James Badas

The Yale baseball team split a doubleheader with Cornell to open its Ivy League campaign as the Elis look to better last season’s performance and return to the summit of the Ancient Eight.

The Bulldogs (10–11, 1–1 Ivy) cruised to a 7–2 win in the opening game on the back of a complete game from ace Scott Politz ’19 and a three-run homer from first baseman Griffin Dey ’19. In the back end, however, Yale spotted Cornell (10–8, 1–3) five early runs in the first three innings and could not overcome the deficit in a 6–4 loss.

“Overall I thought we swung the bats really well,” catcher Andrew Herrera ’17 said. “We hit a lot of balls really hard right at people, but that’s baseball sometimes. We need to clean up some things with defense and pitching but that will come with more reps.”

Politz and Cornell starter Tommy Morris dueled for the first four innings of the opening game, racking up zeroes on the scoreboard in each frame. The Elis came close to pushing across the game’s first run on two occasions: Dey flied to left to leave the bases loaded in the third inning, and a sharp Cornell relay gunned down right fielder Harrison White ’17 at the plate to end the fourth.

The floodgates finally opened in the next frame, as Dey came up with another opportunity with runners in scoring position and promptly deposited Morris’ pitch over the left-field fence to hand Yale a three-run lead. The Pound Ridge, New York native’s home run was his team-high seventh of 2017 after swatting just one long ball last season.

“[I was] working off the breaking ball throughout the whole game,” Dey said. “I put a pretty good swing on the fly out to left and the next at bat I focused on being patient and working towards hitting another fastball.”

Cornell touched the stingy Politz for a run in the bottom half of the fifth, but Yale broke the game open in the top of the next inning. The Bulldogs collected three runs on just one hit as the Big Red pitchers lost their command; Yale loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a hit batsman, and after a passed ball sent home the Elis’ fourth run, another walk reloaded the bags before Morris walked two more batters to extend Yale’s advantage to 6–1.

Although Politz gave up a run on a seventh-inning fielder’s choice, the southpaw slammed the door on Cornell, going the distance for his fifth win and second seven-inning complete game of the season.

“I was able to shut down the top of their lineup,” Politz said. “On top of that, the defense played great behind me, not only making the routine plays, but also some very difficult ones in the holes of the infield.”

After the Bulldog victory in the matinee, Yale could not replicate its success as the teams returned to the field to play a full nine. Cornell’s Paul Balestrieri, one of the top pitchers in the Ivy League, earned his fourth win of the season with a quality start, allowing just three earned runs over seven innings in what was impressively his worst outing of the season thus far.

The Big Red scraped together a run in each of the first two innings off Yale starter Mason Kukowski ’18; a sacrifice fly drove home the opening run in the first before a two-out sequence of a single, two walks and a run-scoring wild pitch brought a run across in the bottom of the second.

Yale bounced back to seize the lead in the top of the third, however, as Herrera ripped a run-scoring double to left field before scoring on a single from center fielder Tim DeGraw ’19. DeGraw scored on a sacrifice fly from third baseman and captain Richard Slenker ’17 to give Yale a 3–2 lead.

But Cornell roared back in the bottom half of the frame, chasing Kukowski with back-to-back doubles to tie the game. Lefty Kumar Nambiar ’19 entered the game in relief, and despite striking out two batters allowed the two inherited runners to score unearned.

“Overall we did a great job swinging the bat today,” Dey said. “Being aggressive on fastballs early in the count and squaring the ball up consistently helped us put together productive innings.”

Herrera drove home a run in the fourth to cut the deficit, but Yale couldn’t find another to draw level. The Bulldogs left seven runners on base in the game, including three in scoring position.

The Bulldogs travel to Princeton on Monday to face the Tigers in a doubleheader.