This past weekend, Yale’s baseball team dropped two of its three games in the opening series of the season against The Citadel.
The Battle of the Bulldogs saw the Blue and White travel to Charleston, South Carolina in the earliest start of the season for head coach John Stuper in his 28 seasons at the helm for Yale (1-2, 0-0 Ivy League). The three-game series saw a bit of everything, starting with a close first game in which the Bulldogs failed to come back in the ninth inning and erase a three-run deficit falling short 4–3. The Citadel (5-1, 0-0 SoCon) then took control in the second game winning 10–3, but the Elis were not going home without earning a tally in the win column and shut out its opponent 9–0 to end the series on a high note.
“Friday was obviously tough offensively,” catcher Jake Gehri ’22 said. “Fifteen or so strikeouts are never what you want. But with the way that guy was pitching, it was to be expected. He had a real nasty change-up that he threw 70 percent of the time. We were just swinging over it … defensively we were solid. That is one thing that we can always count on. When we throw strikes and let our defense work, we are tough to score runs on. The bats will come, it’s early, but I saw a ton of great things this weekend from the guys.”
Yale’s season opener went down to the wire. On Friday, the Bulldogs entered the top of the ninth trailing 4–1. With two outs and two men on base, rookie AJ Gaich ’23 delivered a clutch two RBI double, putting himself as the tying run in scoring position. But this was not enough to rattle The Citadel’s pitcher, first year Gant Starling, who buckled down and managed to secure the save striking out the last batter and winning the game for his team.
Yale’s ace Alex Stiegler ’20 struggled early in the game and gave up three runs in the bottom of the first inning. He then settled down and pitched four scoreless innings, knocking eight strikeouts while allowing four walks and hits. Later in the game, a fielding error in the seventh turned a routine single into a two-base error putting a runner on third with one out and setting up Yale’s fourth allowed run — which would be the decisive score of the game.
“Getting on the mound for the first time was refreshing,” Stiegler said. “I was trying to set the tone for the season and have fun. Overall we did a lot of good things this weekend and I think we should be a team to watch out for come Ivy play.”
The second game was one to forget for the Elis. The Citadel once again scored in the first inning of the game with a RBI single and then exploded for seven more runs in the third inning. Yale’s starting pitcher Mike Walsh ’23 had a rough start to his collegiate career. He never got into a rhythm and ended up giving seven earned runs and the loss with just two innings to his name.
The silver lining in Saturday’s game came courtesy of Carson Swank ’23. The rookie third baseman had his first career multi-hit game. Swank’s bat sparked Yale’s offense in both of its scoring innings with two leadoff singles in both the fourth and sixth. Swank was also a menace on the basepaths and stole a run after swiping both second and third before running home on a Citadel throwing error.
“I felt the weekend had its ups and downs which is to be expected this early in the season,” catcher Cal Christofori ’21 said. “A lot of guys are just getting their feet under them and up to speed with the game and I’m really proud of the way we bounced back in game three. Games one and two we didn’t play below what we’re capable of, but in the last game, we were able to show a little more of the type of team we can be. Looking forward to getting back at it next weekend against ODU.”
Everything was working by the time the Bulldogs played their third game on Sunday. Three Yale pitchers, RHP starter Ben Gibbs ’22, LHP Matthew Erickson ’21 and game-winner Rohan Handa ’22 combined for five strikeouts and only allowed five hits en route to a shutout of the opponent Bulldogs.
The highlight of the game came in the ninth inning where Yale padded its lead by adding six runs to the board. Swank had another multi-hit game and drove in his first career run. Left fielder Harry Hegeman ’21 also had a dominant day at the plate going three for four and driving in two runs.
The Bulldogs look to improve their record this weekend as they prepare for another three-game series against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia.
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