Yale and Harvard entered this weekend’s pair of doubleheaders at opposite ends of the Ivy League’s Red Rolfe Division — the Bulldogs in first by a clear margin, the Crimson four games behind in last place. But after the four contests, a 1–3 record against Harvard has slowed down the Bulldogs’ march toward a divisional title.
Following a close 3–2 triumph in the first game, Yale (12–22–1, 7–5 Ivy) dropped the final three games this weekend to the Crimson (12–19, 5–7) by scores of 6–3, 9–1 and 5–2. The three losses lessened the Bulldogs’ divisional lead over Dartmouth from three games to just one heading into a four-game battle with the Big Green next weekend.
“We battled, we fought and we never lost enthusiasm,” designated hitter Harrison White ’17 said. “Moving forward, we have to keep playing with that heart and that energy and I’m sure we will be alright. All we can do is take care of our game … At the end of the day, as long as we play to our potential, I am confident we will have success.”
The Bulldogs struck first during the early game on Saturday, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning on RBI singles from left fielder Brent Lawson ’16 and White. In the top of the second inning, however, the Crimson countered with two runs of its own off a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring triple.
The triple was one of just three hits allowed by Yale right-hander Scott Politz ’19, who started the game for the Bulldogs and struck out seven. He did not allow another run to score after the second inning.
The game was Politz’s fourth consecutive complete game, and resulted in his second straight win when a Harvard throwing error in the bottom of the fifth brought home Yale second baseman Simon Whiteman ’19 to produce the go-ahead run in a 3–2 win for the Elis.
Back-and-forth scoring resulted in another 3–2 Yale lead late into Saturday’s second contest, with two of those Eli runs coming on a home run by shortstop Tom O’Neill ’16 in the fifth inning.
Just as before, the Bulldogs held that advantage through seven innings, but the nine-inning contest went awry in the penultimate frame. Two passed balls and a hit batsman by relief pitcher Griffin Dey ’19 gave the Crimson a lead, and two more Crimson players scored after Dey was replaced by left-hander Kumar Nambiar ’19.
Despite a no-decision in the 6–3 Yale loss, starter Chasen Ford ’17 continued what has been a strong conference season, giving up five hits and three earned runs in his 7.1 innings of work.
The junior and his fellow Saturday starter, Politz, have emerged as rocks from the mound in the Ivy League season. With Politz pitching the early game and Ford taking the late game in three conference weekends in 2016, the two have pitched 43.1 out of a possible 48 innings while recording a 3.55 combined ERA.
“Scott and I just try to go out on Saturday and get a good start to the weekend, and establish our team as contenders,” Ford said. “We know how important it is to give our team a chance and save the bullpen as much as possible in our starts which can help a lot on Sundays.”
Ford’s opponent, Harvard right-hander Sean Poppen, posted a similar performance, allowing just two earned runs and four hits in seven innings, but was able to get the win.
On Sunday, Crimson starter Ian Miller one-upped his teammates, nearly tossing a complete-game shutout in the weekend’s only blowout win for either team.
“We ran into some pretty decent pitching this weekend,” White said. “All four of Harvard’s starters threw really well. They had hard fastballs with movement and they had command of their off-speed pitches for the most part so that made it tough for us to hit.”
The Bulldogs managed to break up Miller’s shutout bid in the bottom of the final inning, when Lawson singled and stole second before being driven in by a single from catcher Andrew Herrera ’17.
The run was too little, too late, as the Crimson had already scored nine times off a combination of five Yale pitchers to put the game far out of reach. Harvard scored two runs in the top of the first and added four more in the fourth to take the early lead off of righthanded pitcher Mason Kukowski ’18, and after Kukowski left midway through the fourth frame, the Crimson built upon that margin with three more runs off Yale’s relief pitchers.
Harvard carried that offense into the second contest, racking up 15 hits over the nine-inning game and jumping out to a 3–0 lead after the top of the first inning.
The Crimson added a run in the second and did so again in the fourth — the same inning in which the Bulldogs pushed across their only runs of the contest.
Center fielder Tim DeGraw ’19 and first baseman Alex Hoeschel ’17 each had RBI singles during the frame, though left fielder Tom Ruddy ’18 and catcher Alex Boos ’18 grounded out to leave two runners stranded on base.
Right-hander Chris Lanham ’16 was charged with the loss in the start after giving up nine hits and four earned runs in 2.1 innings. Righty Drew Scott ’18 was effective in limiting the damage, however, as the sophomore entered in the third and surrendered just one earned run while fanning seven over the course of the final 6.2 innings.
In the contest, third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 finished 2–2 with two walks from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
The Elis will take the field again on Wednesday when they host Wesleyan at Yale Field at 3:30 p.m.