A five-run, seventh-inning rally transformed a four-run deficit into a four-game win streak as the Yale baseball team came from behind to earn a 6–5 victory over in-state foe Fairfield University at Yale Field on Wednesday night.
Despite trailing 5–1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the Elis cut the deficit in half, before a dramatic, three-run homer from third baseman Alex Stiegler ’20 propelled the Bulldogs to victory. The triumph extended the Elis’ win streak to four games and Yale will look to make it six straight when it heads to upstate New York for a two-game series against Cornell (5–11, 1–2 Ivy) this Saturday and Sunday.
“I was really disappointed in some of our at-bats early in the game, but that’s why you play all nine innings,” head coach John Stuper said. “[Stiegler] stuck a huge home run and we always play good defense, so that’s never an issue. We pitched it pretty well tonight and we didn’t walk very many and we got big hits. It’s all about situational hitting … and [Stiegler] can’t get a better hit than that — he just can’t. He’s a baseball player.”
Originally scheduled for 3 p.m., the start of Wednesday’s game was pushed back to 6 p.m. because of inclement weather earlier in the day. With the bases loaded and zero outs in the top of the first inning, Fairfield opened the scoring in the evening affair after a wild pitch from starter Justin Ager ’20 plated a run for the Stags. However, Ager proved resilient, forcing three outs with multiple runners in scoring position to get the Bulldogs out of the inning trailing only 1–0.
That Fairfield lead did not last long, however, after left fielder Brian Ronai ’20 doubled to left field to score Stiegler, who reached base after a fielding error to tie at 1–1 after two innings of play. In the third inning, left-hander Sam Boies ’19 came on to pitch, the first of nine Yale relievers, but was promptly yanked in favor of Mikey Sliepka ’18 after allowing two more Fairfield runs to score on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to put the home squad in a 3–1 hole.
The score stayed that way until the seventh inning when the Stags capitalized again with the bases loaded as Ian Halpin dropped a two-out single to shallow center field to tack on another two runs and extend Fairfield’s advantage to 5–1. Undeterred, Yale answered in the home half of the seventh with a pair of RBIs from shortstop Simon Whiteman ’19 and first baseman Benny Wanger ’19 to cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to two runs.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs finally edged ahead for the first time in the game after Stiegler belted a three-run homer over the left field wall and into the New Haven night to give the Elis a 6–5 lead. The home-run hero pitched a scoreless eight, and after Yale failed to extend its lead in the bottom of the eighth, Wanger came on to close the game and promptly retired three of first four Fairfield hitters he faced to clinch the one-run decision in favor of the Elis.
“Honestly, I didn’t get [the ball] that good,” Stiegler said. “But the wind was blowing out so hard it just carried and carried and propelled us to the win. We really fought until the end. We struggled a little bit in the middle but we never gave up and that’s what we’ve been doing best recently. At the beginning of the year, we kind of folded a little bit, but now we’re getting back into the winning form and we’re tasting it — tasting it and we want more.”
After the one-game pause from Ivy League competition, the Bulldogs will play a trio of games at Cornell (5–11, 1–2 Ivy) this weekend in hopes of solidifying their spot atop the conference standings. At first place in the league along with Columbia, the Elis will face a Big Red team coming off a narrow 6–5 victory against Canisius on Wednesday afternoon.
The Big Red struggled mightily before Ancient Eight play officially commenced, dropping seven consecutive contests to begin the season before picking up its first win. Cornell played its lone Ivy League series against Princeton, suffering two losses in three games. Although the Big Red has yet to claim a series all season, it is 2–1 in the friendly confines of Hoy Field.
Compared to the Bulldogs, Cornell has struggled finding the mark on offense. Among all teams in the Ivy League, the Big Red rank dead-last with a .218 batting average, while Yale comes in fifth with an average of .248. Outfielder Kyle Gallagher, however, has been a bright spot for Cornell and ranks first in the league with an on-base percentage of .520. Gallagher also paces his team with a .345 batting average and .491 slugging percentage, the latter of which is eighth in the conference.
On the flipside, Yale boasts two players among the conference’s top 10 in slugging percentage. Outfielder Teddy Hague ’21 has demonstrated his power at the plate and ranks fourth in the conference with a .543 mark in the category, while first baseman Griffin Dey ’19 lies one place behind him with a .532 slugging percentage.
Against Cornell, the Bulldogs will also look to resume their display of solid pitching against conference opponents. This past weekend versus Brown, all three of the Elis’ primary starters earned victories. The strong play on the mound was headlined by right-hander Scott Politz ’19, who had a career-high 11 strikeouts on Friday, earning him Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honors. As a whole, the Bulldogs are second place in the Ancient Eight with a 4.86 ERA.
“[Over these last four games] I think we’ve just started hitting the ball,” Wanger said. “The bats are finding barrels, and I hope we can carry this momentum into the weekend.”
The first pitch in Saturday’s first game will be thrown at 11:30 a.m.
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