With a disappointing last-place finish in the Ivy League’s Rolfe Division last season, the baseball team is looking forward to a fresh start this spring, as they kick off their season at Maryland-Baltimore County this coming weekend. The team ended the 2008-’09 season with a 13–24 record, including a 7–13 performance in the Ivy League, tying Columbia for second to last in the conference and only beating out Penn (5–15).

After three games against UMBC, the Bulldogs will head south to compete in the RussMatt Invitational from March 9 to 16, in which they will take the field against Rhode Island, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Army, Indiana and Bucknell, for a total of eight games The Elis will then play two doubleheaders at Hartford to finish out spring break. But Ivy League play does not start until April 3, when the Bulldogs face Columbia.

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Even though last year’s team was anchored by Major League Baseball draftee Brandon Josselyn ’09, who had a season 3.41 ERA to lead the Bulldogs’ pitching staff, current captain Joe Castaldi ’10 said the squad was plagued by inconsistent pitching.

“We walked way too many guys,” he said. “We just need to throw more strikes and not walk as many guys as we did last year.”

Last season the Elis finished with a 6.82 ERA — seventh in the Ivy League. But Andy Megee ’11 said he thinks this year’s pitching will yield better results with Pat Ludwig ’12 and Vinny Lally ’11 returning for the Bulldogs. Brook Hart ’11, a quarterback for the Yale football team, will also join the Elis on their pitching staff.

“He’s a great addition to our team,” Lally said of Hart. “It can never hurt to have extra arms, and he’s a skilled pitcher so far.”

Princeton and Cornell took the top-two spots in the Gehrig Division, but Dartmouth, which took first place in the Rolfe Division last year and beat Cornell for the Ivy League Championship, will once again be the favorite this season. The Big Green return their entire pitching staff from last year, and they are the magazine Baseball America’s preseason favorite to win the conference this year.

But Castaldi remains optimistic about Yale’s chances. With most of the Eli roster returning this year, he said he hopes the Bulldogs improve on some of the inconsistencies from last year’s inexperienced team. He added that more consistent defense will come from this year’s experienced infield.

“I think our infield is the best it’s been since I’ve been here,” Castaldi said. “We’ve had a lot of guys in the infield that are two-, three-, four-year starters now. They expect to make every play, and it really shows in how they prepare for practice and games. They’re very consistent, and they’re just confident out there.”

The Bulldogs return their two most dangerous bats in Megee and Trygg Larsson-Danforth ’10. Last season, Megee had a .329 batting average, 16 RBIs and four triples, while Larsson-Danforth, last season’s first-team All-Ivy first baseman, batted a team-high .344, with seven home runs and 37 RBIs.

“We’ve grown up a lot and there’s a lot of guys who are ready to step up,” Megee said.

The Bulldogs begin their three-game series against UMBC on Saturday.