On Saturday, the Yale baseball team became just the second Ivy League team since 2008 to sweep a doubleheader against Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. The two Eli victories broke a tie between the two teams for first place in the Red Rolfe Division, and on Sunday, the Bulldogs maintained that divisional advantage by splitting the final two games of the series.
The Elis (16–23–1, 10–6 Ivy) won the first three games by scores of 7–6, 5–3 and 4–3 before dropping a 10–4 decision against the Big Green (14–23, 8–8) late Sunday afternoon. With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Bulldogs are in an enviable position, now two games ahead of division rivals Dartmouth and Harvard. Next weekend, Yale can lock up the Red Rolfe, as well as a trip to the Ivy League Championship series, for the first time since 1995.
Yale’s three wins over Dartmouth are more than the Bulldogs had over the Big Green the previous five seasons combined, as Dartmouth had won 15 of the 17 past meetings between the two programs prior to this season.
“Emotions ran high during these close games late in the season, and we rely on our Ivy League experience to make sure we stay calm and focused,” shortstop Tom O’Neill ‘16 said. “We’ve got a group of guys who love to have fun and play relaxed, and I think that’s been a key to our success so far. We can’t wait to take this momentum into next weekend as we look to clinch our division.”
The freshman class came up huge in the early contest on Saturday, as second baseman Simon Whiteman ’19, first baseman Benny Wanger ’19 and center fielder Tim DeGraw ’19 each collected two hits and at least one RBI.
DeGraw doubled in the top of the second inning and drove in designated hitter Harrison White ’17 to put the Bulldogs on the board first, as Whiteman followed up with a 2-RBI triple to right field to give the Elis the early 3-0 lead.
The Big Green plated five runs in the fourth inning, but a two-run homer from Wanger in the fifth and two more unanswered runs, both unearned, in the sixth put the Bulldogs back ahead for good.
“The home run was to left center field, [which is] not usually my power ally,” Wanger said. “But their pitcher had beaten me twice earlier in the game on off-speed pitches so I was looking for a fastball early in the count. I got a fastball away, put a solid swing on it to get it up in the air. After I hit it I was not sure if it was going out but the wind picked it up a bit — it was blowing out all day — and carried it over the wall.”
Another first-year Eli, right-handed pitcher Scott Politz ’19 started the game and completed three scoreless innings before being tagged for five runs in the fourth. An RBI single in the sixth inning knocked Politz out of the game, and he was replaced by righty Mason Kukowski ’18. Kukowski retired all four batters he faced to cap the 7–6 Yale victory.
Although the five earned runs was a season-high for Politz, he still emerged as the winning pitcher to move to 3–1 in Ivy play. In his 5.2 innings, the Austin, Texas native allowed nine hits and three walks while striking out a pair of Big Green batters, with one coming in a crucial two-out bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the second inning.
Kukowski, who entered the day with one save this season, was called upon to close out the Bulldog victory in the second game as well after right-handed starter Chasen Ford ’17 limited the Big Green to just seven hits and three runs, two of which were earned, in seven innings.
The formula was much the same for the Elis in game two as in game one, as the team jumped out to a commanding 4–0 lead in the second inning, and relied on solid pitching from Ford, righty Chris Lanham ’16 and Kukowski to hold on for the 5–3 victory.
During the second inning of the game, O’Neill drove in two runs with a single, and third baseman Richard Slenker ’17, who finished 2–5, added an RBI-double during the same frame as part of a four-run outburst.
Catcher Andrew Herrera ’17 launched a solo home run over the left field fence in the fourth inning to produce Yale’s fifth and final run.
“The team played desperate all weekend,” left fielder Brent Lawson ’16 said. “It truly was a great team effort against some great pitching.”
The Elis pulled out another tight victory to kick off Sunday after scoring three runs in the sixth inning to break a 1–1 tie. Yale’s middle of the order provided the go-ahead runs, as Slenker and White had back-to-back RBI singles in the decisive frame, followed by an RBI groundout from first baseman Alec Hoeschel ’17.
Dartmouth threatened in the bottom of the seventh as pinch hitter Joe Purritano belted a 2-run homer over right field off Wanger, who started the contest and lasted 6.2 innings, surrendering just three earned runs on four hits. Wanger had not previously thrown in Ivy League competition, but on Sunday he managed to outduel Dartmouth’s Duncan Robinson, a two-time All-Ivy First Teamer and last year’s Ivy League Pitcher of the Year.
“I’m especially impressed with how well the freshmen have been able to handle themselves in pressure situations,” O’Neill said. “Wanger and Politz showed veteran toughness on the mound, and DeGraw and Whiteman continued providing clutch contributions to the lineup.”
Following the home run, Wanger walked the next batter, causing head coach John Stuper to turn to Kukowski for the third time in three games. He induced a ground ball out from shortstop Thomas Roulis to record his third save of the weekend and secure the 4–3 outcome. Kukowski did not allow a single baserunner in 2.2 innings over his three appearances.
Dartmouth’s offense finally came to life in the final game of the series, led by first baseman Michael Ketchmark’s 4-5 performance, which included one home run, two doubles, five RBI and two runs scored.
Right-handed starter Drew Scott ’18 allowed six runs on nine hits over 6.1 innings. He was one of five Elis to pitch in the final contest of the weekend, which cut Yale’s divisional lead from three games to two.
Whiteman finished 4-5 with two RBI for the Bulldogs, while White was 2-4 with a double and one walk in the 10-4 loss.
Yale concludes its season with four games next weekend versus Brown, with two at home on Saturday and two in Rhode Island on Sunday.