In a sports year in which Harvard athletics has been able to deal last-minute blows to the football, men’s basketball and men’s ice hockey teams, the baseball team has a chance to exact some revenge on the Crimson this weekend in a four-game series.
Having dropped 11 of their last 13 contests, including eight in a row within the Ivy League, the Bulldogs (10–19, 2–10 Ivy) sit six games behind division-leading Dartmouth with only eight conference games left to play in the regular season.
Meanwhile, Harvard (16–17, 5–7) finds itself three games back in the Red Rolfe Division and cannot afford to lose much more ground as the Crimson ends its season with four games against Dartmouth. Before Harvard can fight for the division crown, however, Yale can play the role of spoiler in an attempt to get its season back on track.
“With playoff hopes getting slim, the focus is to finish fighting and play our hardest for pride and to give our seniors a good finish because they deserve nothing less,” starting pitcher Chasen Ford ’17 said.
Over the course of Yale’s eight-game conference losing streak, the Elis have lost by an average of nearly eight runs per contest, and the Bulldogs finished within five runs in just two of those games. While some individual performances have stood out both on the mound and in the batter’s box, neither the pitching staff nor the lineup has been able to perform consistently.
The Yale pitchers have allowed more than 10 runs per game on average while the offense has managed just a notch above three runs of support a game.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of me and the other pitchers to throw strikes, because we get to trust our stars on defense,” righthander Eric Brodkowitz ’18 said. “We just want to win every game, and we’ll see what happens from there. We’re a very competitive team, and we want to win.”
If recent history serves as any indicator, though, the Bulldogs should compete for a series win as Yale has at least split the season series with Harvard in each of the past five seasons.
A year ago, Yale won three of four, including a pair of extra-innings victories in the second doubleheader.
“Last year’s success against Harvard hasn’t really been on our minds,” Ford said. “Harvard is having a good year and we need to focus on our game and play well.”
Perhaps the most impressive performance from last season’s meetings with the Cantabs came from ace Chris Lanham ’16, who tossed a complete game shutout in which only three Crimson hitters reached base.
Lanham has been unable to match the production of last year’s Second Team All-Ivy campaign, as he has a 5.85 earned run average against Ivy League competition — a far cry from his 1.05 ERA in conference play a year ago. But he returned to form in his latest start, tossing a complete game against Dartmouth in which he punched out six batters while allowing only two earned runs.
“Having experience is always a nice confidence booster, but when it comes to the actual game I believe it’s more important to focus on personal performance and execution,” Lanham said. “If I rely on the process and make quality pitches, the results should take care of themselves.”
Yale’s lineup will once again begin with the fearsome threesome of left fielder and first baseman Eric Hsieh ’15, center fielder Green Campbell ’15 and shortstop and third baseman Richard Slenker ’17. Led by Hsieh — who despite coming down to earth after his scorching start to the season is still second in the Ivy League with a 0.381 batting average — the one-two-three combo are hitting a combined 0.340. Hsieh also ranks second in the nation in on-base percentage at 0.527, behind Nevada’s Austin Byler, who sports a 0.538 on-base percentage that is greatly inflated by 14 hit-by-pitches.
The rest of the Bulldog offense is hitting a combined 0.233.
Despite the low average, multiple Elis have been able to step up in clutch moments. Captain and right fielder David Toups ’15 is tied for the team lead with 14 runs batted in while catchers Robert Baldwin ’15 and Andrew Herrera ’17 have driven in 13 and 11 runs, respectively.
The pair of doubleheaders kicks off Saturday afternoon, as first pitch from O’Donnell Field in Boston is scheduled for 1 p.m.