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The baseball team traveled to the sun-drenched south for an 11-game road trip over spring break, and the Bulldogs seem to have brought some heat back with them.

After opening the season shakily, the Elis rebounded and returned to chilly New Haven Saturday on the crest of a four-game winning streak.

“At the beginning of the trip, we didn’t pitch or play defense as well as we should have,” captain CJ Orrico ’05 said. “But once we got used to being outside, we improved. Out of my four years on the team, this is the best road trip we’ve had. Some of the other Ivies are usually lucky to get one or two wins on their trips.”

Orrico led the team with 13 RBI over the trip. The Yale captain is the first Ivy player to reach double digits in this category, and is tied for first in the league in home runs with two. Other players shone as well, with first baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 leading all Ivy players with over 20 at bats with a scorching .455 batting average. On the pitching side, Sowers, Smith and lefty Mike Mongiardini ’06 are locked in a tie for second place in the Ivy strikeout category with 12 apiece.

The Bulldogs had not played outdoors prior to the trip, and many of their opponents already had five to 10 games under their belts.

“Our first game against Davidson was our first game outside,” outfielder Jake Doyle ’07 said. “It took a little while to get comfortable on the baseball field.”

After losing a wild three-game series to Davidson, including a heartbreaking 13-12 loss in the 10-inning season opener, the Elis topped Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne 9-8 and then dropped a three game set to Georgetown in Fort Myers, Fla. The team quickly regrouped, stomping Massachusetts 6-1 in Bradenton, Fla., the following day. The Bulldogs then lost to Indiana 8-0 before ending the southern portion of their road trip with a 5-3 victory over Radford in Durham, N.C.

Upon their return to Connecticut, the Elis continued their winning ways. A suddenly energized pitching staff caught fire, leading the team to a three-game sweep over Sacred Heart. This included two complete-game shutouts from Josh Sowers ’05 and Alec Smith ’06.

“Our pitching was awesome,” catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “Our staff has been getting so much better each time through the rotation, and they’re finally getting back to where they were last year. The defense has done a great job adjusting to the bad hops that come with playing outside.”

Though the Bulldog pitchers thrived upon returning to the North, the biting cold of the Connecticut winter seemed to silence the Eli bats. The team scored a total of seven runs over the course of the sweep of Sacred Heart.

“I think we didn’t hit as well up North because of the cold,” Orrico said.

The Elis will play Marist on Thursday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before returning to New Haven for a three game series against Vermont this weekend at Yale Field. The Elis will battle the Catamounts on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m.

“Things are really coming together,” Doyle said. “We’ve had a very promising start to the season.”
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