In a weekend of gritty, hard-fought baseball games, only a single bizarre play separated the Bulldogs from being at eye level with the rival Harvard Crimson.

Yale (21-14, 8-4 Ivy) forced a split in the four-game doubleheader, leaving the weekend trailing Harvard (14-13-1, 9-3) in the standings with only two weeks to go in the season.

In the Saturday matinee, captain Alec Smith ’06 tossed his second complete game win in a row, going the distance for seven innings of five-hit ball. The game was deadlocked at one run apiece until the bottom of the fifth, when first baseman Marc Sawyer ’07 knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice and later scored on a throwing error by the Cantab third baseman. Unearned runs made the difference for the Crimson, as their starter, Shawn Haviland, also pitched a complete game, allowing only one earned run.

The second game was a back and forth melee. Starter Mike Mongiardini ’07 was solid for five innings, and Yale put together a consistent offensive attack, scoring in four out of the first five innings. The Bulldogs took a 7-4 lead into the top of the eighth inning, but the “three-headed monster” in the back of the Yale bullpen couldn’t get it done.

Matt Fealey ’06 recorded two quick outs and went to two-strike counts on two consecutive batters, but Harvard rallied for three hits and a walk, forcing him from the game with runners on first and second. Brett Rosenthal ’07 entered and allowed a double down the left field line, scoring the third run of the inning.

Rosenthal started the next inning, allowing a single and retiring a batter on a bunt before being lifted for lefty Adam Barrick ’06. With a runner at second, Barrick tried to field a squibbler on the infield grass, and made an off-balance toss past second baseman P.J. Gorynski ’08, allowing the go-ahead run to score from third.

The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, bringing up right fielder Ryan Lavarnway ’09. What ensued was probably the strangest play of the Bulldogs’ season, and perhaps of the last few years.

Lavarnway popped up along the third base line. Supposedly the umpire said “infield fly if it’s fair,” but neither the defenders nor the Yale baserunners heard him. The ball drifted in the breeze before dropping fair for an automatic out. Gorynski was at third base, and since he hadn’t heard the umpire’s call, he initially broke for home. He was tagged out attempting to return to the bag, ending the game.

“We’ve taken a lot of pride in being able to hold down games at the end, but we let this one slip away,” Rosenthal said. “Our hitters almost picked us (the bullpen) up, but baseball’s funny like that — it’s impossible to be perfect every time.”

Sunday opened with an absolute slugfest, and Yale was on the receiving end. Harvard put 12 runs on the board, aided by a running game that has been a mainstay of their offense all year. The Crimson was 5-for-6 in steal attempts. Harvard starter Javier Castellanos didn’t make things any easier for the Bulldogs lineup, as he spun a complete game with three strikeouts.

“I was just all over the place this weekend,” catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “I got too hyped up and was trying to throw it down there too hard. If guys try to run in the next two series, they will not have the same success.”

Luckily for the Bulldogs, they were able to pull out the fourth game and maintain their one game deficit. After an early 4-0 hole, the Bulldog bats came to life. Rasmussen and Sawyer each had three RBI, and Sawyer added his second home run of the season, a towering shot to right center field. The “monster” reared its three heads starting in the 6th inning, and eventually nailed down the win. Fealey and Barrick were both sharp, and Rosenthal picked up his 10th save, setting an Ivy League record.

“To come back from a four-run deficit in the first inning is a huge statement of the team’s will,” Fealey said. “We had to win that last game, and everyone stepped up.”

Rasmussen also weighed in on the team’s mentality going forward.

“We knew that this half of the division would be a dogfight for the top spot,” he said. “We just have to come out for the next two series and play the way we know we are capable of playing.”