In a two-day, four-game series in which quality pitching was hard to come by, the Yale baseball team swung its way to a 3–1 record inside Harvard territory, extending its Ivy League-best record to 10–2.
Despite surrendering 34 runs in the final three contests of the four-game set, the Elis (19–14, 10–2 Ivy) scored 41 runs of their own to escape Cambridge with a winning record. Powered by ace and Ivy League Pitcher of the Year candidate Scott Politz ’19, the Bulldogs snuck past Harvard (13–19, 2–10) in the series opener. The latter three games saw nearly every hitter on either side contribute at the plate, but Yale’s bats proved to be more adept than the Crimson’s as they took two out of three slugfests.
“This was a good weekend and a step in the right direction,” designated hitter Benny Wanger ’19 said. “Next weekend is Dartmouth at home, which is a huge series every year. We like our position in the league standings right now, but need to keep pitching and hitting this next week.”
Game 1: Yale 4–2 Harvard
Yale opened the series at a fast pace as right fielder Harrison White ’17 blasted a two-run home run over the center-field bleachers in the top half of the second inning. The Crimson responded with a long bomb from catcher Josh Ellis in the home half of the third, but its bats would produce just one additional run off of Yale’s stingy righthander. Grabbing his Ivy League-leading seventh victory of the season, Politz scattered seven hits and just two earned runs throughout his complete-game effort.
Politz’ counterpart Noah Zavolas surrendered just four earned runs in his own complete game, but the Bulldogs broke through in the fifth inning. Centerfielder Tim DeGraw ’19, who went a stellar 3–4 on the day, tripled to right center to score catcher Andrew Herrera ’17, and second baseman Simon Whiteman ’19 followed with a single to score DeGraw. Harvard chiseled one last run in the sixth inning, but was ultimately unable to solve Politz — who recorded eight strikeouts with just one walk — in the loss.
“Despite some command issues early in the game, I settled in and got into a groove,” Politz said. “The biggest thing for me has been limiting walks and extra pitches in order to go deeper in the game and save our relief pitching for the nine-inning games.”
Game 2: Yale 21–13 Harvard
The combination of the wind blowing out and the smaller dimensions of Harvard’s O’Donnell Field turned the second game of the series into what resembled a neighborhood whiffle-ball game. The teams combined for 11 homers in a game that set the record for most runs scored between Ivy League opponents this season. Harvard opened the scoring in the top of the first inning, and outs were sporadic thereafter; Yale starter Mason Kukowski ’18 lasted just 1.1 innings, surrendering seven earned runs on four hits, two walks and two home runs. Harvard’s Ian Miller pitched deeper into the game, but also gave up an astounding 12 runs in just five innings.
Leading 13–10 entering the seventh inning, the Elis’ bats produced six more runs to put the game out of reach. Whiteman began the hit train with a two-run bomb, followed by a single from utility player Alex Stiegler ’20. Two more singles from Herrera and shortstop Dai Dai Otaka ’20 combined with a throwing error and a wild pitch by the Crimson resulted in three additional runs and the Bulldogs’ final 21-run output.
Game 3: Yale 13–9 Harvard
Yale’s quest for three-straight wins began with a rude welcome to Eli starter Stiegler, who served up a three-run homer just three batters into the game. The Bulldogs roared back from a 5–0 deficit, however, scoring nine runs off Harvard’s Simon Rosenblum-Larson from the third to sixth innings. A couple key Harvard errors aided the Bulldog cause — just three of the runs the Crimson righthander allowed were earned. Yale’s big blow came in the form of a two-run bomb off Whiteman’s bat with two gone in the fourth, marking the speedster’s third home run of the weekend after notching just two extra base hits the entire season.
Yale coughed up the lead in the bottom of the sixth, as a tiring Stiegler conceded a double and a run-scoring triple before being inexplicably left in to face Harvard’s best hitter, Patrick Robinson, who duly whacked a game-tying longball to right. However, the offense bailed out the coaching staff in the next frame, as pinch hitter Alex Boos ’18 delivered a clutch run-scoring single to kickstart a decisive four-run rally in the top of the seventh and final inning to lift Yale to a 13–9 victory.
Game 4: Harvard 12–7 Yale
The Bulldogs failed to secure a series sweep as the Crimson bats roughed up Yale starter Eric Brodkowitz ’18 to the tune of nine runs in 3.1 innings. A three-run Harvard bomb highlighted its five-run first-inning outburst before the Elis came storming back. Six Bulldog runners touched home in the second inning, an explosion capped off by a three-run homer from Wanger, his second dinger of the weekend. However, the Crimson held serve, putting up four runs in the fourth to chase Brodkowitz, while the previously-prolific Eli bats went silent for the remainder of the game. Harvard starter Kevin Stone persevered through the ugly second inning, eventually working eight innings before his brother Grant Stone worked the ninth.
Though the 12–7 loss denied Yale its third-consecutive weekend sweep, the Bulldogs still lie two games clear of second-placed Dartmouth (18–12, 8–4) heading into a titanic clash next weekend at Yale Field. Having already amassed 10 conference victories, just one short of last year’s total, Yale looks to be in the middle of what could be the team’s best Ivy League season in recent memory.
“Winning a series on the road is never easy and we have put ourselves in a great position heading down the stretch,” Herrera said. “We did a great job of hitting mistakes. [From] one to nine, we were able to work the count in to our favor and swing at good pitches.”