Sam Rubin

Alex Stiegler ’20 stepped up to the mound four times this season to close the final innings of a tied series for the Yale baseball team. In all four games, the right-handed pitcher overcame overwhelming pressure to power the team to a quartet of series-clinching victories in the rubber matches.

A four-year letterman at Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, Texas, Stiegler captained his high school team during both his junior and senior seasons. He was named second-team All-State both seasons and graduated magna cum laude. As a first year, Stiegler quickly established his presence both on the mound and at the plate, hitting .337 in 98 at-bats with four home runs and starting six games as a pitcher.

“Coming into Yale, I truly had no idea what to expect,” Stiegler said. “When I arrived for school, I was hoping to find my way into the lineup or onto the mound by any means, but as far as expectations go, I tried not to have any. As a freshman, I felt like I had something to prove, so I did anything I could to earn playing time and if it didn’t come, I could rest easy knowing I gave it my all.”

The right-hander’s first Ivy League decision came in an 8–0 victory against Princeton in April 2017, when he pitched a complete-game, seven-inning shutout. As a hitter, Stiegler broke out when he went four for five with two home runs and three RBIs in a win at Harvard two weeks later. The Texas native concluded his rookie season with an honorable-mention All-Ivy.

A versatile utility player, Stiegler devoted himself last season to hitting instead of pitching. Starting only two games on the mound, the outfielder stepped up for 169 at-bats and chalked a .219 average.

“He’s an incredibly talented young man,” captain Simon Whiteman ’19 said. “Both his pitching and hitting are invaluable to us.”

This spring, alongside ace Scott Politz ’19, Stiegler has been an instrumental member of Yale’s weekend pitching rotation. So far, he has started six games and posted an excellent 4–2 record, including wins against 2018 NCAA Regional host Stetson and conference foes Brown and Cornell.

Against the Hatters, Stiegler stepped up to the mound on March 16 in game two of a doubleheader and struck out 14 over eight innings to lead the Bulldogs to a series win. Allowing only three runs, five hits and no walks, Stiegler credited his outstanding performance to the solid defense behind the mound. Yale concluded the game with a score of 7–3.

“This season I really committed to getting stronger and treating my body right,” Stiegler said. “I came into the school year after a good summer of really refining all my pitches so I could throw anything at any time. It would be doing our team a disservice to neglect mentioning that I have the 2018 highest-ranked defense in the country behind me at all times. I have no fear throwing strikes when every time I turn around one of the boys is making a great play.”

Stiegler continued his sensational play against the Bears on March 24. The Bulldogs, who took the first game 15–3 but dropped the second 8–7, looked to Stiegler to power Yale to a series victory. The right-hander allowed only two earned runs over eight innings to lead the Bulldogs to an 11–3 conference win. The Elis’ batting lineup, hot at the plate, saw a home run from outfielder Jake Gehri ’22 and multiple first-rate hits from Whiteman.

Stiegler credits his success on the mound to a focused mindset and a penchant for fun. Before games, he plays practical jokes on teammates such as hiding jerseys or putting gloves in the ceiling. On the plate, he tells the umpire jokes that are rarely rewarded with a smile.

“Once I get on the mound though, everything changes,” Stiegler said. “Once I step on the mound, I believe that I am better than anyone who steps in the box 60 feet away, and if they beat me, they won’t get me the next time.”

Fresh off a complete-game shutout over Cornell, Stiegler was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday and improved to 2–0 in conference play. The Big Red took game one 3–0, but the Bulldogs rebounded that afternoon with a 2–0 victory behind Stiegler’s stellar performance.

With a month left of games, the Bulldogs are 10–14 overall with a 4–2 Ivy mark and will rely heavily on Stiegler’s efforts to claim a spot in the 2019 Ivy championship series. In a battle of teams tied for first place in the Ancient Eight, Yale takes on Harvard this weekend for a three-game series, with Stiegler starting on the bump for one of those contests.

Lucy Liu | lucy.liu@yale.edu