When the baseball team faces off against Dartmouth this weekend, the Elis will need some big victories over the Big Green if they want to stay in playoff contention.

The Bulldogs (18-13, 6-6 Ivy) will face Dartmouth (11-14, 6-6) in a four-game series this weekend at Yale Field. The two teams are tied for third in the Red Rolfe Division and sit four games behind division leader Harvard (18-10, 10-2) with eight contests left in the Ivy schedule.

The defending Red Rolfe Division champions arrive in the Elm City on a modest two-game winning streak after sweeping a twin bill against Vermont on Tuesday. The Big Green has won the division three out of the past five years.

“They’re always a great team,” pitcher Matt Fealey ’06 said. “They swing the bat well and I know that they have great pitching — starters and relievers — so we’re going to have to play really well if we want to beat them.”

The Elis are coming off a midweek doubleheader sweep as well. Yale edged Fairfield 9-6 in Wednesday’s first game and slammed the Stags 6-1 in the nightcap. Perhaps more significantly, the Bulldogs are an impressive 10-2 in home games. The two losses came at the hands of Princeton earlier in the season, but the Tigers were actually playing as the home team at Yale Field due to scheduling complications.

“We just go out and play hard every game, home or away,” catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “We’ve had a lot of success at home, maybe because we know our field a little better. It’s one of the biggest in the Ivies, and we know what we can and can’t do. Our pitchers know they can give up more fly balls, and our batters also know there’s a lot of real estate where we can get hits.”

The Bulldogs are hoping that Yale Field will prove more hospitable than Red Rolfe Field last year — the Elis were outscored 49-12 in a four-game sweep at Dartmouth in 2004.

“They crushed us last year,” Matt Stone ’06 said. “They lost two really good hitters, but still have a lot [who came] back.”

However, the Bulldogs boast a much-improved pitching staff this year — arguably the best in the Ivies. Yale’s rotation includes four of the top five strikeout pitchers in the Ancient Eight — Josh Sowers ’05 (50), Jon Hollis ’06 (46), Mike Mongiardini ’07 (42), and Alec Smith ’06 (41). Sowers also leads the league in ERA (1.35), innings pitched (46.2), and wins (5, tie).

The Fearsome Foursome will have to contend with a solid Big Green lineup that includes first baseman Jeff Speights, who earned Ivy Player of the Week honors earlier this month with an 11-for-17 hitting performance over four consecutive conference games. Speights slammed seven doubles and scored seven runs over that span. Dartmouth also boasts one of the fastest men in the league — outfielder Will Bashelor — who leads the Ivies in stolen bases (23).

“We’ll just try to throw off his timing — if we can disrupt that, he won’t have as much success as he’s had in the past,” Rasmussen said. “Overall, we just have to come out and get big hits in big situations — our pitchers have been solid all year and hopefully they’ll come through again. We just have to play hard, play well, and we’ll be set.”

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