In years past the baseball team has been recognized primarily for its strong pitching, so this weekend’s hitting showcase, which saw the Bulldogs put up 25 runs in just three games against UMBC, may be an early sign that the Elis have finally found the right blend to improve on last season’s 11-9 Ivy record.
Yale (2-1) opened its season by winning two of three games against the Retrievers of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (1-5). The Bulldogs took the first game, 14-12, on Saturday afternoon, but dropped the nightcap, 4-3. They finished the series on Sunday afternoon, finding success at the plate and the mound, and won, 8-1.
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The three starters, Chris Wietlispach ’08, Brian Irving ’08 and Steve Gilman ’08, gave up only three earned runs in 17 innings of work. They found offensive support at both the top of the lineup and the bottom. Leadoff man Josh Cox ’08 went 6-for-12 on the weekend, and right behind him in the No. 2 spot, captain Justin Ankney ’07 had six RBIs and an on-base percentage over .500. At the bottom of the lineup, shortstop Dan Soltman ’08 went 5 for 12.
Ankney said he was happy with his team’s overall performance.
“For a first weekend, there are no major things we really need to work on,” Ankney said. “If you hit like we did that’s a pretty good sign that you’re going to have a good year.”
The offensive outpouring quickly became apparent in the first game when the Elis put up 14 runs. The team scored three runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to jump to a 6-1 lead — a lead that would never seem safe throughout the rest of the game. Ahead 10-8 in the bottom of the seventh, closer Brett Rosenthal ’07, who set a school record last year with 11 saves, was called to finish out the eight-inning affair. He gave up the two tying runs before his teammates ultimately bailed him out by responding with four runs in the top of the next inning. The Retrievers tacked on two more scores, but that would not be enough in the 14-12 final.
“When we put up that many runs, [the pitchers] don’t have to go out there and throw a shutout,” Ryan Lavarnway ’09 said. “It allows everyone a lot more room for error.”
Rosenthal was credited with the win in the first game, but took the loss in the second. After strong performances from the starting pitchers on both sides, Rosenthal allowed UMBC to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh and gave up a walk-off double to Retriever Rick Phillips.
“We should have won that game,” Rosenthal said. “I didn’t have a great weekend personally.”
Rosenthal is still considered one of the best closers in Ivy League history, and Ankney said he knows the rusty bullpen will work through their problems.
Despite shaky bullpen performances on Saturday, the pitching staff put on an impressive display in the concluding game and appeared unaffected by UMBC’s comeback the previous night. Starter Gilman surrendered only four hits in six innings and reliever Brandon Josselyn ’09 gave up only one hit and one run. The Eli bats came alive again and catcher Stanley Davis ’09, who saw his first action for Yale after an injury last season, picked up the first and second hits of his collegiate career.
“We had four guys who got their first collegiate hits this weekend,” Lavarnway said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys in the lineup who can hit the ball well.”
Ankney said he thought it was important that the Bulldogs win their first series and considered it a good sign that the hitting and starting pitching were so good in the opening games. The Elis will get one more shot of cold weather when they play at the New York Institute of Technology on Wednesday before heading south for the annual spring break tour.