The Yale baseball team saw its eight-game winning streak snapped after Harvard pitcher Noah Zavolas tossed a complete-game, no-hitter to blank the Bulldogs in a 4–0 loss at home on Friday. However, the Bulldogs rallied to take the series a day later by posting a pair of 10–6 and 4–1 victories over the Crimson on Saturday.
The Elis (14–15, 9–3 Ivy) improved to 11–8 in the last five seasons against Harvard (14–16, 4–5) with their third-straight Ivy series victory but, more importantly, preserved their positioning atop the Ancient Eight standings with just three weeks remaining in conference play. Zavolas allowed just two Bulldogs to reach base and threw 12 strikeouts in the four-run victory in Game One at Yale Field. But, the home squad rebounded nicely with 23 combined hits in Saturday’s doubleheader along with a one-run outing from pitcher Eric Brodkowitz ’18 in Game Three to emerge victorious in the latter two contests.
“Our ability to bounce back shows that we take it personal when we lose and come back the next day ready to go,” third baseman Alex Stiegler ’20 said. “When our backs are against the wall, we find a way to win.”
Matched up against 2017 All-Ivy First Team pitcher Scott Politz ’19, Zavolas established himself as the dominant arm in Friday night’s bout by retiring the first 12 batters he faced, a sequence which included five strikeouts. Politz, meanwhile, threw a scoreless first inning but gave up a leadoff double in the top of the second and four singles shortly thereafter. This yielded a pair of RBIs for the Crimson before a groundout with the bases loaded put Harvard ahead 3–0.
The score stagnated until the seventh inning as both right-handers continued to deal, but Harvard ended the offensive drought with a sacrifice fly from Austin Black to tack on another run after the Crimson opened the frame with a pair of singles. Facing a four-run deficit, the Bulldogs finally reached base for the first time in the bottom of the eighth after left-fielder Harry Hegeman ’21 made it to first on an error; however, the Elis failed to capitalize with a groundout in the next at-bat. Ahead 4–0 heading into the final half-inning, Zavolas stayed on to finish his no-hit bid into the ninth. His perfect game was spoiled by walking center-fielder Tim DeGraw ’19, but Zavolas still proceeded to strike out three of the first four batters he faced to seal the first no-hitter in program history since 2001.
Friday’s loss that ended Yale’s eight-game streak did not rattle the resilient Bulldogs. The following afternoon, the Eli offense, which produces over six runs per game in conference play, had a resounding response after being shut out. Behind solid work on the mound by starters Kumar Nambiar ’19 and Eric Brodkowitz ’18, the Bulldogs stepped up at the plate, delivering 14 runs in the Saturday doubleheader and claiming the series win over the Crimson.
“There was no doubt that Zavolas pitched the game of his life on Friday, but we left it at that — the game of his life,” infielder Dai Dai Otaka ’20 said. “Our mindset going into the doubleheader on Saturday collectively was that we weren’t going to let one bad game affect us and that we were going to come back and win two the next day.”
Nambiar started on the hill for Game One of the doubleheader and racked up his fourth victory of the season. The left-hander was dialed in at the outset and pitched five scoreless innings to begin the contest; the Crimson compiled just two hits heading into the top of the sixth inning. Although the Bulldogs could not take full advantage of Nambiar’s pitching display and left six runners stranded on base in the first five innings, they still managed to open up a 2–0 advantage.
In the sixth inning, Harvard finally scored on a two-RBI hit by outfielder Jake Suddleson, tying the game at two runs apiece. Nambiar managed to get out of the inning without surrendering another hit, allowing the Bulldogs to break the tie with a flurry of swings. The Elis scored five runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by catcher Cal Christofori ’21 clearing the bases with an RBI double down the right field line.
The Crimson pulled within a single run after catcher Devan Peterson crushed a ball to right field for a grand slam, setting the score at 7–6. But the one-run lead would prove sufficient as the Yale bullpen capitalized on its opportunity. Nambiar was relieved after giving up the homer, and right-hander Bobby Cecere ’20 recorded an out before utility player Benny Wanger ’19 stepped onto the mound to seal the game. The Bulldogs tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning to give the closer some breathing room, and the team came away with the victory.
The Yale offense cooled down in the second game on Saturday, but its drop in production mattered little due to nine innings of dominance by Brodkowitz. Recording seven strikeouts and a single walk, Brodkowitz at one point retired 16 straight batters. After the complete victory, the right-hander improved to 4–0 against conference opponents with a 2.77 ERA overall.
On the back of Brodkowitz’s pitching gem, the Bulldogs brought enough at the plate to take home the win. In the first inning, DeGraw recorded the Elis’ first hit with a single to right field and was sent home by a hit from Wanger. In the bottom of the fourth inning, outfielder Teddy Hague ’21 and Stiegler both scored on wild pitches to extend the lead for the home team. Rounding out a stellar performance at the plate this weekend, Christofori pounded a ball down the right field line to score Hague in the eighth inning.
“Our pitching staff put out an incredible effort this weekend,” infielder Simon Whiteman ’19 said. “It’s always helpful knowing that our guys are going to throw strikes and understanding that sometimes three or four runs scored wins the ballgame.”
Next up for the Bulldogs is a Wednesday showdown in New Rochelle against Iona at 3 p.m.
Jimmy Chen | firstname.lastname@example.org
Joey Kamm | email@example.com