Following a two-game sweep of Dartmouth on Sunday, the Yale baseball team split games with the Big Green on Monday, all but guaranteeing that the Bulldogs will capture their first outright Red Rolfe Division championship in 22 years.
Dartmouth (20–15, 9–7 Ivy) grabbed the first half of Monday’s doubleheader from the Elis (23–15, 13–3) after erupting for four runs in the first two innings against pitcher Alex Stiegler ’20 in the 7–2 victory. In the second act, Yale received an excellent performance from spot starter Kumar Nambiar ’19, whose seven-inning, one-run gem was more than enough to power the Bulldogs over the Big Green, 6–1. After fighting Dartmouth in a one-game playoff last year, Yale needs to win just one of its final four games to clinch the 2017 Red Rolfe Division outright.
“We did everything we wanted to do this weekend,” captain and third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 said. “One through nine and our whole pitching staff executed and came through in big situations. We aren’t getting ahead of ourselves just yet. … We are focused up on Fordham Wednesday and will look to take care of business in Game One on Saturday [against Brown].”
After two emphatic victories on Sunday, Monday presented a chance for the Elis to eliminate Dartmouth from playoff contention with a second consecutive sweep. In Game One, however, Dartmouth’s lineup had other ideas.
Yale got off to a promising start, responding to a first-inning Dartmouth run with a run-scoring single off the bat of Slenker and another run on a Big Green throwing error. But from there, Dartmouth’s lineup was too much to handle for Yale’s freshman starter. Stiegler lasted just 2.1 innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits, and Yale failed to muster any more offense against senior Beau Sulser, one of the Ancient Eight’s top throwers. The 6-foot-2 righthander gave the Big Green seven quality innings, giving up just four hits while punching out eight Yale hitters.
It appeared the Bulldogs might have an opportunity for late-inning heroics, but the visitors spoiled an otherwise stellar relief effort for pitcher Tyler Duncan ’18 with three runs in the top half of the seventh inning to cement Yale’s defeat.
Game Two was a different story. In just his fifth career start and first of the 2017 season, Nambiar delivered for Yale; the sophomore fanned five of the first seven batters he faced and scattered just five hits over seven innings.
“One of the best things about today was being able to throw all four of my pitches for strikes at any time in the count,” Nambiar said. “I can’t say enough about my catcher Andrew Herrera ’17, he does a great job controlling the game. … All year I’ve tried to pitch to the best of my ability and will hopefully be able to continue starting for the rest of the season.”
The Elis complemented Nambiar’s stingy outing with ample run support. Designated hitter Benny Wanger ’19 got things going in the home half of the third with a bases-clearing double down the right-field line. Following a solo shot from Dartmouth’s Michael Ketchmark in the fourth inning — the only blemish on Nambiar’s stat line -— Wanger put away the Big Green for good.
Up at the plate with two runners on in the fifth inning, Yale’s cleanup hitter launched a moonshot over the right-field bleachers that brought home centerfielder Tim Degraw ’19 and Slenker. From there, Nambiar and Griffin Dey ’19 shut out Dartmouth to end the 3–1 series win on a high note.
His 10-RBI weekend vaulted Wanger to the top of the Ivy League in runs batted in. Once he registers four more at-bats to reach the requisite 100 for consideration, Wanger will rank fourth in the Ivy League with a 0.368 batting average.
“This weekend felt great considering Dartmouth is our biggest rival year in and year out,” Wanger said. “It’s pretty nice having Tim, [second baseman] Simon [Whiteman ’19] and Rich as our top three guys who all do a great job getting on base. I try not to make the situation bigger than it is. We’re going to try and keep it rolling.”
With a home-and-home four-game set looming next weekend against Brown (12–21, 5–11) Yale needs just one win — or a single Dartmouth loss — to clinch a spot in the Ivy League Championship series. After sweeping both Penn and Columbia, the two leaders in the Lou Gehrig Division, the Elis stand as the favorite to earn the Ivy League’s bid for the NCAA Tournament, a feat they have not accomplished since 1994.