It was a weekend of mixed messages for the Yale Baseball team, as the Bulldogs split both of their doubleheaders with the University of Albany. The last time Yale played Albany, the Great Danes unexpectedly swept them in four consecutive games. While there was improvement this time around, the Elis had high hopes entering their last series before Ivy League play.

The Bulldogs (11-8) were stifled in the first game by a dominant pitching performance from Albany (6-14) starter Casey Walsh, who tossed a seven-inning complete game, giving up a home run to right fielder Ryan Lavarnway ’09 for his only earned run. In contrast, Albany shelled Yale pitching for 14 runs, including three RBIs from catcher Tom Hill. The Bulldogs sent nine men to the plate in the final inning, but two Albany errors were not enough to allow Yale to mount a comeback.

In the nightcap, shaky Albany defense again provided scoring opportunities for the Bulldogs. This time, Yale pitching was able to keep Albany’s bats quiet enough to maintain the lead. Starter Chris Wietlispach ’08 allowed four earned runs, and Matt Fealey ’06 rebounded nicely from a shaky outing last week to earn the win. The back end of the bullpen continued to dominate, with Adam Barrick ’06 hurling a scoreless inning and Brett Rosenthal ’07 nailing the door shut for his fifth save of the season.

While the mixed results of the pitching staff signal a team that misses the work of 2005 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Josh Sowers ’05, Rosenthal emphasized his confidence in the depth and potential of this year’s arms.

“Last year we may have had one bona fide ace,” Rosenthal said. “But this year, we’ve got a ton of face cards.”

In Sunday’s first game, timely hitting from the top of the lineup as well as solid relief pitching from Brian Irving ’08, Fealey and Rosenthal led the Bulldogs to a 7-5 victory. In the second game, the Great Danes’ bats exploded for 17 runs, negating solid offensive days for first basemen Marc Sawyer ’07 and designated hitter John Janco ’06, who hit his third home run of the season.

Over the course of the weekend, the team showcased many reasons why it could potentially vie for the Ivy League championship. Sawyer was 9-for-16 on the weekend with three doubles, demonstrating a lineup presence that will be an important asset to Yale’s league season. Mike Mongiardini ’07 made his first start in over two weeks, pitching a solid four-and-a-third innings to earn his first win of 2006. Lavarnway continues to emerge as a premium power threat, paying early dividends on this year’s talented crop of freshmen.

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs also displayed a few major flaws that will need to be addressed with the beginning of Ivy League play. Alec Smith ’06 and Jon Hollis ’06 were tagged for a combined 18 earned runs in their starts, continuing uncharacteristically rocky starts to their seasons. Errors were also an issue, with eight Yale miscues in the series leading to seven unearned runs.

“We didn’t do the little things like laying down buts and avoiding strikeouts,” left fielder Josh Cox ’07 said. “If these phases of our game don’t improve, we might lose some close ball games.”

Relief pitcher Mike Elias ’06 echoed those sentiments, but remains optimistic about the upcoming Ivy season.

“We have a lot left to do before we start taking on Ivy teams,” Elias said, “But I think ultimately the lessons we took from this past weekend will make us ready.”