Yale’s baseball team secured a statement victory on Sunday after dropping its first two games of a nonconference series.
This past weekend, the Bulldogs (2–4, 0–0 Ivy) traveled to Norfolk, Va., to face off against Old Dominion (8–2, 0–0 C-USA). The series saw a lot of scoring from both teams, with the Monarchs and Elis batting in 61 combined runs, over three games. While ODU decisively won the opener 6–1 and Yale took the final game 19–7, the Saturday game was a hotly contested shootout. Ultimately, the Monarchs won the series in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings when they outscored the Bulldogs 15–7 en route to an 18–10 win.
“The first two days it was really windy,” catcher and Ivy League Player of the Week Jake Gehri ’22 said. “All you had to do was put the ball in the air to right field and it would leave the park. [Sunday] wasn’t as windy but we were just locked in. [Pitcher] Ben Gibbs ’22 gave us a great start putting up a few zeroes, giving the offense some breathing room to work with.”
In the first game, captain and starting right-hander Alex Stiegler ’20 once again struggled early in the game, giving up three runs in the first inning. Stiegler improved as the game progressed, allowing just one run in the second and third innings and finishing with two scoreless frames. Reliever Quinn Cleary ’22 had an impressive outing in the eighth inning as he pitched a scoreless frame in just four pitches despite hitting a Monarch batter with his first throw.
Friday’s offense performance by the Bulldogs left much to be desired. The Elis only managed to score one run on eight hits, and a common theme for the day was runners left on base. Yale stranded 11 runners on the basepaths and the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on runners in scoring position in four different innings. The silver lining of the opener was three Elis in the meat of the order — five-, six-, and seven-hole hitters — who had multi-hit games: outfielders Teddy Hague ’21 and Pierce Blohowiak ’22 and first baseman Brian Ronai ’20.
The second game started with the Bulldogs getting on the board early with a run in the first. But once again, the Elis’ starting pitcher, right-hander Grant Kipp ’22, gave up multiple runs in the first inning. Pitching in the early innings has been a problem for the Blue and White. In all four Eli losses, Yale conceded at least a run in the opening inning. And on the flip side, both Eli victories have come when the first frame is kept clean.
Hague had another great game on Saturday. The senior was one of five Bulldogs to record a multi-hit game and also blasted Yale’s first home run of the season. Mason LaPlante ’22 also had a phenomenal day at the plate. The sophomore shortstop reached base six times by any means possible as he recorded four hits, drew a walk and took first on an error. But the 10 Yale runs were not enough to keep pace with Old Dominion’s 18 on 21 hits.
“[The weekend] was filled with ups and downs,” pitcher Rohan Handa ’22 said. “The first game our bats were cold, but slowly we started to gather better at-bats, and it came alive in games two and three. We missed some opportunities where we needed to execute better, and we will learn from it, but game three was just an incredible all-around team win where we were able to score and take the game away early. Game three was very significant as we hope to continue being aggressive with the bats and with the ball.”
The series finale against the Citadel a week prior salvaged an otherwise tough 0–2 stretch to begin the season, and the Sunday magic was in full effect yet again to conclude the weekend’s play against the Monarchs. The Bulldogs nabbed their pitcher, Gibbs, a one-run cushion in the top of the second, with the latter blanking Old Dominion’s offense a half-inning later to give his team a 1–0 lead entering the third. The Elis went on to more than sextuple their lead in an inning’s time — an offensive barrage sparked by infielder and Ivy rookie of the week Carson Swank ’23, who is currently hitting an astounding .400 for the season, and his run-scoring single. Four runs later, and the Blue and White had already scored more runs than it did in three of its previous five games.
After scoreless innings from Gibbs in the third and fourth, Yale made it 7–0 when its ace, Stiegler, drew a bases loaded walk. While Gibbs eventually bent in the fifth — conceding three earned runs — the Bulldogs got most of those runs back an inning later on a two-run triple by Gehri, who nabbed conference player of the week honors for his 10 RBIs and two home runs over three games.
With the Elis in control 9–3 by the time the seventh inning rolled around, they were clearly in the market for some insurance — adding a whopping six runs before the seventh inning stretch had commenced. Half of those runes came on a three-run blast from Gehri, cementing the best performance the Buckely, Wash. native has had in his young collegiate career. Gehri would wind up finishing the game five for five and a double short of the cycle.
Two eighth-inning home runs later, and the 19–7 victory was Yale’s. One has to go back to a 2017 game in April against Harvard to find a contest in which the Bulldogs put up more than 19 runs.
The Blue and White starts its spring break with a trip back to Charleston, S.C., for the Swig and Swine Classic where they will face Ball State, Sacred Heart and Richmond.
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