The men of Eli baseball extended their newfound offensive onslaught today against Hartford, striking in the late innings at Yale Field for a 9-4 victory. Yale has now won six out of its last seven games and will look to continue its winning ways at Fairfield today.
Coming into the bottom of the seventh the Elis (14-15, 8-4 Ivy) had managed only one run on three hits. But the Bulldogs sprung loose from their offensive collar and scored eight times on ten hits in the final three innings of Tuesday’s game.
Yale led 1-0 until the top of the sixth when Hartford struck for three runs on two hits and an Eli error to take a 3-1 lead. Catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said once the team fell behind, the offense woke up.
“I think we were probably on cruise control for much of the game,” Rasmussen said. “We were down 3-1 and we knew we needed to step it up a notch.”
Eli starter John Janco ’06 kept Yale in the game while the offense struggled. Janco gave up just one run on two hits in five innings of work.
“I’d have to say [Janco] was the MVP of the game today,” captain Randy Leonard ’04 said. “He really kept us in the game while we were sleep-walking early on.”
Janco was relieved by righty Doug Shimokawa ’04 after walking the first batter in the top of the sixth. Later in the inning Shimokawa gave up a two-RBI single from Hartford’s Matt Denorfia. Eli righty Colin Ward-Henninger ’05 came in to shut-down the Hawks. Ward-Henninger gave up an unearned run in the seventh on his way to his first collegiate victory of the season.
The Bulldogs answered in the bottom of the sixth with two runs on RBI singles from outfielder C.J. Orrico ’05 and Pedro Obregon ’07.
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Elis broke out. Infielder Chris Esper ’06 began the rally by reaching base on an error and then stole second. With one out Leonard delivered an RBI-single. First baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 followed with a walk. The next batter, Josh Zabar ’06, was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Janco, who came to the plate as the designated hitter, singled home Leonard. Orrico grounded out to score Sawyer to end the inning with Yale ahead 6-4.
In the bottom of the eighth, Sawyer put an exclamation point on the Eli comeback with an opposite field, line drive, two-run homerun. Sawyer scored three runs on the day.
Sawyer’s performance yesterday marked a continuation of this weekend when he went 9-15 with three RBIs and two doubles against Harvard. For his offensive efforts, Sawyer received Ivy Rookie of the Week Honors. The Eli first baseman leads his squad with a .398 batting average and has hit safely in ten of the last eleven games, marking an offensive outburst from the entire team.
Though the Bulldog offense started the season slow, it has been on fire of late, averaging more than six runs in the last 13 games. In those 13 games the Elis have a 9-4 record. In the first 16 games of the season the Bulldogs averaged a paltry 2.25 runs per game.
Leonard explained the turnaround as a product of the whole team’s taking a different approach at the plate.
“We kind of changed our approach from early on,” Leonard said. “We have a saying — Disciplined Aggressive Approach.”
Leonard described the new approach as being disciplined early in the count to try to get ahead, and then being aggressive when ahead in the count. Orrico said it was only a matter of time before the Elis became more comfortable at the plate.
“Early in the season guys were trying to figure out what their role on the team was,” Orrico said. “[Now] it’s a different guy everyday — it could be anyone one through nine.”
Rasmussen said the biggest difference between last season and this season is that this year anyone in the lineup could have a great day to propel the Elis to victory.
“If one guy has a bad day, we know we have eight other guys in the lineup who are probably going to pick him up,” Rasmussen said.
Leonard said the midweek games against non-Ivy opponents are still very important in prepping the team for weekend Ivy action. This coming weekend the Bulldogs travel to Hanover for a four-game set against Dartmouth in a battle of divisional leaders which could determine the eventual winner of the Red Rolfe.
“We want to go into that game [against Dartmouth] riding as high and as confident as we can be,” Leonard said. “So these [non-divisional] games are that much more important.”