The Yale baseball team has been a program on the rise in recent years. After first improving upon a last-place finish in the Ivy League in 2012 to go 0.500 in conference in 2013, the Bulldogs came just one win away from earning a spot in the Championship Series this past spring, also taking a game from national powerhouse — and No. 3 team in the country — Louisiana State along the way.
If fall ball is any indication of a team’s potential five months in advance of the season, Yale showed even more improvement this past weekend, emerging victorious against Quinnipiac and the University of New Haven in the annual City Series for the first time since 2011.
Led by small ball in the third inning and a stellar pitching performance by Chasen Ford ’17, Yale defeated the Bobcats 6–0 on Sunday in the final game of the four-team tournament, which is played every October at the Yale Field among teams in the New Haven area.
In the semifinal round the previous Friday, the Bulldogs came from behind to beat New Haven 4–3. Southern Connecticut was the fourth participant.
“It was definitely a good feeling, setting the tone for the rest of the fall with a City Series win,” right fielder and captain David Toups ’15 said.
Toups added that although the wins were a good sign, they are a small part of the work that the team needs to put in between now and the beginning of its season.
Ford, who went 3–4 last year as one of the Elis’ four starters, was lights out against the Bobcats in his six innings of work, striking out three and scattering just two hits. A pair of freshmen, Eric Brodkowitz ’18 and Drew Scott ’18, finished off the shutout with five combined strikeouts in their first collegiate innings.
“[Ford] had command, he had confidence and he was getting after guys with his fastball, which is what he needs to do,” Toups said.
While the Eli pitchers allowed Quinnipiac’s hitters to beat themselves with many ground outs and fly outs, Yale’s offense used a similar strategy, taking advantage of several Quinnipiac blunders in the field.
Yale’s big inning came in the third, when six bunts and three Bobcat errors resulted in five runs for the Bulldogs. Yale’s sixth run — which came later in the game — also resulted from small ball, when catcher Robert Baldwin ’15 drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
“I put a bunt down to put pressure on the defense [in the third], and they threw it away,” Toups said. “After that, we just wanted to keep putting pressure on their defense, and make them make a play.”
Toups, who singled and scored a run in the game on Sunday, was named City Series Most Valuable Player at the conclusion of the series. But the honor had more to do with his performance in the semifinal game, when he capped off an Eli rally with a two-RBI single that gave Yale its final lead.
Yale ace Chris Lanham ’16 got the start in the opening game against New Haven and pitched five strong innings for the win, allowing two earned runs while striking out seven.
“It’s nice to get back in the game setting, especially after some time off,” Lanham said. “All my pitches seemed to be working pretty well, especially since it’s just the fall.”
The Bulldogs’ first victory, however, did not come as smoothly as it would in the championship game.
Yale took the initial lead in the first inning, when Baldwin doubled and outfielder Brent Lawson ’16 brought him home with a single. But New Haven came roaring back in the top of the third to take a 2–1 lead with two consecutive RBI singles.
The Elis then responded with a rally of their own. After Yale loaded the bases, center fielder Green Campbell ’15 tied the game with a walk, and then Toups brought in another two runs with his single.
That two-run lead would prove difficult to keep. The Chargers tacked on another run later in the game to reduce the deficit to one, and relief pitcher Chris Moates ’16 loaded the bases in the ninth inning after pitching a scoreless sixth, seventh and eighth.
Outfielder and pitcher Eric Hsieh ’15 then stepped on the hill in a jam and came through for the Bulldogs, getting his first batter to ground into a double play to end the game.
“We loaded the bases towards the end of the game, and that got a little suspenseful,” Lanham said. “We all just kept our heads cool and took care of business, and it happened to work out in our favor.”
Now finished with their only in-game practice of the fall, the Bulldogs are running through individual workouts in preparation for their spring season.
Yale’s first game is slated for March 7, the beginning of a multi-game trip in the North Carolina area.