Over the weekend, the Yale men’s baseball team traveled to New Mexico State for its first regular season game. After taking the opener in a pitcher’s duel, the Bulldogs limped through the remainder of the four-game series, posting a 1-–3 record as the back end of their starting rotation was unable to efficiently retire Aggie hitters.
“I thought we swung well for the first weekend of the year,” catcher Andrew Herrera ’17 said. “Some of the younger guys definitely let the moment get to them and our starting pitching had some growing pains. We have to learn from this and get better in all aspects for our spring trip coming up.”
Following a game one gem from pitcher Scott Politz ’19 in which the righthander delivered a performance emblematic of his All-Ivy selection a season ago, the Elis (1–3, 0–0 Ivy) struggled to find their rhythm, conceding the following three contests to NMS (9–5, 0–0 Western Athletic Conference). Though the Bulldogs’ bats came to life sporadically over the course of the weekend, Yale’s hurlers could not solve the Aggie offense, surrendering 41 runs in the final three games.
Despite Yale’s depth-pitching struggles, Politz’s talent gives Yale a number one that is capable of shutting down the opponent anytime he is on the mound.
“I kept it simply on the mound by drilling the outside corner consistently,” Politz said. “[That] produced a lot of weak ground balls that our defense had no trouble handling. I challenge myself to never give up free bases, so staying ahead in the count and getting the first pitch strike are my major focus.”
Yet aside from its ace, Yale will need better performances on the hill if it hopes to have success on in its southern travels over spring break. While hurler Benny Wanger ’19 cited pitching depth as a possible strength for the Elis this season, Yale quickly found itself playing from behind in games two, three and four.
The first game of Saturday’s double-header saw pitcher Tyler Duncan ’18 get tagged for eight earned runs in just 4.2 innings pitched, while starting pitcher Drew Scott ’18 was unable to complete the first inning after surrendering eight runs himself in game four.
Pitcher Eric Brodkowitz ’18 provided an adequate performance in game three, with six strikeouts in five innings. However, control was an issue, as he gave up six free passes. In late inning relief, pitcher Mason Kukowski ’18 was a bright spot. The junior recorded three punch outs and only one hit in two separate one-inning stints.
For all the difficulty Yale’s staff had retiring batters, its offense performed well. The Bulldog hitters amassed a team average of 0.270 over the four games, providing 13 runs. The middle of Yale’s lineup exhibited power, particularly through designated hitter Griffin Dey ’19. Of the Elis’ total five long balls, Dey blasted three en route to recording seven runs batted in.
“I focused on being aggressive at the right times while having patient approach at the same time,” Dey said. “Understanding what the pitcher was trying to do based off his strengths and tendencies helped me work the count into my favor and capitalize on mistakes.”
Bulldogs with other notable offensive performances included second baseman Simon Whiteman ’19, who slapped seven singles in 14 plate appearances, and first baseman Alec Hoeschel ’17, who hit 0.400 over the span of the weekend.
One area of concern for the team was Yale’s 32 strikeouts this weekend. However, that statistic, along with some of the pitching shortcomings, can likely be attributed to the team’s winter rust.
The Bulldogs are back in action on Wednesday against Stony Brook at home.
The Bulldogs cruised to a 3–1 season-opening victory in the first game of the series on the back of a superb pitching performance from ace Politz. He scattered five hits across eight innings and did not walk a batter. A fourth-inning solo shot from Dey tied the score at one after the Aggies opened the scoring early. Center fielder Tim DeGraw ’19 broke the deadlock with a clutch one-out RBI single with runners at second and third in the seventh, before a passed ball brought home the insurance run. An early shoulder injury to Wanger marred the Bulldog victory.
The first game of the Saturday double-header started out well for the Elis as they scratched across a run in the top of the first. However, New Mexico State put up five runs in the bottom half of the inning and never stopped tearing the cover off the ball. The Aggies continued to pile on throughout the game, crossing home plate 16 times. A late round-tripper from catcher Alex Boos ’18 was not enough to save Yale in the 16–5 defeat.
The second half of the double-header proved more competitive. A seventh-inning New Mexico State rally broke a tie and carried the Aggies to a 7–3 victory. Brodkowitz gave up three runs in the early frames of his quality start, but he kept the Bulldogs in the game until their bats woke up. A three-run bomb from Dey provided all of the Elis’ offensive output with one swing of the bat and erased a 3–0 deficit in the sixth inning. However, New Mexico State put up a three-spot in the seventh inning against the Yale bullpen to take the lead for good.
In the final game of the series, the Elis got off to a rough start and never recovered. New Mexico State chased Bulldog starter Scott early, plating nine runs as he only recorded one out. The Aggies had four extra-base hits in the first inning, including two triples, and were assisted by an early error that scored the second run. They continued the offensive onslaught in the rest of the game, sending home nine more runs against the bullpen. Yale only managed to get five of those runs back, highlighted by a pair of two-run dingers from Dey and Hoeschel.