The Yale baseball team’s mid-season woes persisted through Tuesday night before being momentarily halted on Wednesday in an impressive midweek performance. After falling to Holy Cross on Tuesday by a final score of 10–1, the Bulldogs bounced back nicely with a 4–0 victory over Fairfield Wednesday afternoon.
With the Fairfield (7–17, 3–6 Metro Atlantic) win, the Elis (9–14, 2–4 Ivy) snapped a six-game losing streak as they head into a pivotal four-game weekend series against Dartmouth that has major implications in the Red Rolfe Division. With Yale trailing the Big Green by two games, the Elis can now roll into Saturday with some positive momentum.
“We got great pitching from everyone on our staff [yesterday], which helped our team regain confidence throughout the game,” left fielder Joe Lubanski ’15 said. “We focused on getting back to our game plan and playing with energy.”
At Holy Cross (14–16, 7–1 Patriot), however, the Bulldogs dug themselves a hole almost immediately, falling behind 4–0 in the bottom of the first. Just as in Yale’s second loss to Columbia last Sunday, in which the Elis fell behind 5–0 after a critical missed infield pop out, an error by third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 provided the Crusaders with their first baserunner of the game.
As such, all four first-inning runs were not charged as earned runs to starting pitcher Nate O’Leary ’15. The righty then settled down nicely over the next few frames, including a stretch that included four strikeouts in a row over the third and fourth innings.
However, the senior ran into trouble with the middle of the Crusader lineup in the fifth inning, as the heart of the order chased O’Leary from the ballgame with a home run and a pair of singles.
Despite the nine-run loss, a few familiar faces shone through as the bright spots of the day.
Out of the pen, right-hander Mason Kukowski ’18 made his team-high 13th appearance and dominated with a near-perfect inning. The power pitcher needed just 10 pitches to strike out the side, coming just one ball short of an “immaculate inning.”
Offensively, a slightly revamped lineup saw first baseman Eric Hsieh ’15, who had settled into the clean-up role, move up to the leadoff spot for the first time all season, bumping center fielder Green Campbell ’15 down a slot in the process. The fearsome duo built upon their scorching starts to the season, accounting for more than half of Yale’s nine hits by combining to go 5–9 on the day.
The rest of the lineup, however, managed to only hit a measly 4–29, resulting in six runners being left on base.
The top of the lineup saw success again Wednesday afternoon, and timely hitting helped the Bulldogs break through against Fairfield. Hsieh went 2–4 in his second start at the top of the order, and he raised his season batting average to a conference-best 0.447.
Lubanski, who led the offense with three hits and two runs batted in, opened the scoring for the Elis in the fourth inning, plating designated hitter Robert Baldwin ’15, who reached base on a hit-by-pitch, on a single to left field.
Yale added to its lead in the fifth inning, using five singles en route to three runs in the frame. In total, the Bulldogs notched 13 hits, and five players recorded multi-hit games.
Not only did the offense perform well, but the pitching staff, using a pitching-by-committee strategy, shut down the Fairfield lineup. Six pitchers combined to scatter seven hits over nine shutout innings, with righty Chris Lanham ’16 picking up the win for the Bulldogs.
“As a staff, we put a lot of emphasis on staying focused on every pitch, which helped cut down on mistakes early in at-bats,” Lanham said. “As the game went on, we each built off the other guy’s performance and it worked out well [yesterday].”
Kukowski continued his trend of stellar outings, lowering his earned-run average to a team-best 3.18 and increasing his strikeouts per game to 10.06.
The balanced performance from the team carried Yale to the win against the Stags.
“I thought our team played very focused and had the right mentality,” captain David Toups ’15 said. “We pitched very well and got some big hits.”
The Elis will look for solid performances from the pitching staff and lineup against Dartmouth to close the gap in the Red Rolfe Division standings.
The Bulldogs host Dartmouth this weekend for a four-game series beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday at noon.