The Yale men’s baseball team played ten games over spring break, falling short in seven of those ten, including a series of losses against Columbia to open up Ivy League play. The Bulldogs split a pair of games against 2017 Super Regional finalist Davidson. The team also endured a two-game sweep to No. 21 Duke before salvaging a win against the Lions on Sunday in the second game of their doubleheader.
Yale (4–13, 1–2 Ivy) has just six nonconference matchups remaining on its schedule following its most recent road trip, as the Bulldogs will turn their attention to Ancient Eight competition and the home-field advantage it has been lacking all season. The Elis’ mid-March slate also featured a 1–2 record at the Spider Invitational, a cancelled third game at Davidson and a postponed game against Quinnipiac.
“While being the away team is considered a slight disadvantage, I think for our team in particular it’s really healthy,” second baseman Alex Stiegler ’20 said. “It’s refreshing to get away from campus for a bit and play this game that we all grew up with and love. Coming into conference play, we are ready for anything a team might throw our way.”
A weekend trip to the Tar Heel state kicked off spring break for the Bulldogs, who traveled to Wilson Field to take on Davidson (15–8, 1–2 Atlantic-10) for a three-game series. However, the series was curtailed to a Saturday doubleheader on March 10 after inclement weather cancelled Sunday’s rubber match. Game 1 featured a combined six-hit shutout by the Wildcats whose five-run eighth inning slammed the door on the Elis in the 9–0 rout. But, left-handed pitcher Kumar Nambiar ’19 tossed 11 strikeouts in Game 2 to propel the Bulldogs to a 7–5 victory, which also featured a home run and a save from utility player Griffin Dey ’19.
Shortly thereafter, the Bulldogs ventured two hours eastward to take on the nationally ranked Blue Devils (21–5, 6–2 ACC) in Durham, a program seeking only its second NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962. Duke had won 11 of its last 12 games entering the midweek series against Yale and continued that hot streak with a pair of first-inning runs to seize an early 2–0 lead. However, the Blue Devil bats would settle down with only one run in the final eight innings, largely due to the pitching performance of right-handed starter Eric Brodkowitz ’18.
A two-run, RBI single by shortstop Simon Whiteman ’19 in the penultimate frame narrowed the Elis’ deficit to a single score, but Duke closed out the Bulldogs in the ninth to preserve a 3–2 victory. Whiteman, the team leader with 12 RBIs, would add another to his total on Sunday, but a 10-run performance by the home squad gave the Blue Devils their second victory in two days.
Another quick turnaround awaited the Elis, as Yale headed to Virginia for three games against three different teams at the Spider Invitational hosted at Richmond’s Pitt Field. Right-handed ace Scott Politz ’19, a First-Team All-Ivy selection a season ago, notched his first victory of 2018 against Monmouth (5–13, 0–0 MAAC) for the Bulldogs after allowing just two earned runs in eight innings of work in the 11–4 win. The rest of the tournament did not prove as fortuitous for Yale, however, as the Bulldogs endured an 8–5 defeat to Richmond (14–9, 2–1 Atlantic-10) after blowing a four-run lead in the eighth inning. The Bulldogs lost 3–1 to Lehigh (9–11, 1–1 Patriot League) on Sunday despite another solid outing on the bump from Brodkowitz, who owns a team-best 2.78 ERA in five appearances.
“Our record isn’t anywhere near where we want it to be, but realizing that we’ve lost many games by one run helps us stay positive and competitive throughout the tough losses,” Politz said. “Pieces are coming together right now and will hopefully give us a win streak here in Ivy League games.”
After its slate of 14 nonconference games, the Bulldogs opened the Ivy season with a three-game series at Columbia (5–16, 2–1 Ivy) this past weekend. In heartbreaking fashion, the Elis were unable to hold on to early leads and dropped their first conference series, including surrendering seven runs in the final inning of the first game. In the series opener on Saturday, Yale suffered a gut-wrenching 11–10 loss. In the second game the following afternoon, the Bulldogs saw a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the fourth erased before losing 6–5. Despite the frustratingly narrow defeats, the Blue bounced back in the final game at New York, giving up zero runs in the final four innings and claiming an 8–2 victory. After a tough stretch of play in neutral and road settings, the Bulldogs will finally return to a newly renovated Yale Field.
Politz started the first game against the Lions, giving up four runs before exiting after the seventh inning when Stiegler took the mound. Outfielder Harry Hegeman ’21 had an impressive Ivy debut, driving in two runs in the final frame and five runs overall. But the Elis could not close the deal down the stretch. Dey replaced Stiegler after the sophomore gave up four runs in the final inning, but with the game tied and runners on first and second, hitter Randell Kanemaru ripped a single to secure the comeback victory for the Lions.
In the second game, during which Nambiar earned a no-decision after getting the start, the Elis saw their lead disappear in the sixth inning after Columbia scored three runs to tie the contest. The Lions scored on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to turn the score in their favor, which proved to be the game-winning run. In the third and final game, the Elis flipped the script and took complete control. Brodkowitz pitched six strong innings and surrendered only two runs, one each in the third and fifth innings. The Elis’ offense got rolling, highlighted by a huge three-run homer in the fifth inning by Dey that broke a 1–1 standstill. Heger rounded out a solid first game by hitting .600 for the series, including seven RBIs and four runs scored.
“We just got out on [Yale Field] for the first few times this week, and it’s without question the nicest field in the Ivy League,” Whiteman said. “We’re excited to get after it without the long bus rides and with a friendly crowd showing out for the games.”
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