Yale baseball coach John Stuper knows the impact of last year’s 12 one-run losses on the team’s record (12-27, 5-15 Ivy). But he doesn’t look at the losses as unlucky but rather motivation to work harder.

“When we have a lead, we need to put people away,” Stuper said.

The Bulldogs will have a chance to do just that when they play Quinnipiac University Sunday at noon on the Yale Field.

While Stuper cites hard work as the key to improving upon last year’s record, returning 10 starters will be a tremendous help.

“[We] have an experienced team,” Stuper said. “They haven’t had a whole lot of success in the past, but they’re anxious.”

Last year’s team Most Valuable Player, center fielder Chris Elkins ’03, returns after leading the team in several batting categories, including average (.374), slugging percentage (.483), and on-base percentage (.459).

He also played excellent defense — the team’s strong point.

“We were able to keep ourselves in every game because of defense,” said Steven Duke ’03, the team’s captain and second baseman.

Clearly, the Bulldogs need more run support. Stuper said he will be looking to his veterans to “step up offensively.”

These veterans include seniors Elkins, Duke, first baseman Justin Walters and catcher Darren Beasley. Walters led the team in home runs, slugging three of the team’s 10, while Beasley was second behind Elkins in RBIs. Duke was second in batting average (.288).

The loss of pitchers Craig Breslow ’02 and Matt McCarthy ’02 to the Major League Baseball draft last June will be tough to make up for. Stuper is looking to sophomores Josh Sowers (2-4 last season) and Mike Elias (1-2) to take over. Sowers, a powerful right-hander, was third on the team in strikeouts with 43. Elias, a lefty, was second in innings pitched, hurling 56.

The rest of the rotation will be selected from among the six freshmen pitchers in this year’s well-recruited class. John Hollis ’06 — a 6-3, 230-pound righty — has stood out thus far, throwing pitches at speeds over 90 mph.

“In the past, it was our position players who were young and pitchers who were old,” Stuper commented. “Now, it’s the opposite.”