Sam Rubin

In a trip down south to battle New Orleans, Yale played three hard-fought games against the Privateers to win its first series of the 2019 season. The Elis pulled out 4–1 and 8–6 wins to go along with a 8–7 loss while the fourth game of the series was ultimately cancelled.

The Bulldogs (3–4, 0–0 Ivy) relied heavily on their pitching against the Privateers (7–3, Southland) to snatch two victories against a talented nonconference opponent on the road. New Orleans entered the weekend coming off a victory over No. 23 Southern Mississippi last Tuesday. Pitcher Scott Politz ’19 pitched a complete game in the first contest of the triple header, giving up only one run in nine innings. This series was a huge early-season confidence boost for a hungry Bulldogs side with big ambitions.

“This weekend was a great series win for us,” first baseman Griffin Dey ’19 said. “We competed every inning and played well against a strong New Orleans team. Although we still have room for improvement, we are looking to carry over our overall success from the weekend into our upcoming series with Florida and throughout the spring break trip.”

The first game was all Yale as Politz peppered the Privateers from the mound. He fanned five in the game, giving the Elis a chance to put runs up on the board. Infielder and captain Simon Whiteman ’19 contributed the first score for the Bulldogs, smacking a double to drive home fellow infielder Mason LaPlante ’22. Outfielder Tim DeGraw ’19 then drove Whiteman home with a sizzling single before utility player Benny Wanger ’19 crossed home plate on an error. Dey followed up those scores with some fireworks of his own. The senior slugger sent an absolute moonshot to left field in the third, his first homer this year as the first game went the Elis’ way 4–1.

In the opener of their doubleheader on Saturday, the Bulldogs lost 8–7 in heartbreaking fashion as the team took 10 innings to separate the sides. LaPlante opened the scoring when he advanced off a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt from outfielder Harry Hegeman ’21. In the top of the sixth, Dey slapped a single into the outfield, driving in Hegeman to make the score 2–0. Infielder Brian Ronai ’20 kept the Bulldogs on a roll, as he lasered a triple to drive in Dey.

The Bulldogs looked in control, leading 7–1 in the eighth, but the Privateers made a comeback late. In the bottom of the eighth, Darren Willis scored off a Salo Iza single to tie the game at seven. In the 10th, Iza was hit by a pitch to drive in the winning run, as New Orleans took it 8–7 on a game-winning walk. The ending capped off a frustrating afternoon for the Elis.

“This team just loves to compete,” pitcher Alex Stiegler ’20 said. “When we aren’t playing other teams we are competing with each other in the weight room, on the field, and many of us have even taken to playing each other in chess, believe it or not. Our coaching staff even likes to challenge us to races. Everything we do is a battle and it makes the close games feel like just another day.”

The final game of the series marked a return to form from the Bulldogs’ first outing. Yale came out ready to avenge its walk-off defeat from earlier in the day. However, it was the Privateers who struck first. Antonio Gauthier Jr. launched a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth to make it 2–0 in favor of New Orleans. Whiteman answered in the fifth, as both catcher Cal Christofori ’21 and Dai Dai Otaka ’20 scored on his two-run single.

The fifth inning was where Yale took control, especially Ronai. The junior had a career day, recording his first three-hit game as a Bulldog. The Elis scored six times in the fifth to take a firm 6–2 advantage. Dey was dominant again, going six for 10 on the day. Christofori also singled home Ronai in the top of the seventh to make it 8–2.

New Orleans made it interesting late, mounting a decent comeback in the seventh and eighth innings. In the bottom of the eighth, the score was 8–6 as the Bulldog lead was diminished to a mere two runs. Yet, the Privateers’ Collin Morrill flew out with runners on to avert any further danger for Yale. The Bulldogs clinched their first series of the season with the solid 8–6 victory.

“Both our offense and our defense did a phenomenal job this weekend controlling the ball and capitalizing on all opportunities,” Whiteman said. “We executed when the situation presented itself, we took care of all sure outs on defense, and we utilized our speed on the basepaths to make things happen. It’s great to get these wins, but we’ve got a lot to work on moving forward.”

Yale returns to the Southeast again this weekend for a three-game series at perennial national contender No. 7 Florida’s home base.

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu