The Yale baseball team has played four series against Ivy League opponents this season. Four times, right-hander Scott Politz ’19 has taken the mound to open the weekend, and four times, the ace has thrown a complete game to power the Bulldogs to victory.
Though Politz was unsure of what to expect from collegiate competition entering his freshman season, the Austin, Texas native has quickly emerged as one of the premier talents in the Ancient Eight. Already one of the leading candidates to win Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, Politz has posted an 8–1 record in nine starts as a sophomore, while leading the Ancient Eight in innings pitched and complete games and ranking second in strikeouts. Politz has further elevated his performance in Ivy League play, posting a 4–0 mark with a 1.93 ERA in and baffling the best lineups in the league.
“You come in with the mentality that you are going to have to earn your spot no matter who you are,” Politz said. “You’re playing everyone’s best high school player, everyone here can hit a bad fastball. I was hoping to get the midweek starts and maybe relive on the weekends. I knew what I could do and was hoping it would translate to college.”
Baseball has been an integral part of Politz’s life since his childhood, though he first split his time between other sports. He focused on a burgeoning tennis career during his middle school days before hanging up his racket and also aplayed football in high school as a wideout, safety and kick returner.
“I played tennis way more competitively than baseball until I was 12 or 13,” Politz said. “I was really locked into tennis for a while. Then I made the decision to quit just because it was so lonely. I liked the team aspect of baseball … as opposed to tennis where you’re out there alone battling the 100-degree heat and one other kid.”
Politz pitched and played the field for a small team at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, starting his career as a third baseman and shortstop. He also excelled at the plate, hitting 0.368 his sophomore season and 0.324 during his junior campaign. Eventually, he made the decision to focus on pitching full time.
Pitching did not come as easily, according to the right-hander. But after struggling through his early teens on the mound, Politz broke through during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years of high school. With better location of his pitches and a newly acquired slider with a nasty bite, he whiffed more than a batter an inning his sophomore year and posted a 1.67 ERA in his junior campaign.
“Something just clicked,” Politz said. “I figured out how to pitch, and since then it has been going well. Command is everything; if you can just spot up and hit corners, it makes you so much more effective.”
The Texan’s success on the mound drew the attention of notable baseball programs around the country, but cognizant of the potential for career-ending injury, Politz set his heart on the Ivy League and its superior academic offerings, he said. Yale jumped out, he added, in large part due to head coach John Stuper, a former Major League Baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Politz decided to devote himself full time to pitching since donning the Blue, a move that has undeniably paid off. While the former field player did not know exactly how his talents would be utilized coming into collegiate competition, he was quick to credit his success over the past two seasons to his previous experience as a hitter.
“A lot of times I’ll shake off my catcher for absolutely no reason,” Politz said. “I know what I would want to see in a certain count [as a hitter], and what I wouldn’t want to see.”
This advantageous knowledge and Politz’s adept ability to spot his pitches are the two qualities that he believes are the most pronounced in his skill set. When asked for a major league comparison, he provided the Ivy League’s most recent World Series champion, Dartmouth alumnus Kyle Hendricks. Politz likens himself to the Chicago Cubs’ right-hander because of the obvious Ancient Eight comparison, and Hendricks’ keen knack for locating all of his pitches.
This professional comparison isn’t lost on his teammates, especially the Bulldog hitters who have the advantage of playing behind Politz rather than attempting to hit him. According to designated hitter Benny Wanger ’19, his classmate is nearly untouchable on the hill.
“Having Scott throw the first game gives our team a huge confidence boost each weekend,” Wanger said. “He can throw all four of his pitches for strikes which makes him extremely difficult to face as a hitter. Other than me, I don’t think anyone really has much success against him.”
Though Politz’s impressive 2.18 wins above replacement ranks fourth best in the Ivy League for pitchers, his positive effect on Yale’s 13–3 Ancient Eight record so far this season extends beyond his on-field production. Fellow members of Yale’s pitching staff are quick to point out how Politz’ selfless mentality and admirable work ethic positively impacts their own performance as well.
“Coming in as a freshman, it’s great to have someone like Scott to learn from,” pitcher and utility player Alex Stiegler ’20 said. “In between innings he will often come and talk about how [my] previous innings went and how to attack the next few guys coming up. He’s a team guy.”
With four conference games and an almost-assured berth in the Ivy League championship series, the Bulldogs will rely heavily on Politz’s contributions in the season’s close. According to their ace, the team has the talent to achieve goals beyond winning the school’s first Ivy League Championship in more than two decades, including winning an NCAA Regional.
“Coming into the season, we had full intention of winning the Ivy League especially after last season’s disappointing defeat against Princeton,” Politz said. “We have the most complete roster in the Ivy League top to bottom.”
Following an 8–4 win against Fordham (18–19, 7–7 Atlantic 10) on Wednesday, the Bulldogs will play a home and home with Brown this weekend.