The Yale baseball team solidified its grasp on first place in the Ivy League as it emerged with another series victory, taking two out of three games from Dartmouth in a hard-fought weekend.
The Elis (17–16, 11–4 Ivy) split the Saturday doubleheader against the Big Green (10–19–1, 6–5–1) before ending up on top in a battle on Sunday to remain two full games ahead of Columbia in the Ancient Eight standings. Starting pitchers Scott Politz ’19 and Eric Brodkowitz ’18 both earned victories for their outings in game one and game three, respectively. In game two, the Bulldogs had to delve into their bullpen early, and, despite some excellent relief, their offensive struggles condemned them to a 3–1 defeat.
“I think we don’t necessarily feel pressure about our position in the league as a unit, and if we do, we embrace it,” third baseman Alex Stiegler ’20 said. “We decided as a team that winning is fun, so we should do it as often as possible.”
Saturday’s series opener began with a brief dedication to the new playing surface at Yale Field that featured University President Peter Salovey and several prominent donors, before the Bulldogs and Big Green took the refurbished field to begin play. For the fourth straight game, the Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first as first baseman Benny Wanger ’19 hit a run-scoring single and designated hitter Griffin Dey ’19 tripled to right-center to plate two more runners. Dey, who hit 2–4 in the game with three RBIs and two runs, touched home after an RBI single from right fielder Teddy Hague ’21 with two outs made it 4–0 Yale after the first inning.
On the bump, Politz wasted little time asserting himself in game one, retiring 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced in his ninth start of the season. But Dartmouth broke through in the fifth inning when Nate Ostmo singled to right field with a runner on third to reduce his team’s deficit to a trio of runs. Yale answered quickly in the home half of the frame as left fielder Harry Hegeman ’21 plated Dey with a sacrifice fly, and second baseman Dai Dai Otaka ’20 added an insurance RBI single to give the Bulldogs a 6–1 advantage.
Dartmouth looked as if it might chase Politz off the mound in the seventh following a two-out home run from Michael Calamari and an RBI single from Bennett McCaskill, but head coach John Stuper opted to stick with his starter into the eighth. With a three-run cushion, Politz induced three straight outs in the penultimate inning to pick up his fourth win before Yale piled onto its lead with another four runs in the bottom of the eighth to seal the 10–3 victory in the first game of the doubleheader.
“The biggest factor in taking the series against Dartmouth was our pitchers doing a phenomenal job of throwing strikes and limiting free bases, letting the defense make plays,” Otaka said. “Our three starters and our bullpen have been doing a great job letting up very few runs and keeping us in the game even when our bats aren’t hot.”
But while Politz lasted eight innings in Saturday’s opener, left-hander junior Kumar Nambiar’s start lasted less than one inning. Stuper brought out the quick hook in favor of right-hander Tyler Duncan ’18 after Nambiar allowed a single and pair of walks to load the bases with one out in the first. Duncan proceeded to strike out the first hitter he faced but then walked Calamari to plate the opening run for the Big Green.
Dartmouth doubled its lead in the top of the fourth with the bases loaded yet again as Steffen Torgersen hit a sacrifice fly to center field to put the Elis in a two-run hole. In the fifth inning, the Bulldogs managed to pull within a run when Hague belted a ball over the right field wall for a solo homer. Though Big Green starter Jack Fossand exited midway through the seventh, Yale produced a single hit in its last 11 at-bats and fell by a final score of 3–1.
In Sunday’s rubber match, the Bulldogs escaped with a 5–4 victory due to a pivotal four-run fifth inning to hand Dartmouth its first series defeat of the season. Brodkowitz picked up his fifth win of the season with another solid performance in just over seven innings of work. The senior, who entered the game atop the league ranks with a 2.77 ERA, allowed two early runs in the first two innings but recovered by shutting out the Big Green down for the next five innings. Wanger relieved Brodkowitz with one out in the eighth inning and allowed two hits in his scoreless stint to earn the save.
“It was a big week in the standings,” Brodkowitz said. “My role is to keep our team in the game and in a position to win, and I’m really happy I was able to do that.”
Brodkowitz appeared shaky on the mound in the opening frames. With one out recorded in the first inning, outfielder Matt Feinstein smashed a ball to left field for a solo home run, giving Dartmouth an early 1–0 lead. In the second inning, infielder Steffen Torgersen hit a double to left-center field, scoring Ostmo and putting the Bulldogs into a 2–0 hole. However, after the precarious start, Brodkowitz dialed in and held Big Green scoreless throughout the next five innings. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs closed the gap to 2–1, but it was not until three innings later that the Yale batters fired on all cylinders.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and the bases loaded, Dey pummeled a two-run single through the hole into left field to give Yale a 3–2 lead. The ensuing batter, Stiegler, whipped a line-drive double to left-center field, one of his three two-baggers, that brought home two more runs and gave Yale a 5–2 advantage.
“Our patience at the plate and timely hitting allowed us to capitalize in the fifth inning and kick-start some momentum,” Dey said. “It was a good win, and it puts us in the driver’s seat going into the final stretch.”
The Elis have two more league series left in the season against Penn and Princeton.
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