig Breslow ’02, Matt McCarthy ’02, Mike Elias ’05 and Sowers will take the mound this weekend against the Big Green. Last weekend, there were several tough outings for a pitching staff that has normally been a plus for the Bulldogs.
Another constant for Yale has been the strong offensive play of second baseman Steve Duke ’03 and center fielder Chris Elkins ’03. The two are batting .333 and .373, respectively. Darren Beasley ’03 is also an offensive threat with 12 doubles this season — just four shy of the Eli record. Beasley and Elkins lead the team with 22 RBIs apiece.
First baseman Justin Walters ’03, aside from having an infield-leading .985 fielding percentage, has blasted three home runs.
The Big Green are coming off a ninth-inning comeback victory of their own, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Holy Cross, 6-5. But Dartmouth coach Bob Whalen notes that his team has been erratic at the plate this season.
“At times we’ve been a good offensive team, but that can be up and down in baseball,” Whalen said. “Other than that, we’ve played consistently in pitching and defense.”
Stuper noted that Dartmouth’s strength has turned to its pitching staff after graduating five top position players last year.
Led by Scott Shirrell’s .368 batting average and Mike Mileusnic’s 30 RBIs, Dartmouth does, however, pack a punch at the plate. Mileusnic’s two home run, six RBI performance against Brown in the Big Green’s 13-8 victory earned him a spot on the Ivy League Honor Roll.
Two Dartmouth pitchers have sub-2.00 ERAs, and starters John Velosky and Larry Fey have struck out 40 and 22 batters, respectively.
With all that in mind, the Bulldogs need to forget about recent losses and focus on the difficult task at hand.
“I think we had some tough luck in those games,” Elias said. “But we collected ourselves this week and went back to work, and everyone should be at their best.”