Each weekend is more important than the last for the Yale baseball team as the Bulldogs approach the end of their regular season.
This weekend is no exception, as the Bulldogs will not only continue their tight battle for a playoff spot but will get a chance to play rival Harvard in front of a home crowd for a four-game series.
After a 1–3 performance at Dartmouth narrowed the Bulldogs’ lead over the Big Green to a single game, every contest in Yale’s final two series will be vital.
“We’re going to assume, worst-case scenario, that Dartmouth is going to win all eight,” said captain and shortstop Cale Hanson ’14. “And that means that we have to win all eight … We want to win as many games as we can so that we can control our own destiny going into the playoffs.”
While the Bulldogs play at home, Dartmouth will hunt for wins at Brown, whose only two wins came against Harvard last week. The following weekend, the two teams will switch opponents, with Yale playing Brown in a home-and-home series and Dartmouth doing the same with Harvard.
Though the Crimson’s 4–8 conference record is second worst in the Ivy League, the “Call Me Maybe” cover artists are near the top of the league in offense with a .276 conference batting average and 4.92 runs per game in conference.
The only squads with better numbers in those two categories are Penn and Columbia, who hold the two best records in the Ivy League and are currently battling for the top spot in the Lou Gehrig division.
“We’re expecting a good team,” said center fielder Green Campbell ’15. “They got all the guys back who were suspended last year for the cheating scandal, and that’s brought a lot of veterans back to the squad. They’re going to compete.”
Harvard leadoff hitter Carlton Bailey has led the Crimson offensively with a .317 batting average and 13 RBI. Despite Harvard’s success in bringing runners home this season, Bailey is the team’s only hitter batting above the .300 mark.
On paper, the matchup predicts high-scoring games, as Yale and Harvard lay claim to the last two spots in the Ivy League for conference ERA at 4.74 and 4.95, respectively.
But Yale will be looking for the exact opposite to occur. In each of its six conference wins this season, the Eli pitching staff has given up no more than two runs.
No pitcher better exemplifies this recipe for success than ace pitcher Chris Lanham ’16, who has led the team to three Ivy League victories by giving up a combined one run in 20.1 innings pitched. He is scheduled to pitch the first game on Sunday. After his shutout of Dartmouth last weekend, Lanham was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week for the second time this year.
The two Yale pitchers slated for Saturday, meanwhile, will be looking to recover from losses at Dartmouth last week. Starter Chasen Ford ’17 allowed seven earned runs in five innings pitched, and Michael Coleman ’14 followed with four innings and five earned runs in the second game.
But Campbell and Hanson both stressed the confidence they have had in their pitchers all season.
“Michael Coleman had a tough day, but I fully expect him to come out against Harvard and have a lights-out performance,” Campbell said. “He’s a veteran, he’s been there.”
Southpaw David Hickey ’14 will start the second game on Sunday to cap off the weekend.
Campbell said that the historic rivalry between Yale and Harvard always heightens the level of intensity.
Though it did not happen every year in the beginning, a Harvard-Yale baseball rivalry has existed since 1868, seven years before the legendary football rivalry began, according to the Harvard Crimson.
“Baseball wise, Dartmouth is traditionally our biggest rival, but Harvard’s a close second,” Campbell said. “It makes you feel a little different when you play against a rival [such as] Harvard versus a midweek game. Everyone’s a little more tuned up, and the juices get flowing more.”
Saturday’s doubleheader at Yale Field will began at 1 p.m., while Sunday’s twin bill will kick off at noon.