With two games against three-time defending Ivy League champion Columbia looming this weekend, the Yale baseball team had two final opportunities to fine-tune its play before the beginning of Ancient Eight competition.
However, back-to-back losses on Tuesday and Wednesday leave the Bulldogs with little momentum entering the Ivy portion of the calendar. Yale (4–15–1, 0–0 Ivy) dropped a 9–0 decision to Sacred Heart (10–10, 4–0 Northeast) on Tuesday before falling 15–8 against Hartford (16–5, 2–1 America East) Wednesday afternoon in a high-scoring affair.
“Hartford did a great job of hitting the ball today,” captain and right-handed pitcher Chris Moates ’16 said. “There were lots of times where our pitchers made good pitches and Hartford just did a good job of getting the bat on the ball and letting their turf infield take care of the rest. They are definitely a strong hitting team.”
The host Elis found themselves in an early hole versus Sacred Heart, as the Pioneers loaded the bases after three batters against Yale newcomer Kumar Nambiar ’19. He wound up surrendering two runs in the inning and two more in the second frame, as Sacred Heart built a 4–0 advantage.
Making his third career start — Nambiar entered the game having tossed 10 innings while allowing five earned runs in his two prior starts — the freshman settled down and retired eight consecutive batters between the third and sixth innings. He wound up allowing a fifth run in the sixth, exiting the game after 5.1 innings.
Unfortunately for Nambiar, the Yale offense was unable to provide any run support. The Bulldogs left nine runners stranded overall in the game, unable to break through against lefty James Taubl. The sophomore picked up his first win of the season and second of his career — interestingly enough, his first collegiate win also came against Yale, in a meeting last April.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Elis had perhaps their best chance to score. With two outs in the inning, second baseman and leadoff hitter Simon Whiteman ’19 singled to left field and then stole second base. Center fielder Tim Degraw ’19 then walked to put two men on the basepaths, but right-handed pitcher Mason Kukowski ’18, who pinch hit for right fielder Harrison White ’17, flied out to center field to end the inning in just his fourth career at-bat.
Sacred Heart scored four runs in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach. First baseman Victor Sorrento and catcher Cody Doyle combined for six hits, five RBI and two runs scored.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, were shut out for the third time this season.
Whiteman, who finished 2–4 against the Pioneers, carried his hot bat into Wednesday’s contest at Hartford.
“I’ve been asked this year to hit from a few different spots [in the lineup], but I’ve tried not to think too hard about the position in the order,” Whiteman said. “I just try to see the ball well and hit it hard, putting pressure on the defense to make things happen.”
Whiteman doubled down the left field line to begin the third inning. Third baseman Richard Slenker ’17, who did not play against Sacred Heart, returned to the lineup on Wednesday and drove Whiteman in on a sacrifice fly to center field. Slenker and Whiteman are currently tied for the most hits on the team with 19, while Slenker has also driven in eight RBI thus far, second-best on the squad.
The Elis added two more runs in the third as Benny Wanger ’19 belted a two-run home run, the first of his career, over the right field fence to push Yale ahead 3–1. The blast aided Wanger’s own cause, as he started the game on the mound for the Bulldogs.
The lead did not last long, however, as the Hawks plated nine runs in the bottom half of the inning in an offensive explosion that included a three-run home run from Ashton Bardzell. Hartford registered 10 hits in the inning, forcing Wanger to be relieved by righty Chasen Ford ’17.
Tasked with another lopsided scoreline to overcome, Yale added two runs in the fourth on a double from White only for Hartford to answer with three runs of its own. Bardzell continued to haunt the Bulldogs as he knocked a RBI double down the right field line and later scored as part of a 3–4, four RBI day.
Whiteman finished 3–5 with two runs scored for the Elis while Wanger finished 2–2 with the home run as well as a pair of walks.
“Our pitchers are finding the zone and getting hitters out more consistently,” Whiteman said. “Our hitters are swinging well.”
The two teams combined for 29 hits in the offensive slugfest. The Bulldogs added two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth, but Hartford’s lead was never in doubt in the 15-8 victory.
After a stretch of three victories in four games last week, Yale has now dropped three consecutive contests heading into Ivy action.
The Bulldogs will square off in a doubleheader with Columbia on Saturday followed by two games at Penn on Sunday.