Facing a pair of perennial Ivy League powers, the Yale baseball team emerged from its opening conference weekend sitting atop the Red Rolfe Division after two sweeps, one in the Elis’ favor and one against.
The Bulldogs (6–17–1, 2–2 Ivy) swept the defending Ivy League champions, Columbia (7–15, 2–2), before dropping both decisions to Penn (10–12, 3–1) on Sunday.
“To sweep the defending league champions at their place to open up league play was the high point of our season thus far,” designated hitter Harrison White ’17 said. “Both games were a full team effort … We showed what we could do at Columbia, but the games at Penn kept us humble and hungry for more wins.”
In the first game of the weekend, the Lions held a 5–3 advantage heading into the fifth inning, but the Elis scored five runs in the top half of the frame to take control of the contest. After an RBI groundout from first baseman Benny Wanger ’19 plated rightfielder Nate Adams ’16, White crushed a grand slam over the centerfield wall.
White amassed seven RBI in the game, including a triple in the top of the seventh inning when the Bulldogs tacked on six additional insurance runs. Second baseman Simon Whiteman ’19 also contributed a three-RBI double to left-center in the inning.
“I’ve never had a seven-RBI game before in my life,” White said. ”To be able to come through for my teammates in a couple of crucial situations was a thrill, not only for me personally but also in the sense that I was helping our team toward a couple of key victories.”
The Bulldogs collected an impressive eight RBI with 2 outs in the league opener.
Right-hander Chasen Ford ’17 went the distance on the mound in the seven-inning affair, allowing five runs while striking out seven to pick up his second win of the season. Though Ford gave up nine hits, three home runs produced all five Lions runs.
Yale staved off Columbia in the late game on Saturday to move the Bulldogs to 2–0 in league play for the first time since 2011 in a game that required extra innings.
Righty Mason Kukowski ’18 tossed 6.2 innings with five strikeouts and four earned runs, while Griffin Dey ’19 picked up the win after finishing the final three innings.
With a 7–6 Yale lead entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Columbia rallied to notch a run and extend the game, but the Bulldogs countered immediately in the top of the 10th inning with two runs of their own.
Adams, who went 3–5 and scored two runs in the first game, drove in the winning runs with a double to right field that scored shortstop Tom O’Neill ’16 and catcher Andrew Herrera ’17.
The late-game heroics capped a memorable return to the lineup for Adams, who leads the team with a 0.409 average. Saturday’s doubleheader featured Adams in the lineup for the first time in 10 games, as he was recovering from a hamstring injury.
“I really wanted to get back pretty badly,” Adams said. “Watching from the sidelines isn’t quite as fun so being back and playing again was amazing. Getting the opportunity to come up in a big situation like that was just a lot of fun. Luckily, we got to pull it off.”
At Penn on Sunday, the Bulldogs and the Quakers were locked in a pitching duel in the early matchup.
Right-hander Scott Politz ’19, who tossed a one-hit shutout in his last start against Holy Cross, went the distance, allowing three earned runs over six innings, but was ultimately the hard-luck loser in a 3–2 final. Penn’s Billy Lescher also threw a complete game, moving to 4-0 with the victory, while striking out 10 Yale batters and surrendering just two earned runs on five hits.
“I wanted to do my part for the team, which is limit runs scored to the best of my ability to give our offense the best change to out-hit the opponent,” Politz said. “We didn’t happen to score as much today as the two previous games, but that’s baseball and we will move on to Princeton next weekend.”
The Elis took an early 2–1 lead in the second inning, behind an RBI double to left field from Herrera and a run-scoring single from O’Neill. Penn rallied in the fourth, however, as a single and pair of walks loaded the bases before second baseman Matt Tola put the Quakers ahead with a two-run single.
Yale went down one-two-three in the fifth and seventh innings. In the sixth, however, an Eli reached scoring position twice but the Bulldogs could not cash in on the opportunity either time, sealing the 3–2 Penn victory.
In the final game of the weekend, left-hander Kumar Nambiar ’19 became the second Yale freshman of the day to start on the mound. The Quakers rudely welcomed the southpaw to Ivy play as Penn opened the bottom of the first inning with back-to-back solo home runs. Nambiar lasted just 2.1 innings after giving up seven earned runs, and eight total, though the remaining Eli hurlers did not fare much better in the fourth game of the weekend, which ended 19–3 in Penn’s favor.
Penn leadoff hitter and centerfielder Gary Tesch, who leads all qualified Ivy League hitters with a 0.388 batting average, totaled six RBI in the offensive outburst. Tesch cranked two home runs against the Bulldogs, two of six homers on the day for the Quakers.
The Quakers now lead the Ancient Eight with 15 four-baggers, in 22 games played.
The Elis will return to Yale Field on Wednesday for a doubleheader with nonconference foe Fairfield before gearing up for another four-game Ivy League weekend, against Princeton and Cornell.