After a lengthy spring break filled with tough out-of-conference opposition, Yale baseball opens up its home Ivy season with three crucial games against Cornell this weekend.
The Elis (8–12, 2–1 Ivy) enter the matchup with the Big Red (4–11, 1–2 Ivy) after taking care of business against Brown (4–15, 1–2) last weekend, leaving with two wins out of three in the series. However, a midweek loss to Hartford has the Bulldogs looking to regain their momentum this weekend. Yale is without star pitcher Benny Wanger ’19, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to an injury. Cornell, which has been struggling so far to get on a roll in this young campaign, will look to get back on track against the Bulldogs.
“We’re looking to play relaxed but aggressive,” pitcher Griffin Dey ’19 said. “When we focus on competing every inning and every pitch with that mindset, we play our best brand of baseball.”
Last season, Yale swept the series against Cornell in three exciting games. The first game was a 7–4 victory. Outfielder Tim Degraw ’19 and infielder Simon Whiteman ’19 went a combined 5–10 at the plate to lead Yale to victory. The second game was a real nail-biter, with Yale eking out an 8–7 win in 10 innings. Outfielder Harry Hegeman ’21 took over the game, showing no signs of first-year nerves. Hegeman racked up three RBIs and reached home on a strikeout to end the game. In the final game of the series, Yale again secured a 7–4 win. Infielder Dai Dai Otaka ’20 led the way for Yale with two crucial RBIs.
Yale has been swinging the bat well in recent games, a trend that needs to continue for the Bulldogs to snatch three wins this weekend. Dey has a career batting average of .283, but he has improved in his final season, averaging .342. The senior went 3–4 against Hartford midweek, generating much-needed offense for the Elis. And Whiteman is batting a stellar .374, with 10 RBIs already in the early season. Infielder Brian Ronai ’20 has also been doing his part, belting two homers and collecting 14 RBIs.
“We are coming out of a four-game stretch in which we lost two of those games,” said pitcher Alex Stiegler ’20. “We’re gonna come at this weekend hard and fast.”
Cornell has yet to get in a rhythm offensively this year, and runs have been hard to come by. The Big Red opened up its season with a 0–17 loss to Baylor, a game in which it was actually unable to generate any scoring. While the team did manage to cobble together wins against Navy, Fordham, Towson and Columbia, hits have not flowed for the team. Ramon Garza leads the team in batting average with a respectable .265, and Will Simonelt and Josh Arndt are the only players with home runs so far this season.
After competing against Cornell, Yale begins its Ivy schedule in earnest, facing off against the likes of Harvard, Columbia and Dartmouth on three consecutive weekends. The Elis know a strong start in conference play is important for seeding in the Ivy League Baseball Championship Series. The desire for revenge against a Lions’ side that triumphed over them in the Ancient Eight tournament last season remains firmly in the back of the Elis’ minds.
“The team is excited about the upcoming series, looking to bring the same energy we had last weekend to the home opener and get another series win,” said catcher Jake Gehri ’22. “The adjustment to college baseball has gone really well. The coaches prepared us well this past fall and now we are all seeing the hard work pay off this spring.”
Game one against the Big Red begins Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
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