A bleak weather forecast for the weekend provided an ominous sign of things to come for the Yale baseball team, which was swept at home by Penn and Columbia by a combined score of 50–11.
The Yale (8–13, 2–6 Ivy) offense had no response at home against the explosive starting lineups of its foes, falling 8–1 and 17–5 on Saturday to the Quakers and 16–2 and 9–3 on Sunday to the Lions.
“There were few positives, but what we take [from the weekend] is more game experience,” captain and right fielder David Toups ’15 said. “We’re just trying to have a short memory and get back to work on Monday for the [upcoming] division games.”
The Penn (12–9, 7–1) bats combined for 25 runs on 30 hits, including five home runs, in the first doubleheader of the weekend. The Quakers came up with timely hits all afternoon while the Bulldogs stranded 12 runners on base in the first matchup and seven in the second.
In Saturday’s opener, starting pitcher Chris Lanham ’16 performed serviceably, allowing four earned runs over five innings of work. Lanham kept the Quakers quiet early, but a grand slam by right fielder Matt Greskoff opened the scoring in a big way.
An error by third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 gave Penn a valuable extra out in the fifth inning, and the Quakers capitalized, smacking a triple and a double to tack on three runs in the frame. The Elis responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning as center fielder Green Campbell ’15 scored off a double by Toups, but it proved to be Yale’s only run in the game. Penn tacked on one more run in the top of the sixth for the final 8–1 margin.
The Bulldogs had ample opportunities to score, but they left the bases loaded in both the second and sixth innings.
“Offensively, it’s of course tough to come behind from a big number,” Slenker said. “We try to chip away inning by inning, but sometimes you run into good pitching and putting up a lot of runs is not something in the cards for that day.”
The Elis struck first in the second game against Penn, taking a two-run lead in the second inning. Left fielder Eric Hsieh ’15 led off the frame with a single, and first baseman Robert Baldwin ’15 — making his first start for Yale since the game against Duke on March 10 — followed with a double to score Hsieh. Toups then placed a bunt single that advanced Baldwin to third, which was crucial as Baldwin scored on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Mikey Sliepka ’18.
The pitching staff, however, was unable to maintain the advantage, as the Quakers struck back to tie the game in the fourth and push ahead with four in the fifth. The Bulldogs pulled within one after scoring three unearned runs in the sixth, capitalizing on two Penn errors. But a seven-run eighth inning by the Quakers put the game out of reach for the Elis.
“We have to eliminate the big innings,” Campbell said. “That starts with pitchers getting ahead on hitters and playing quality defense behind them. When big innings happen, it’s usually pitchers falling behind in the count and hitters taking advantage, putting pressure on the defense.”
Easter Sunday failed to treat the Bulldogs any better, as the most prolific offense in the Ivy League battered Yale’s staff for 25 runs on 28 hits.
Following a strong performance a week ago, pitcher Chasen Ford ’17 held the Columbia bats silent in the first inning before getting knocked around for 10 earned runs, including a pair of home runs, over 3.1 innings.
With little offensive support — the Bulldogs managed just four hits in the seven-inning affair — the ball game only got more out of hand following Ford’s departure. Head coach John Stuper used three relievers to close out the ball game, each of whom allowed two more runs.
Yale’s two runs came courtesy of Sliepka, who posted two RBI on a groundout and a fielder’s choice.
Shortly following the 16–2 blowout, the Bulldogs fell 9–3 to the defending Ivy League champions in a game in which the pivotal moment came in the very first inning.
Starting pitcher Eric Brodkowitz ’18, coming off a strong complete game performance against Princeton last Monday, found himself tasked with facing Columbia’s daunting cleanup hitter Joey Falcone with one man on and two outs.
The top slugger in the Ivy League shot a pop up straight into the overcast skies. Brodkowitz and Hsieh, playing first base, appeared to have some difficulty communicating as the freshman and senior each watched helplessly as the ball fell to the infield grass a few feet away from the pitcher’s mound.
The miscue, ruled a single, directly led to one run on the play as well as four more in the inning as the Lions pounced on a vulnerable Brodkowitz. The freshman allowed three more hits, walked a batter and hit another before striking out the leadoff hitter to draw the inning to a close.
“If you take out the first inning, it’s a whole different ball game,” Toups said. “It’s not how we wanted to start, but we also still had the whole game to play.”
A three-run homer in the fourth inning off the bat of Columbia’s Robb Paller added insult to injury, as Brodkowitz finished his day with nine earned runs allowed in just four innings of action. Unfortunately for the Potomac, Maryland native, it was a stat line inflated by the first inning mishap.
Yale scrapped together three runs the rest of the way as two more freshman arms, righties Drew Scott ’18 and Mason Kukowski ’18, held the Lions at bay with Scott tossing four scoreless frames, but the deficit was too much for the Elis to overcome.
“As a staff, we just need to pitch better. It’s as simple as that,” said pitcher Chris Moates ’16, who allowed seven earned runs in six innings of work in the 17–5 loss on Saturday. “Every time we go out, our goal is to put our team in a position to win … This past weekend, we did a rotten job of it but we will learn from it [and] make some adjustments. [We] are excited to have the opportunity to turn things around against Dartmouth.”
The weekend dropped the Bulldogs from a tie for first place in the four-team Red Rolfe Division to the cellar, two games behind Dartmouth.
“We’re going to have to pitch much better to give us a chance to win,” Campbell said. “Pitching is the key to Ivy weekends, and our starters will learn from the things they did wrong and start working ahead on hitters to give the offense a chance to roll.”
While the Bulldogs will resume action with mid-week contests against Holy Cross and Fairfield, a four-game series with Dartmouth this weekend marks the beginning of divisional play.