Yale Field played host to not one, but two walk-off, extra-inning victories on Sunday to complete the Yale baseball team’s perfect Ivy League weekend against Princeton and Cornell in dramatic fashion.
Behind strong individual pitching performances, the Bulldogs (11–18–1, 6–2 Ivy) defeated Princeton (13–12, 6–2) by scores of 6–3 and 6–1 before capping off the weekend with two incredible 4–2 and 9–8 extra inning triumphs over Cornell (8–13, 2–4). The Bulldogs’ four wins allowed them to retain first place in the conference’s Red Rolfe Division while matching their 2016 Ivy win total of six with 12 games remaining in the season.
“This weekend was huge for us as we work into our half of Ivy play,” right fielder Nate Adams ’17 said. “Not only does it give us a little cushion but getting the sweep with two exciting walk-off wins today gives us a lot of momentum as we take on Harvard next weekend. Our team is fired up and hungry.”
Head coach John Stuper sent his most promising young arm to the mound for Friday’s first contest against Princeton, and right-hander Scott Politz ’19 delivered to start the Bulldogs off on a strong note. Politz continued to make a name for himself in the Ivy League with a seven-inning complete-game outing in which he allowed just three runs on four hits while striking out three.
Politz pitched well enough to keep the game tied 2–2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, which turned out to be the frame that decided the contest.
Following a fly-out by shortstop Tom O’Neill ’16 and bunt single by Adams, second baseman Simon Whiteman ’19 tripled to left field to drive home Adams, who continued his hot hitting with a 2–3 performance at the plate. Although he has missed 10 games this season due to a hamstring injury, Adams paces the Bulldogs with a 0.383 batting average.
During the next at-bat, with Whiteman standing on third base, Yale third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 cranked a home run over the left field fence to score Yale’s second and third runs of the inning.
The teams traded runs in the sixth, securing the Yale triumph by a final score of 6–3.
In the second Yale victory on Friday, right-hander Chasen Ford ’17 tossed the second consecutive complete game for the Bulldogs, as he lasted the entire nine innings of the contest. Ford dominated the Tigers, striking out five batters and surrendering just one earned run on six hits.
“Politz throwing a complete game and getting the win [in the first game] really pumped everyone up, and we had good energy through the whole second game,” Ford said. “It was a battle on both sides but I was able to keep the ball down and get what I needed until the [Yale] bats broke out in the last inning.”
That last inning, which in Yale’s case was the bottom of the eighth, was a rare blip of offense — four runs worth — in an otherwise low-scoring game. The score was 2–1 in Yale’s favor after the first seven frames, in which Princeton ace Chad Powers gave up just three hits and one earned run before being replaced on the mound by Chris Giglio to begin the eighth.
Giglio lasted through just two batters after he issued back-to-back walks to Slenker and first baseman Benny Wanger ’19 without securing an out. Pitcher Danny Thomson replaced Giglio, though the pitching change could not reverse the damage that was already done. Slenker scored thanks to a fielder’s choice from designated hitter Harrison White ’17, and two batters later, O’Neill drove in Wanger and White with a single to right field.
Adams added another single in the inning that plated center fielder Tim Degraw ’19, and Ford finished off the 6–1 victory without a Princeton threat in the final inning.
“Politz and I pitching complete games ended up being huge for our team seeing as both Sunday games went to extras and we had to use multiple guys in both games,” Ford said. “I’m just glad we could both give our team a chance to win the whole weekend.”
In contrast to the defeats of Princeton, the Bulldogs’ series against Cornell on Sunday did not play out as smoothly, though it was certainly more exciting.
Against the Big Red in Sunday’s early contest, the Elis scored one run in the second inning and another in the fourth to take the early 2–0 lead before Cornell evened the score with two runs of its own in the fifth.
Yale starter Mason Kukowski ’18 gave up a solo homerun to center fielder Ellis Bitar before walking the next two batters in the top half of the fifth inning. Kukowski was replaced by righty Drew Scott ’18, who allowed one more run to cross the plate before eventually ending the inning with a strikeout of right fielder Jacob Weston with the bases loaded.
The tied score, which remained through the seventh inning, meant the teams would have to battle in extra innings.
In the bottom of the 11th, with one out and Slenker standing on first base after a walk, left fielder Brent Lawson ’16 appeared to be hit by a pitch on the foot, though the umpire ruled that Lawson did not make an adequate attempt to avoid the pitch and needed to continue his at-bat.
But in a case of good karma, the decision ended up benefiting the Bulldogs. Lawson belted a two-run walk-off home run on the next pitch to secure a 4–2 Yale win and send his team and the crowd into cheers.
“I went up to the plate with the intention of winning the game, and I was going to do everything possible to put myself in a position to do so,” White said. “I made sure I was mentally ready before each pitch and sticking with a simple approach.”
The Elis followed up the win with an even more miraculous victory in the next contest, as both a late four-run comeback and walk-off hit were needed to complete Yale’s fifth straight win.
Starting right-hander Chris Moates ’16 exited the game after just 1.1 innings after walking four batters and allowing four runs, though just two were earned.
The 4–0 Cornell lead became an 8-4 lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Bulldogs’ magic began.
DeGraw, who went 3–5 in the game, singled to begin the inning, and catcher Alex Boos ’18 reached on an error by Cornell third baseman Tommy Wagner before being pushed over to third base by two consecutive hit batters, the second of which scored DeGraw.
Whiteman, Slenker and Wanger then each drove in an RBI in the next three Eli plate appearances. The 8–8 tie forced the contest into extra innings once again.
In the 10th inning, the bases were loaded when White connected on a walk-off single to right field that plated Whiteman and completed the improbable Yale comeback.
“Getting off to a good start is always huge — whether it’s an inning, an at bat or a season,” White said. “Every game we win just puts us in a better position, obviously, and that allows us to play loose and have fun with it. We’re establishing ourselves in the league and establishing a cushion for ourselves moving into the Red Rolfe Division next week.”
Before the Elis host Harvard at Yale Field for a pair of doubleheaders next weekend, the Bulldogs will travel to Fairfield, Connecticut to face nonconference foe Sacred Heart on Tuesday.