This summer, two members of the Yale baseball team, infielder Harrison White ’17 and pitcher Tyler Duncan ’18, each impressed in the Riverside, California-based Pacific Coast Collegiate League.
Playing for the Irvine Tides, the Eli duo dominated the nearly two-monthslong PCCL season en route to a pair of All-Star Game selections and an appearance in the league championship final. Duncan led all qualified PCCL pitchers with a 1.69 earned run average on the season, while White earned the league MVP award thanks to his prowess at the plate.
“I definitely think [playing in the summer league] helps the confidence of both myself and [Duncan],” White said. “Whenever you produce in the game of baseball, it’s a great feeling because this game is so difficult.”
Just two weeks removed from Yale’s heartbreaking loss to Princeton in the Ivy League Championship in May, the two Bulldogs took to the diamond at Riverside Community College in California for the Tides’ season opener. The team’s 24-game schedule, hosted by various high school and college ballparks across Southern California over the ensuing six weeks, bore little resemblance to the jam-packed Ivy League season.
“Summer ball is a very relaxed, laid-back environment which is a nice change of pace from the intense competition of Ivy League play,” White said. “In the PCCL, we had very few doubleheaders, which was a nice change of pace. It changes your whole mindset when you have 18 innings to play in one day instead of nine.”
White has had plenty of experience with doubleheaders in his three years as a Bulldog. The Elis’ Ivy League schedule consists of ten doubleheaders in a month’s time, with matchups against Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown each featuring two doubleheaders in consecutive days.
With a change in mindset on the West Coast came an onslaught of offensive production from White, who has established himself as a feared bat in the Ancient Eight. Already a respectable 0.291 hitter in his college career, White boasted a league-leading 0.440 average in the PCCL. The California native recorded a hit in all but three of his 24 games while also leading the league with five home runs, 67 total bases and 23 runs batted in.
“I just tried to carry my momentum at the plate from Ivy League play directly into the summer season,” White said. “When I got home, I took a few days off to let my body recharge and then I was immediately back in the cages again just trying to stay consistent. I told myself at the beginning of the summer season that my goal was to hit as many balls on the barrel as possible … For me, hitting is all about simplifying and achieving tangible goals and that was the approach I took.”
While White paced the Tides at the plate, Duncan shone on the mound. The right-hander made two starts and six relief appearances over the course of the season, surrendering no more than two earned runs in any trip to the mound and issuing just nine walks in 32 innings.
In three appearances during the Tides’ seven-game win streak to end the month of June, Duncan allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out 14 over 11 innings.
“For me, the summer is all about preparing to be in the best baseball shape possible for the spring, whether it is in the weight room or on the field,” Duncan said. “I think this was a big summer for me in that regard. I also think that I built up more and more confidence as the summer progressed. Our coach did a good job of being there when you needed some guidance but also allowing you to learn about yourself and what makes you succeed. At Yale, we are fortunate to have coaches with these same qualities.”
Returning to the field in Yale Blue this spring, the Bulldogs will turn again to White as a centerpiece of their offense, as he figured prominently in the middle of the lineup last season.
Meanwhile, Duncan, who made all 18 of his appearances last year out of the bullpen, will likely be one of several Bulldogs to replace innings previously commandeered by Chasen Ford ’18, currently in the minor leagues, and Chris Lanham ’16.
The 2016 Bulldogs claimed the team’s first divisional title since 1995.