Yale’s hopes for an Ivy League baseball title rested heavily on this past weekend’s faceoff against Dartmouth. But unfortunately for the Elis, those hopes were largely dashed after the Big Green dominated action at Yale Field.
Entering the weekend just two games behind Dartmouth (10–19, 8–4 Ivy) in the Red Rolfe Division and primed to make a jump in the standings, the Bulldogs (9–18, 2–8) saw two lopsided defeats.
With scores of 3–2 and 22–10 on Saturday followed by 7–0 and 3–2 finals on Sunday, the Elis find themselves in the basement of the Ivy League, trailing division leader Dartmouth by six games with only eight conference matchups left on the schedule.
“We’ve struggled a little bit this season early on. We knew this had to be a turning point for us,” said Michael Ketchmark, first baseman for Dartmouth, who blasted a two-run homer on Saturday. “It’s hard to look at our overall record and say that it doesn’t show us being a very good team … but we just have to focus on what’s in front of us and not look at our record.”
Saturday’s opener was highlighted by a standout performance from last year’s second team All-Ivy selection, pitcher Chris Lanham ’16. The Elis’ ace returned to his typical form following his last three starts in which the right-handed pitcher had allowed 17 earned runs over 19 innings.
“I felt like I had more control and a sharper curveball than in previous weekends,” Lanham said. “That helped me be more effective for a longer time this outing.”
Against Dartmouth, Lanham allowed three runs — one of which was unearned — over eight innings of work, tossing a complete game as the seven-inning contests required extra play.
The Houston native struck out six batters while walking just one Big Green batter, reminiscent of a similarly dominant shutout of Dartmouth a year ago in which Lanham struck out four while allowing only four baserunners.
However, it was the sole unearned run that decided the game. With two men on and one out in the eighth inning, a potential double-play ball was ripped in the direction of shortstop Derek Brown ’17, who was unable to handle the grounder, allowing the bases to be loaded.
A fly ball to center during the ensuing at-bat was enough to drive in the game-winning run, as the Elis went down one–two–three in the bottom half to end the game.
The top of the order did its job for the Elis, as left fielder Eric Hsieh ’15, center fielder Green Campbell ’15 and third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 combined for an impressive 6–11 day at the plate. The rest of the lineup did not step up, however, as Yale’s four-through-nine hitters managed a mere 2–18 showing.
In Saturday’s second contest, the play on the field recalled Yale’s season-opening contests, in which the Elis went 1–2 in three games, all blowouts.
At one point, heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, Yale found itself trailing 17–3. However, the Bulldogs rallied to put up a seven-spot in the inning to make the scoreline more respectable. Dartmouth, though, tacked on five more in the ninth to put an emphatic finish on a 22–10 contest that included 17 hits from each lineup and required 11 total pitchers.
Sunday’s start to the action saw right-hander Chasen Ford ’17 on the bump for the Elis, but despite a few effective innings, the Big Green lineup was able to leave its mark on the southern California native.
Ford managed to go six innings in the seven-inning affair, and despite a run in the first inning, he retired nine straight batters following a game-opening double.
In the fourth inning, however, Dartmouth’s Ben Socher blasted a solo shot past the fences to double the lead. Yale’s defense cost its pitching staff once more when a two-out error in the frame by third baseman Mikey Sliepka ’18 allowed two more Big Green baserunners to cross the plate.
Ultimately, Yale could not muster enough offense to support its starter, as they managed just three hits in the contest.
“We had opportunities to score more runs,” Campbell said. “We had runners in scoring position with two outs multiple, multiple times … and we just couldn’t snag that crucial hit to tie the game up or put us in the lead.”
To the lineup’s defense, it did run into arguably the hottest pitcher in Ivy League play, Duncan Robinson. Sporting the lowest earned run average in conference play , 0.89, Robinson tossed his second consecutive shutout and his third straight complete game in Ancient Eight action, mowing down the Elis and needing just 79 pitches to do so.
With a slight change in the pitching rotation, head coach John Stuper was able to turn to one of his veteran leaders, Chris Moates ’16, in the game Sunday afternoon. Fellow righty Mason Kukowski ’18 made his first career start on Saturday in the 22–10 offensive explosion
Looking to spoil the sweep by Dartmouth, Moates kept the Bulldogs within striking distance for most of the afternoon. After a two-run third inning from the Big Green, Moates managed to carve his way through its lineup over the next 5.1 innings, allowing only one more run and just three more hits before exiting in the ninth inning to a standing ovation from the Yale faithful.
“[Lanham and Moates] struggled last weekend against Penn and Columbia, which is irregular from those guys because they’re just so consistent and really good pitchers,” Campbell said. “It just really stinks that we couldn’t score more runs for those two guys.”
A day after Dartmouth sophomore Mike Concato outlasted Lanham, his older brother, Louis, managed to duel Moates before turning the ball over to his bullpen in the eighth.
After the Bulldogs went down quietly in the eighth, they entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 3–1. Nevertheless, the Elis displayed some fight when designated hitter Joe Lubanski ’15 hit a double to open the inning, followed by a single to right by second baseman Nate Adams ’16.
A fielder’s choice from left fielder Tom Ruddy ’18 drew the Elis within one run as the Big Green elected to take the close out, narrowly retiring Adams at third. After a fly out, Ruddy swiped second base to put the tying run just 180 feet away from home plate with Campbell at the plate.
But when the senior drew the count full, freshman closer Patrick Peterson unleashed a curveball that just nicked the inside corner of the plate to end the contest and send the Bulldogs home empty.
While Dartmouth has gotten the better of Yale in 22 of the past 28 meetings between the two rivals, this was the first time that Dartmouth swept a four-game series in New Haven. The Elis do not plan to spend much time dwelling on the past, according to Lanham.
“Moving forward, we will continue to focus on ourselves and improving as a team,” Lanham said. “The most important thing next week is putting together a quality team effort.”
The Bulldogs will only have one day to regroup as a pair of non-conference opponents, Trinity and Sacred Heart, are set to pay a visit to Yale Field on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.