Compared to last spring, this season’s Yale baseball team has better pitching, better fielding, and more overall talent.

But all that was still not enough this past weekend.

Entering this weekend, Dartmouth led the Red Rolfe division with the Elis and Harvard both one game behind.

But while the Cantabs took three of four from Brown, the Big Green swept Yale, statistically eliminating the Bulldogs from contention for the Ivy League title. The Crimson are currently in second-place in the standings while the Elis have dropped to third, tied with the Bears in the league basement.

“Dartmouth was a very good team,” Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “They got timely hits, played very good defense and pitched well. They just outplayed us every game of the series.”

Yale’s elimination from playoff contention comes despite the fact that the Elis have greatly improved their defense this year. The Bulldogs’ ERA is currently 4.92, a significant decline compared to last year’s 5.31. Yale’s fielding percentage has increased from .931 last season to .967 this season.

But the Eli offense has struggled from the plate, worsening through the season from a batting average of .286 to .279.

Numbers aside, this season also saw the return of utility man Zac Bradley ’06, who was injured in a car accident in January 2003 that killed four Yalies, two of whom were fellow Bulldog ballplayers.

Bradley returned to the Eli lineup in a big way, stealing home on April 9 against Princeton to give the Bulldogs the 2-1 win.

“Bradley’s steal home is a memory that none of our team will ever forget,” Rasmussen said.

Next season, Yale will lose only four seniors: captain Randal Leonard, outfielder Kyle Misenti, pitcher Doug Shimokawa and backup catcher Chris Young. Given the current depth of the Eli bench, the Bulldogs are not worried about replacing these departures.

“We will have plenty of guys off the bench that can play any position on the field and that will help our ball club next year with regards to replacing those guys,” Rasmussen said.

Yale will be in even better shape if its freshmen continue to develop and grow as they have this season.

“[The freshman] have been thrown into some tough situations and they’ve performed well,” Bradley said. “They’ve all gone through slumps this year, but I think they’ve come out all right.”

Two freshmen in particular have made an impact immediately.

First baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 has emerged as the team’s leading batter, with a team-leading average of .370. He also leads the team in hits with 39, on-base percentage with .440, and is tied for the lead in home runs with three and RBIs with 17. His solid play against Harvard earned him the Ivy Rookie of the Week Award for the week of April 20.

Mike Mongiardini ’07 is the other member of the team to earn the award, along with the Ivy Pitcher of the Week Award for the week of April 13. He currently leads all freshman in strikeouts with 24 and is fourth overall on the team behind starters Josh Sowers ’05, Alec Smith ’06 and Jon Hollis ’06.

With the talented freshmen on the team, one more year will give the young Bulldog squad valuable experience going into the 2005 season.

“We’re going to have one more year of experience under our belts and we’re going to know what to expect this time,” Obregon said.

Regardless of the future, this has been a emotion-filled season for the Elis.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, it’s been a rough season, but I feel good about the team and I feel good about next year,” designated hitter Pedro Obregon ’07 said.