Steve Musco

Looking to put a halt to its recent five-game skid, the Yale baseball team travels to Meiklejohn Stadium in Philadelphia for three vital games against Penn this weekend. The Bulldogs hope to avenge their loss on Tuesday to Quinnipiac, a 12–8 dogfight.

Yale (11–21, 5–7 Ivy), who is in need of wins to turn the season around, squares off against powerhouse Penn (19–11, 8–4 Ivy) on Saturday and Sunday. Currently tied for second place with Harvard, the Quakers could leap ahead of the Crimson with victories in this series and put some pressure on front-running Columbia. The competition will be fierce, as both teams have much to play for.

“The boys are hoping to take three games from Penn this weekend and get ourselves back at the top of the league” pitcher Scott Politz ’19 said.

The series against Penn last year was possibly the most intense of the season for the Elis. Not only was it Senior Day for the Yale team, but also two games in the series went past nine innings. Yale snatched its second straight regular season Ivy title as the Elis took the opener 4–3 in a contentious affair. Outfielder Teddy Hague ’21 started a two-out rally in the seventh with an ice-cold single to turn the tide for the Bulldogs.

But Penn mounted its comeback during the doubleheader on Sunday. While Yale dropped both games, catcher Cal Christofori ’21 played a monster game in the nightcap of the doubleheader. The hard-hitting sophomore had the Quaker outfielders huffing and puffing as he ripped three doubles. Still, Yale fell 4–0 in the first and 2–1 in the second contest. The second game took 13 innings to separate the two sides and featured serious late-game heroics from captain and infielder Simon Whiteman ’19. He forced extra innings with a much-needed single to centerfield.

Yale, who has struggled recently, will need to dig deep this weekend to keep the hope for a postseason run alive. The early season injury to right-hander Benny Wanger ’19 has hurt the Bulldog bullpen and batting order. The senior was batting a stellar .467 through the first five games of this year and also had a home run. Wanger was also dominant on the mound last season with two wins and 32 strikeouts in 16 appearances, and Yale has missed his talent.

Penn has been on a roll so far this season, both in conference and out of conference. The Quakers opened up their year with a huge two-game sweep of then No. 22 Duke, followed by three dominant wins versus Fairleigh Dickinson. Still, Ivy competition has posed its challenges to Penn. The Quakers dropped two games to Harvard, while also losing one each to Brown and Princeton.

The Penn offense has been lighting up the scoreboard this year in Ivy League play, averaging 10.8 runs per conference game. Two weekends ago, the Quakers tallied no fewer than thirteen runs in any contest and scored a total of 49 scores over a series against Dartmouth. Infielder Craig Larsen has led this attacking unit so far this year, batting in 42 runs. Toting an on-base percentage of .531, catcher Matt O’Neill is another one for the Yale bullpen to watch out for.

Penn’s defense, however, has been a little below par, conceding an average of 7.6 runs per conference game. In contrast, the Elis allow 4.5 scores per Ancient Eight clash. If the Yale offense can come alive and the pitching remains steady, the Bulldogs might be able to grab the series win.

“We definitely want to come out of this weekend with a series win or a sweep, but at the end of the day we’re just trying to play loose, have fun and play one game at a time,” infielder Dai Dai Otaka ’20 said. “I feel that a lot of things will turn around for us this weekend.”

Game One of Saturday’s doubleheader starts at 11:30 a.m.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu