In a tooth-and-nail dogfight with an impressive Columbia team, Yale’s baseball team lost all three games this weekend, dropping to fifth in the Ivy League standings. Both games of the Saturday doubleheader required extra innings to determine a victor.
The Bulldogs (11–20, 5–7 Ivy) made a valiant effort against the Lions (13–15, 9–3 Ivy) but were unable to snatch a single win from its three games this weekend. Columbia now sits alone atop the conference standings, leaving Yale with serious ground to make up in order to grab the league leader spot.
“Every once in a while, playing hard isn’t enough,” pitcher Alex Stiegler ’19 said. “We could’ve executed a little bit better but nothing to knock about the effort this weekend.”
Game One remained a battle until the end. Yale opened the scoring early when outfielder Tim DeGraw ’19 drove in infielder and captain Simon Whiteman ’19 with a deft single to centerfield. However, Columbia roared back in the sixth and took a 2–1 lead through a thunderous triple from Ben Porter. Yale knotted the game dramatically in the bottom of the ninth, as outfielder Pierce Blohowiak ’22 grounded out to score infielder Jonathan Boulaphinh ’21 and sent the game to extra innings. The Lions then unleashed a six-run barrage on the Bulldogs in the top of the 13th, and the game finished 8–2 in favor of Columbia.
The competition remained fierce in Game Two. Columbia leapt out to an early 2–0 lead in the second, but crafty pitching by left-handed Kumar Nambiar ’19 held the Lion offense to one earned run during his shift. The Bulldog offense came alive in the fourth inning, with a sacrifice fly first baseman Griffin Dey ’19 sending Whiteman home to half the deficit for the Elis. Soon after, outfielder Brian Ronai ’20 roped a single to score catcher Jake Gehri ’22 to level the game at 2–2. After stealing third, Ronai looked ready to give Yale the lead but was left stranded in the fourth.
The game sat at a stalemate after nine innings, so the two evenly-matched sides again headed into extra innings. Mental errors cost the Elis, and Yale let the game slip in the 10th. With two outs, Chandler Bengston hit a single to get on base for the Lions. He then advanced two bases on two errant pitches, before Porter scored Bengston with a single of his own. The pressure was on the Elis in the bottom of the 10th, but they were unable to find any runs. The game finished 3–2, and the Lions took the doubleheader.
“It was just one of those weekends where we played well all three games and came away with three losses,” said pitcher Quinn Cleary ’22. “It’s baseball. That’ll happen sometimes. I know that sounds cliché but there wasn’t much we did poorly. If a few moments go differently, we’re coming away with three wins.”
Saturday’s heartbreaker made it tough to bounce back for the series finale. Columbia jumped out to a 2–0 lead in the top of the first. Josh Nicoloff hit a double down the infield line to drive in two. The Bulldogs responded with one run in the bottom of the first when Gehri sacrifice flied out to center field, giving Whiteman enough time to tag from third.
Stiegler had a good outing on the mound, tossing seven innings and striking out 10 opposition hitters. Unfortunately for him, he could only see the Lions build on their lead, and his personal win record fell to 4–4 on the year. Columbia added a third in the third inning when Julian Bury scored off a sacrifice fly.
The Lions stifled the Bulldogs at the plate all day long, giving up only four hits. Columbia’s starter, Ben Wreski, proved tough to beat. In his 7.2 innings of work, he allowed a mere three hits. His bullpen then locked the game out with relative ease, as Columbia’s relievers let only one Eli get on base in the dying embers of the game.
Yale now faces a quick turnaround to face Quinnipiac on Tuesday night before traveling for a weekend series against Penn. The Quakers will be another tough side for a Blue and White team that is suffering a dip in form. The Elis are set to face off against Penn. The Quakers, which are only a game behind Columbia in the Ivy League, play with an offense capable of making any defense shudder, averaging 10.8 runs per conference game.
“It’s certainly a humbling weekend,” catcher Cal Christofori ’21 said. “Of course we’re disappointed as we have high expectations for our team, and this weekend was extremely tough. Nothing we can do though. It’s in the past, and we’re going to take it one at a time from here on out and fight our hardest to the end and let the cards fall where they may.”
Yale plays Quinnipiac in Hamden at 3 p.m on Tuesday.
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