Steve Musco

Yale baseball returned home this weekend to split a doubleheader against Ivy League foe Cornell on Saturday before inclement weather postponed Sunday’s rubber match to Monday at 11 a.m.

The Bulldogs (9–13, 3–2 Ivy) fell 3–0 in Game One against the Big Red (5–12, 2–3) before Alex Stiegler ’20 pitched a complete game to earn Yale a bounceback 2–0 victory. With another win in the series finale, the Elis can end the weekend at the top of the Ancient Eight standings before turning their attention to a set of crucial series against league-leader Harvard (13–6, 4–2) and defending champion Columbia (7–12, 3–2) over the next two weeks.

“[Saturday] was a pretty low-scoring day on both sides of the field,” captain and infielder Simon Whiteman ’19 said. “Pitching and defense played phenomenally. We didn’t do a great job capitalizing on opportunities to score in Game One. In these Ivy League games, every run matters, so that was crucial for us.”

The series opener was narrower than the 3–0 score suggested. Both sides were limited to relatively few hits with the Elis striking the ball only six times compared to Cornell’s seven. The difference in hitting came down to extra base hits. Infielder Brian Ronai ’20 nabbed Yale’s sole long bag of the day, while the Big Red got four extra-base hits.

The Bulldogs’ best chance to get on the scoreboard came in the eighth after a double steal moved two runners into scoring position with Cornell ahead 2–0. Unfortunately for the White and Blue, Big Red reliever John Natoli ultimately quashed any hopes of a comeback by inducing a strikeout and groundout after starter Colby Wyatt was pulled from the mound.

“In the first game we played pretty well with our defense and pitching but we just couldn’t get anything going with our bats which will happen from time to time,” catcher Cal Christofori ’21 said.

Starting pitcher Scott Politz ’19 posted a strong showing despite the loss, striking out seven hitters. However, the 2017 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year fell victim to several mental lapses on defense during his eight innings of work. Most notably, a wild pitch allowed Cornell to score their second run of the game in the seventh.

The Bulldogs burst back with renewed energy in Game Two, eager to avenge the earlier defeat. Leading the charge for the Bulldogs was Stiegler, who blanked Big Red hitters the entire afternoon. His fastball gave Cornell fits as the senior pitched a complete game with six strikeouts. Stiegler moved to 4–2 on the year with his dominant victory.

The Yale offense refused to let the frustrations of the first game persist into the second as it came alive in the two-run win. Catcher Jake Gehri ’22 continued his white-hot rookie campaign, scoring Whiteman in the third inning on a double that reached all the way to the wall. The first year, whose six home runs rank second in the league, was recently named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week.

“[Sunday] was an interesting day because early I really didn’t have my off-speed stuff working,” Stiegler said. “I stuck to my fastball until I was able to start throwing everything else over the plate and once that happened I knew I could go nine.”

The upperclassmen for Yale stepped up at the plate to secure the crucial win. Infielder Dai Dai Otaka ’20 continued his productive junior year with two crucial hits in the game. He gave the Elis necessary late momentum by smacking a single, scoring Ronai and putting the Bulldogs up 2–0.

Despite solid pitching, Cornell struggled to drive in runs in the second game, tallying just five total hits. Third basemen Matt Collins recorded the only stolen base on the day for Cornell as catcher Tom Fuller ’19 was a constant threat to throw runners out. Jonathan Zacharias took the loss on the mound for the Big Red after throwing four innings. The 6-foot-5 freshman struck out three while giving up a single run. He was then replaced by Andrew Ellison, who finished the remainder of the game with one earned run and one strikeout.

“We knew there was no need to freak out [after the series-opening loss],” Stiegler said. “We just came back with the same approach we’d be successful. [It wasn’t] the greatest showing on offense but Stiegler pitched awesome and we played good enough defense to hold on.”

Yale takes on Cornell in the postponed series finale on Monday at 11 a.m before facing off against Fairfield in a midweek road clash on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu 

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu