The Yale baseball team’s bats are on fire.
In their four games against Harvard this weekend, the Yale bats pounded out 40 hits and 21 runs to win three out of the four-game series.
“This weekend our team hit really well,” rightfielder Zac Bradley ’05 said. “We have a lot of younger guys coming in to their own as hitters and the older guys are really executing our plays and advancing runners nicely.”
Though Yale is near the bottom of the league in number of hits, it has recently improved from 8.5 hits per game to nearly 10 in its last six games.
Instead of sheer number of hits, the strength of the Bulldog batting lineup comes through in its unselfishness and emphasis on team play.
“We are very unselfish when it comes to team hitting,” center fielder Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “We don’t complain when coaches ask us to bunt or sacrifice our at-bat to advance a runner.”
The Elis are second in the Ancient Eight in sacrifice bunts with 14.
Team captain Randy Leonard ’04 agrees that the team focuses on helping one another within the line-up.
“When everybody’s into the game and you know everyone’s behind you, you’re just more confident at bat,” Leonard said. “Guys need to feed off each other. It’s sort of like that link-and-chain analogy — every guy has a role and needs to do it for the team to be successful.”
Furthermore, interaction amongst the team and with bench players allows the Bulldogs to read pitchers — and hit that much better.
“When you can figure out a pitching pattern from a pitcher, you can have that much of an advantage,” Leonard said. “The bench plays a huge role in doing that to give the hitter every edge that he can have.”
The Bulldogs are organized to provide the best amount of team chemistry.
With the fastest legs on the team, second baseman Justin Ankney ’07 leads off. He is followed by Leonard and then Marc Sawyer ’07, who has a team-leading .398 average. The next few — third baseman Matt Stone ’06, right fielder Jake Doyle ’07 and left fielder C.J. Orrico ’05 — are the power hitters who are expected to bring the runners home.
“You want the guys in the middle to drive in the runs,” Leonard said.
A classic example of the team’s 1-2-3 punch came in the fourth inning of Sunday’s first game against Harvard. Ankney led off with a single to right, and was moved forward by Leonard’s sacrifice bunt. Sawyer then doubled to score Ankney. With this and similar plays, the Bulldogs were able to win 5-1.
The last two players in the lineup, Rasmussen and shortstop Chris Esper ’07, are more defensive players but often prove to be the game-winning batters.
“If some guys aren’t on, Eric [Rasmussen] and Chris [Esper] will need to come up with hits,” Leonard said. “They’ve come up with some huge hits with two outs and men on base to pick up some RBIs for us.”
But regardless of strong batting, Yale still needs strong all-around performances to win games. Even with a solid offensive performance, the Elis still dropped the Sunday nightcap to Harvard 11-5.
“When we are able to combine good hitting with good pitching and good defense, that is when we are most effective and most difficult to beat,” Rasmussen said.