Over the last five weeks, the Bulldog baseball team has played 11 teams at eight different ballparks across three states, but on Wednesday night it finally returned to the place it calls home: Yale Field.
For the first time all season, Yale (4–14, 1–2 Ivy) donned the home blue as it played host to Hartford (5–15, 3–3 America East). The game was close throughout, but the Bulldogs were unable to match two late runs by the Hawks in the seventh inning and suffered a 5–3 defeat. The Elis showcased their bullpen following a shaky starting performance from Thomas Espig ’20, who recorded only four outs, as 10 different pitchers took the mound. Though the Yale pitching staff did a solid job stifling the Hartford bats, the offense could not capitalize and went scoreless in the final four innings.
“The whole team is excited to have some home games and have a chance to sleep in our own beds instead of a hotel-room bed the night before games,” outfielder Tom Ruddy ’18 said. “The new turf field is great and we could not be more grateful for it. Home field advantage is definitely a thing when it comes to Yale Field given all the support we receive from our fans.”
The Elis came into the matchup against Hartford looking to shake off a series loss to Columbia, in which the Bulldogs dropped two games where they had a lead after the fifth inning. On Wednesday, however, the Blue played catch-up on the scoreboard all game long.
The southpaw Espig started the game for the Bulldogs against Wallingford, Connecticut native James Judenis. The two were solid on the mound in the scoreless first inning. Despite the promising start, Espig’s afternoon went off the rails in the second frame, as he was yanked only four outs into the game after giving up two consecutive walks and a base hit to load the bases.
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Duncan ’18 stepped in as the first of nine relief pitchers for the Bulldogs. With the bases loaded, the Hawks subsequently hit a sacrifice fly to center field to break the stalemate. The Bulldogs, however, answered quickly with runners on first and third on a run-scoring single by catcher Cal Christofori ’21. Outfielder Teddy Hague ’21 scored and brought the game to a 1–1 tie heading into the third inning.
The Hawks’ offense caught fire in the third frame, as five out of eight batters got on base. With runners on first and second, third baseman TJ Ward knicked in the tiebreaking run with a single. Two at-bats later, infielder Zachary Ardito hit a run-scoring infield single to shortstop to stretch the Hartford lead to 3–1.
The Bulldogs came alive in the fifth inning to draw level. Leadoff hitter Cole Shelton ’21 tripled down the right-field line and scored on a hit to center field by outfielder Harry Hegeman ’21. After advancing to third base on a stolen base and infield single, Hegeman was brought home on a groundout by first baseman Griffin Dey ’19. Going into the seventh inning, the game was tied at three runs apiece.
Unfortunately for the Elis, the seventh inning would prove to be the deciding frame in the game. After leadoff hitter Bryce Walker advanced to first after being hit by a pitch, outfielder Ashton Bardzell smashed a triple to right center field for Walker to break the tie once again. With the bases loaded, Bardzell advanced home after catcher Robert Carmody walked. The Hawks extended their lead to 5–3, which held for the final score.
The Bulldogs had their chances to rally, totaling three hits in the final three innings, but stranded four runners on base as they fell short.
A quick turnaround awaits the Elis, who will welcome Brown (6–10, 2–1 Ivy) to town for a trio of games this Friday and Saturday.
The Bulldogs and Bears will do battle in a three-games series this weekend which consists of a Friday matinee before a doubleheader on Saturday. Since 2014, Yale owns an 8–8 record versus the Brown, but will look for a sweep after taking three out of four last season against the team picked to finish last in the Ivy League’s 2018 Baseball Preseason Poll. Brown, which snapped a six-game losing streak with two wins against Penn last weekend, won three of its first four games to open season, but owns just a 3–9 mark in its last 12 contests.
Despite their 1–3 record against the Elis last season, the Bears proved to be a formidable adversary at Yale Field, winning Game 1 by a score of 12–1 before suffering a pair of one-run defeats in the latter half of the series. This season, Brown ranks second in the Ancient Eight with a .259 batting average bolstered by a solid defense which has committed the second-fewest errors of any Ivy League squad only behind Yale
Both teams’ fielding should receive an added boost with a fresh playing surface at the Bulldogs’ ballpark, which recently received a monumental series of renovations that included a new synthetic turf that replaced the formerly grass field as well as bullpen updates and new benches.
“It will be great to get back home to play at historic Yale Field and be able to settle us into our brand-new field, which we are so fortunate and grateful to have,” catcher Alex Boos ’18 said. “Our fans do a great job of making sure we are supported no matter where we are playing, and this teams believes it’s going to win no matter where the game is. It will be great to have some home games, but this team is more locked in on playing well and making another championship run than anything else.”
First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. while the twin bill between Yale and Brown on Saturday is slated for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
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