For the Yale baseball team, all systems are ready for the opening of Ivy League play this weekend. The Bulldogs have proven they can hit, field and pitch with the best teams in their division, and they have little left to prove outside of the Ancient Eight.

In their last tune-up before facing Penn and Columbia, the Bulldogs (11-9) dropped a close 8-5 contest to the Connecticut Huskies (14-8). UConn jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a single and an RBI triple off of Yale starter Chris Winkler ’07. The Huskies scored in each of the first three frames, compiling an imposing 4-0 lead.

But the Bulldogs would not be denied. They scored in the next three consecutive innings, sparked by two UConn errors in the top of the fourth. Yale later took a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning on an RBI single from catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06, but Connecticut rallied for a pair of runs in each of the last two innings, first off of Stefan Schropp ’09 and later Chris Walsh ’09.

Despite the loss, the game provided a much-needed look at some of the younger members of the pitching staff. Schropp, Walsh and Alex Christ ’08 had only eight and two-thirds innings combined going into this game, so it was a priority to get them ready for league play.

John Henry Davis ’08 turned in two perfect innings of relief, striking out two Huskies. With his five and two-thirds scoreless frames this season, Davis has emerged as a strong middle relief option in high-leverage situations.

On the offensive side of the ball, Yale again elected to include a handful of younger players in the starting lineup, resting a number of regular starters for the upcoming series. Brandon Josselyn ’09 picked up his first career hit, as well as a walk and a run scored. Dan Soltman ’08 got the start at shortstop, recording two putouts and contributing offensively with two sacrifice bunts.

“I think we executed the small ball better today, and that stuff will definitely help us in the coming league games,” Soltman said.

The veteran players also made their presences known. First baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 went two for four with a double, a walk and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Sawyer’s batting average now stands at .333, good for first place on the team. Rasmussen also registered two hits and a walk, and third baseman Pedro Obregon ’07 contributed with a hit and a walk.

“We’ve had 20 games to this point to work on our game,” Obregon said. “We know what we are capable of, so we’ve got to go out there and play some good baseball.”

Starting shortstop Justin Ankney ’07, who made a pinch-hitting appearance in Wednesday’s game, is also confident that the team is prepared for the road trip this weekend and the important series that await in the coming weeks.

“We’ve worked really hard to fix the little things we haven’t been doing well in games,” he said. “We’re definitely ready.”