Postponed by 24 hours, the Yale baseball team salvaged its first two days of Ivy play, sweeping a pair of games against Princeton on Monday after losing both games in a Sunday doubleheader at Cornell.
“We got off to a slow start, but when we needed two wins we got them,” captain and right fielder David Toups ’15 said. “You have to have a short memory in Ivy League play and not let bad days snowball into bad weekends.”
Below-freezing temperatures delayed Yale’s Ivy opener in Ithaca, New York from Saturday to Sunday. When the Bulldogs (8–8, 2–2 Ivy) finally did take the field, Cornell (6–12, 3–1) welcomed them with a pair of defeats, topping the Elis by final scores of 10–1 and 7–5.
In its first taste of conference action, Yale actually held a 1–0 lead into the bottom of the fourth, thanks to an inside-the-park home run by Toups in the second inning. Other than that, however, the Elis offense was held quiet while the Big Red utilized two big innings to break the game wide open.
Cornell singled its way onto the board in the fourth, using four singles and a walk to break the shutout of pitcher Chris Moates ’16 with three runs in the inning. The three runs turned out to be enough in the seven-inning affair, although the Big Red erupted in the bottom of the sixth with another seven runs, chasing Moates from the game in the process, to put the Elis away for good.
In the nine-inning contest soon after, Yale led into the bottom of the seventh behind a strong initial performance by pitcher Chris Lanham ’16. The righty limited the Big Red to three runs over the first 6.2 innings before running into trouble.
An out away from carrying a 5–3 lead into the eighth, Lanham loaded the bases on a single, a hit by pitch and a walk. Although he had stranded six baserunners up until that point, he was unable to work his way out of trouble, allowing four runs to cross the plate in the frame.
The Bulldogs mustered a comeback attempt in the ninth as third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 picked up his fourth hit of the day, followed by a single from first baseman Eric Hsieh ’15, the nation’s leading hitter entering the day with a batting average of 0.460. The two moved into scoring position with two outs, but Toups could not deliver any heroics, flying out to center field to cap a disappointing first day of Ivy play. Lanham dropped the decision to even out his record at 2–2 this season, and it was the first regular season Ivy loss for the righty since an April 21, 2013 outing against Dartmouth.
“After the first game, we were definitely down, but we bounced back and played really well in the second game,” center fielder Green Campbell ’15 said. “We just had some breaks go against us late in the game that cost us. We definitely learned from those.”
Following the set of defeats against Cornell, Yale bounced back nicely on Monday with a pair of victories at Princeton (4–17, 1–3).
Led by right-handed pitcher Chasen Ford ’17 in the first game, Yale remained within striking distance much of the afternoon before two late-inning runs pushed the Elis ahead for a 2–1 victory in the seven-inning contest.
“There was some added pressure for me going into the game,” Ford said. “Our backs were against the wall today and we needed these two games.”
The Tigers manufactured a run in the bottom of the first, as second baseman Danny Hoy moved station to station before scoring on an infield single. But from that point forward, Ford was dominant.
The Lake Forest, California native held the Tigers to four total hits, including striking out five of six batters in the fourth and fifth innings en route to a six-inning gem. Ford punched out eight batters and had recorded 10 consecutive outs capped by a one-two-three sixth inning.
“Although starting off down 1–0, I felt confident that that wasn’t enough to stop our team and that they would put up some runs, so I just had to give them a chance,” Ford said.
The offense eventually came through for Ford, as Toups equalized the ballgame in the top of the sixth with an RBI single to right. The Bulldogs then rallied with two outs in the seventh to score the go-ahead run.
Shortstop Tom O’Neil ’16 reached first on a hit by pitch before stealing second base to get into scoring position. Campbell capitalized on the opportunity, smacking a double to drive in O’Neil for what proved to be the game-winning run.
“That was one of the best feelings I’ve had playing Ivy League ball,” Campbell said. “I was just happy to reward Chasen with a W for his awesome start on the mound and help our team get the first one out of the way.”
Ford walked his first batter of the game to open the bottom of the seventh, drawing head coach John Stuper out of the dugout to call in the club’s go-to reliever: righty Mason Kukowski ’18.
The Tigers loaded the bases against the freshman with just one out, but Kukowski responded with a critical strikeout of pinch-hitter Blake Thomsen before inducing pinch-hitter Tyler Servais into tapping a harmless ground ball to second baseman Nate Adams ’16 to close the game, earning Ford the win and Kukowski his second save of the season.
Minutes later, it was another freshman hurler who stepped up for the Elis. Righty Eric Brodkowitz ’18 dealt a complete game effort to pick up his first career win, scattering two earned runs on nine hits while picking up six strikeouts.
On this occasion, it was the Eli offense that exploded for a game-changing inning, as five runs in the eighth inning broke open what was a 3–2 edge and catapulted Yale to an 8–3 victory.
“The momentum was definitely on our side after a close win in game one,” Campbell said. “Princeton was clearly deflated, and we held a sense of confidence that carried all the way through to the eighth inning when we busted open for five runs.”
A couple of familiar suspects provided some spark from the plate yet again, as the captain Toups knocked in two runs on a 2–5 day from the plate while the leadoff man Campbell went 3–6 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Additionally, designated hitter Harrison White ’17 stood out, going 3–4 with a walk after mustering only three hits in his past six games.
While tomorrow’s home opener against Sacred Heart has been cancelled for the time being, a make-up game may be scheduled at some point this week. If no such make-up game occurs, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to this weekend, when they host Penn and Columbia.