Matthew Stock ’18, a play-by-play voice of the Yale baseball team for the Ivy League Digital Network, breaks down the Bulldogs and their competition in the Ivy League’s Red Rolfe Division.
Boasting a record tied for the best in the Ivy League, the Yale baseball team will play host to Harvard in a four-game home stand this weekend. The rivalry meetings mark the beginning of divisional play, in which the Elis will look to maintain, and possibly extend, their current two-game lead in the Red Rolfe Division.
Over the course of the next three weekends, the Bulldogs will face Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown four times apiece. The teams’ records through those 12 games, combined with their records in eight games against Lou Gehrig Division foes Princeton, Penn, Columbia and Cornell, will determine the division champion. The two Ivy League division winners will then face off in a three-game Ivy League Baseball Championship Series to determine the Ancient Eight champion.
Sitting at 6–2 thus far through conference play, highlighted by last weekend’s sweep of the Tigers and Big Red at home, the Bulldogs are in an enviable position, set to potentially claim the team’s first division title since 1995 and its first Ivy League championship since 1994. A brief look at Yale and its three opponents within the division indicates that it may be the Elis’ division to lose.
Harvard (9–18, 2–6 Ivy)
Despite a storied program history that includes an Ivy-most 18 league championships, Harvard enters its four-game weekend against Yale with the worst conference record in the Ancient Eight. After starting league play with four consecutive losses, the result of a grueling road weekend at Cornell and Princeton, the Crimson managed to split home series against Columbia and Penn to remain within striking distance, four games back of Yale.
Harvard’s position in the basement of the Lou Gehrig Division is due in large part to its struggles at the plate thus far in conference play- — the Crimson rank last in the Ivy League in all major hitting categories, sporting a 0.212 batting average, a 0.312 on-base percentage and a 0.303 slugging percentage. The anemic Crimson offense has managed five or more runs in just three of eight conference games this season, while Yale, by contrast, had three such games last weekend alone.
But the intensity of the Harvard-Yale rivalry has lived up to expectations as of late, with the two teams splitting their season series five of the last six years. Still, the Bulldogs maintain a 13–11 advantage in that time, having taken three of four from the Crimson a season ago.
Dartmouth (9–18, 3–3)
For a team which has owned the top spot in the Red Rolfe Division for eight straight seasons, posting an Ivy-best 16–4 conference record last year, Dartmouth enters divisional play in 2016 with an underwhelming 0.500 mark in the conference. After being swept by Princeton to start the season, the Big Green has shown steady improvement, splitting two games against Penn and sweeping Columbia at home.
However, like the Crimson, Dartmouth has struggled offensively this season, finding itself in the bottom half of the Ancient Eight in most batting categories. Consequently, the Big Green has relied on its experienced pitching to lead the way.
Coming off of a monstrous 2015 campaign, Dartmouth senior captain and righthanded pitcher Duncan Robinson continues to impress. The Houston native and reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Year boasts an 8–2 career record and a 1.30 career earned run average against conference opponents, and is on pace to match those marks in 2016, having tossed 13.1 innings in the league to the tune of a 2.03 ERA, with 15 strikeouts.
The Big Green swept Yale in a four-game series last season at Yale Field, outscoring the Elis 35–14 in the process. Next weekend, Dartmouth will welcome Yale to Hanover, New Hampshire in what likely represents the most difficult road trip of the season for the Bulldogs.
Brown (9–15, 3–5)
Success for Brown so far this season has been hit-or-miss. After trading games with Penn to start Ivy play, Brown was swept by Columbia, swept Cornell at home and was promptly swept again the following day, this time at the hands of Princeton.
Despite its third-place standing among their Red Rolfe division rivals, the Bears are putting up above-average numbers offensively, ranking second in the conference with both a 0.300 team batting average and a 0.382 on-base percentage through eight games. A pair of Brown juniors, catcher Josh Huntley and infielder Marc Sredojevic, are fourth and fifth in batting average versus conference opponents this season, with respective 0.435 and 0.429 clips.
Brown’s Achilles heel down the stretch, however, may prove to be its pitching. The Bears have walked more batters, 39, and allowed more hits, 91, than any Ivy League team so far this season, and their 6.93 team ERA in league play trails every Ancient Eight team except for Columbia. Yale will round out its conference season with a pair of doubleheaders against Brown, with one at home and one on the road, with a division title potentially at stake.
Yale (11–19–1, 6–2)
Yale is already off to a strong start in its 2016 Ivy League campaign, with the team’s six conference wins through eight games equaling its total from all of last season. The Bulldogs split their opening weekend with a pair of wins over Columbia, the defending Ivy League champion, and two losses to Penn before sweeping Princeton and Cornell last weekend.
The team’s success thus far in conference play has been thanks to contributions up and down the lineup — four Bulldogs, centerfielder Tim DeGraw ’19, infielder Harrison White ’17, rightfielder Nate Adams ’16 and leftfielder Brent Lawson ’16, rank in the top 20 in conference on-base percentage, with the team’s 0.377 mark good for third in the Ivy League.
Yale’s pitchers have also stepped up in 2016. When excluding a 19–3 loss to Penn on April 3, the Bulldogs’ 3.97 team ERA in Ivy play ranks second among Ancient Eight teams and best among its Red Rolfe Division foes — counting the lopsided defeat to Penn places the Bulldogs fifth at 5.69. Right-handers Chasen Ford ’16 and Scott Politz ’19 have been the workhorses heading the Bulldogs pitching staff, leading the conference with two complete games apiece and sporting a 3–1 combined record in their Ivy League starts.