Dai Dai Otaka
During a road trip to Cambridge, Yale men’s baseball team struggled to get the job done against one of its main Ivy League rivals. A 2–1 series defeat against Harvard means the Bulldogs still need to put in extra effort with four more conference series left in the regular season.
The Elis (11–16, 5–4 Ivy) lost Saturday’s doubleheader 10–8 and 3–0, respectively, against the Ancient Eight-leading Crimson (16–6, 6–2) before snatching Game Three 8–7 with three runs at the top of the ninth inning.
“[It was] not the result we wanted this weekend, but I’m proud of the way the team battled and came back in the third game to get the win,” first baseman Griffin Dey ’19 said. “Our approach at the plate was the same it has been all year — aggressive and early.”
Saturday’s twin bill demonstrated all that baseball has to offer. Game One showed the Elis’ offensive firepower, even though they did not get the win. Infielders Simon Whiteman ’19, Tim DeGraw ’19 and Dai Dai Otaka ’20 all got extra-base hits, while Dey managed to get up to third on a shot. Dey, who had a first-class weekend at the plate, drove in three runs alone on Saturday’s opener, before adding two more in the series finale on Sunday. The sucker-punch Bulldog offense even got out to an 8–1 lead at the top of the eighth.
Pitcher Scott Politz ’19 also gave a spectacular eight innings of work, giving up only five hits and one run. Yale’s ace on the mound struck out nine Crimson players over 113 pitches — close to his 2017 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year self.
“I’m really proud of our younger bullpens guys for stepping up and getting some big outs in big situations, Politz said. “This weekend obviously wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but winning that third game was huge.”
However, after eight frames of Bulldog superiority, the turning point came when Politz was pulled in favor of reliever Tyler Sapsford ’20. The Crimson offense came to life and scored nine unanswered runs. The sucker punch came when Harvard’s Patrick McColl hit a walk-off grand slam.
Game Two was another contentious affair, as the two evenly-matched squads traded blows throughout the nine innings. Yale struggled to find offense against strong pitching by the Harvard bullpen. Crimson pitcher Buddy Hayward was throwing smoke from the plate, whiffing eight Bulldogs and keeping Harvard ahead. The Elis still managed four hits but could not find a tally. Meanwhile, outfielder Pierce Blohowiak ’22 registered the 11th hit of his rookie year in the game. But the afternoon ended in disappointment for Yale, cemented by Jake Suddleson’s two RBI single in the eighth. The Elis fell 3–0, dropping both games of the doubleheader.
Sunday’s finale was a gut check for Yale, a final chance to snag a crucial win against its rival Crimson’s team. McColl, who has been swinging the stick sweetly for Harvard all year, clobbered a homer to start off the scoring. Yale was dazed but roared back. DeGraw came through with a clutch single in the third inning to score Whiteman and catcher Cal Christofori ’21.
“We couldn’t get the bats going game two against a really solid pitching performance for them,” Christofori said. “Dropping two in a doubleheader is always tough but we found a way to bounce back today. Backs were against the wall, and we came through today, and I think we proved to ourselves a lot. We know the type of team we are, and the season won’t be perfect, but we just have to be resilient and battle every weekend and we showed that.”
As the teams traded runs throughout the innings, it became clear that the game was heading down to the wire. Yet Dey refused to let the Crimson take his final rivalry game from him. The senior slugger jumped all over a tepid fastball in the fifth, sending a moonshot to the bleachers. The game was now 5–3 in favor of the Elis and victory seemed close. Still, Harvard came back with a vengeance, scoring four in the fifth to throw a wrench in Yale’s plans of a win.
The Bulldogs never gave up and were rewarded for their persistence in the ninth inning. Outfielder Harry Hegeman ’21 drew a walk to begin the rally, followed by both Whiteman and infielder Mason LaPlante ’22 getting hit by pitches. DeGraw continued his inspired performance with an ice-cold single to score the two of them, tying the game at 7–7. Finally, Dey scored DeGraw on a walk-off sac fly to secure the win 8–7 in dramatic fashion.
Yale plays next against Sacred Heart on Wednesday, followed by a three-game series against Columbia this coming weekend.
Bill Gallagher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eamonn Smith | email@example.com