Hosting Fordham in its final out-of-conference game of the regular season, the Yale baseball team suffered just its third loss since March 29 on Tuesday after a pair of eighth-inning runs proved the difference as the Rams prevailed by a final score of 4–3.
The Bulldogs (17–17, 11–4 Ivy), never led in the first eight innings of the midweek clash with Fordham (24–14–1, 7–5 Atlantic-10) at Yale field, but pulled within a single run in the bottom of the ninth following a lead-off home run from third baseman Griffin Dey ’19. Despite not having any outs, the Elis failed to land another base runner in the final frame and ultimately fell to Fordham. Yale will hope to rebound as it did following its last nonconference loss against Hartford on March 28, which sparked a 13–2 run before Tuesday’s setback.
“We’re going to try to take it one week at a time here and focus on Princeton for now,” outfielder Tim DeGraw ’19 said. “Continue to battle game in and game out and look to the widen the two-game lead we have on the rest of the league.”
The Elis called on their bullpen for the entire game as a variety of pitchers took to the mound against the Rams. The road team, ranking fifth in the Atlantic 10 with a .271 overall batting average, connected on some timely swings but was mostly contained by Yale’s procession of pitchers. Ultimately, however, Yale struggled to hit the ball against left-hander Matt Mikulski, who earned the win by surrendering just one run and three hits through seven innings on the hill.
The Bulldogs could not get anything going at the plate early on. In the first and third innings, Yale went three up and three down against a strong display on the bump by Fordham’s Mikulski. Infielder Brian Ronai ’20 was the first Eli to record a hit, but the Blue could not capitalize on its rare scoring opportunity in the bottom of the second inning.
Amid the Elis’ struggles to get on base, the Rams took advantage and drew first blood. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third, infielder Matt Tarabek grounded out to first base, driving in the first run of the game. The two subsequent Fordham batters were walked, scoring another run and pushing the Rams’ lead to 2–0 before the Bulldogs escaped the half inning.
In the fourth frame, Yale finally found the scoreboard off an RBI triple from outfielder Alex Stiegler ’20, who also started the game on the mound for the Elis. However, the Bulldogs’ offense once again went cold as the team’s next 10 batters were retired by Mikulski up to the eighth inning. The Bulldogs’ batting lineup was unable to profit from a comparably stellar stretch by the Elis’ pitching staff, which allowed zero hits from the start of the fourth inning up to the start of the eighth.
The eighth inning was action-packed, featuring seven combined runners on base from both teams. With the bases loaded and no outs, infielder C.J. Vazquez grounded out to send home Fordham’s third run of the afternoon. The Rams then scored their final run of the game via an RBI single to right field by designated hitter Alvin Melendez and led 4–1 heading into the bottom of the eighth.
The Bulldogs then began their last-ditch effort to rally from behind, starting with a ground out by outfielder Tim DeGraw that scored a run from third base. The Elis were unable to produce another run in the half inning, but after first baseman Benjamin Wanger ’19 retired the first three Rams in the top of the ninth, Yale had one more chance to make a comeback.
“I was just focused on putting a good swing on the ball and getting on base in hopes of kick-starting a rally,” Dey said.
But despite Dey’s dinger, any chance of a Bulldog rally in the final half-inning came to a grinding halt after Fordham right-hander Kyle Martin rebounded by retiring the next three Bulldog batters he faced to save the one-run victory. With the win, the Rams improved to 3–2 against Ivy League competition following previous matchups with Cornell and Columbia while Yale dropped to 6–13 in out-of-conference games in 2018.
While the loss to Fordham dropped Yale to .500 on the season, the Bulldogs’ ultimate goals of winning the Ivy League Championship and making a return trip to the NCAA Tournament are still well within reach with two conference series left to play. The Bulldogs currently sit atop the Ancient Eight at 11–4, two games ahead of second-place Columbia. Barring a disastrous finish in the final four games, Yale should find itself in one of the top two spots in the conference standings at season’s end.
From there, the Elis would need to take just two of three games in the Ivy League Championship series, an event they swept in a pair of 5–0 and 11–7 victories against Penn in 2017, to make a return to postseason regionals.
“We try to approach every game the same way,” centerfielder Alex Boos ’18 said. “The opponent is irrelevant because success comes form controlling the things that we can control and dominating the aspects of the game that we can dominate, independent of who is in the other dugout.”
Next up for Yale is a two-game series in New Jersey this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. against Princeton at Clarke Field.
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