Fresh off a series at No. 17 Virginia in which the Elis took one of three games, the Yale baseball team will once again head south this weekend to take on another 2017 NCAA Tournament qualifier. While this weekend’s opponent may not boast the Cavaliers’ lofty poll positioning or membership in a Power Five conference, Davidson may pose an even tougher test for the Bulldogs after advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals a season ago.
Yale (1–6, 0–0 Ivy) will turn its attention to Davidson (8–4, 0–0 Atlantic 10) for a trio of games this weekend in North Carolina after its game originally slated for Wednesday night against Connecticut in Storrs was postponed due to inclement weather. Like the Bulldogs, the Wildcats are coming off a loss on the road at Virginia, a 12–1 defeat on Tuesday. But Davidson is not to be underestimated, having won eight of its 11 home games at Wilson Field this season.
“Playing Virginia this last weekend was great preparation for our team as we head into our spring trip and Ivy play,” catcher Tom Fuller ’19 said. “Looking to Davidson this weekend, I think we will find success if we continue to throw strikes and play clean defense. Each time we play, we make strides towards being the team we know we can be.”
Davidson qualified for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament for the first time in program history last season after playing six games in four days to capture the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship and earn the conference’s automatic bid. One week later, the Wildcats defeated North Carolina, the No. 2 overall national seed, in a pair of 8–4 and 2–1 victories to win the Chapel Hill regional. A trip to College Station awaited Davidson with a spot in the College World Series on the line, but a 15th-inning walk-off by Texas A&M in Game 1 and a blown 6–2 lead by the Wildcats heading into the eighth inning in Game 2 ended its season in the best-of-three series at Blue Bell Park.
While Davidson managed to carry over last season’s success into its first eight games in February and dropped just a single contest, the Wildcats have struggled mightily since the calendar flipped to March. In its last four games, Davidson is just 1–3 including an aggregate margin of 23–2 in that triumvirate of losses. However, the Wildcats do own a 9–4–1 record in weekend series dating back to last season.
The format for this weekend — a doubleheader on Saturday and a third game on Sunday — should favor the Bulldogs, who are coming off three games in less than 48 hours at Virginia after Friday’s matchup was postponed to due high winds. Unlike Davidson, which lost by 11 runs on Tuesday, Yale fared well against the nationally ranked Cavaliers, winning one game on Saturday and enduring one-run defeats, including a walk-off winner in the other pair of matchups against the Hoos.
“No one likes to lose, especially no one on this team,” catcher Alex Boos ’18 said. “And losing by one run is always a difficult pill to swallow. But this early in the season, against a team like Virginia, and after the start we had, playing the way we played, with the passion and intensity we had, was a huge step in the right direction.”
Yale’s weekend rotation of starting pitchers Scott Politz ’19, Kumar Nambiar ’19 and Eric Brodkowitz ’18 will need to limit the effectiveness of Davidson catcher Eric Jones in order to keep the Wildcat bats in check. Jones leads all Atlantic 10 players with 18 RBIs and three home runs, the latter of which he shares with teammate and first baseman Brett Centracchio. Jones was also recently selected as the National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball after hitting .462 with three home runs over a four-game stretch. The spell earned Jones the Davidson record for most RBIs in a single week.
On the hill, the Wildcats lay claim to a 2.89 earned-runs-average which ranks 33rd nationally and first in the Atlantic 10, largely due to the efforts of right-handed pitcher Connor Gordon, who boasts a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings pitched. However, Gordon did allow five runs on four hits in just three innings of work in Davidson’s most recent loss to Virginia, prompting an early relief appearance.
Yale takes on Davidson at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday from Wilson Field before a third game on Sunday at 11 p.m.
Joey Kamm | firstname.lastname@example.org