BASEBALL: Pitching staff shines as Elis split series against Washington
Last weekend, the Yale baseball team traveled across the country and split a four-game series against Washington, a rising force in the Pac-12. The Bulldogs showed off their depth in their pitching staff and shut out their opponents in the last game.
Courtesy of Yale Athletics
Last weekend, the Bulldogs traveled across the country for their second non-conference series of the season. The squad battled well in the West Coast and split a four game series against the University of Washington, a rising force in the competitive Pac-12 conference.
The Yale baseball team (3–4, 0–0 Ivy) had a slow start to the series on Friday, dropping the opening game 0–4. The next day, the Bulldogs proceeded to play an eventful doubleheader against the Huskies (7–5, 0–0 Pac-12). Yale notched up an impressive 8–7 win in the first game in extra innings, but lost momentum in the second match-up with a 0–7 loss. The Bulldogs retaliated the following day with a shutout win against the Huskies, ending the series strong with a 1–0 victory that reflected the depth and promise of the Blue and White pitchers.
“The series as a whole was obviously dominated by our pitching staff, and they did an incredible job,” shortstop and captain Mason LaPlante ’22 said. “As a whole, the series against Washington [also] showed glimpses of how good we can be. I don’t think we’ve played a full, complete game yet in the sense that our offense, pitching and defense [were all on]. I think when we piece it all together, we’re going to be pretty good … We’ve played only Power Five teams, so when we put together a ‘complete’ game, I think we could really surprise some people with where we end up.”
In the first game of the series, Yale’s starter Grant Kipp ’22 showed his pitching prowess as the team’s ace with a strong performance on the mound. The righty from Dallas struggled in his first start of the season against Auburn on Feb. 25, giving up six runs in only four innings, but redeemed himself by going deep and remaining consistent on Friday night.
Kipp gave up just one run during his six-inning outing, which came after three consecutive hits from the Washington bats at the bottom of the second. However, the Eli bullpen was unable to finish things cleanly, giving up three runs in the bottom of the seventh. The Blue and White offense also lacked at the plate, only managing three hits and striking out 12 times in the shutout loss.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs came prepared to prove themselves in an afternoon doubleheader. However, they had another slow start in the first game of the match-up. The Bulldogs were unable to score in the first five innings, while starter Mike Walsh ’23 got out of a bases-loaded pinch in the bottom of the first after walking two and hitting a batter.
Walsh was aggressive in his solid five-inning start against Washington, challenging opposing batters and striking out eight. However, he continuously found himself in difficult positions. Walsh stumbled in the third, giving up solo home runs to redshirt sophomore catcher Johnny Tincher and freshman star AJ Guerrero, the Huskies’ clean-up bat. Walsh later gave up another run in the bottom of the fourth, as well as another homer to Tincher, a three-RBI moonshot in the bottom of the sixth.
The Bulldogs truly came alive at the top of the sixth inning, as the Eli bats blazed with fury and brought home six runs.
“In [Game Two], we knew that we had to score to win, obviously,” two-way player Colton Shaw ’25 said. “It was kind of contagious, [especially in the sixth inning] where we scored six. One guy would hit and you kind of felt like it was your mission to perform for the guys behind you … Once we got that momentum, it just kind of rolled from there. I really didn’t think there was a doubt that we were going to lose that game.”
Shaw, who is both a right-handed pitcher and a middle infielder, was a key player in the first game of the doubleheader. The first year from Richardson, Texas was outstanding in the game, going 3–5 and driving three runs in. Fellow two-way players Alec Atkinson ’24 and Jimmy Chatfield ’24 were also phenomenal at the plate. Atkinson blazed through the game by going 4–5 with three doubles, while Chatfield had two hits in the match-up and started the sixth-inning scoring spree.
Though the Huskies tied things shortly after the Bulldogs’ outstanding offensive performance, the Elis remained explosive as the game extended to ten innings. Middle infielder Tommy Martin ’25 tripled home Chatfield for the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, but Washington retaliated with a game-tying homer in the bottom of the inning. The Bulldogs proved their mettle in extras as Shaw doubled and scored a run in the tenth inning. The Yale relievers were also reliable, with right-handed Mark Capell ’25 pitching a perfect tenth and earning his second win of the season.
The Huskies washed away the bitter loss with a dominant 7–0 win against Yale a few hours later. The Eli line-up only managed four hits and was unable to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities, such as a bases loaded situation at the top of the fifth. The Bulldogs’ offensive inconsistency was a recurring theme in the series. There was the need, as LaPlante said, for the team to “have tougher at-bats, top to bottom.”
“We were just kind of chasing pitches out of the zone, losing focus and not sticking to our approach that we went into the game with,” Shaw said. “Learning from [Game Three], we just need to come out with a plan more … [to] be able to adjust between innings and at-bats, and really communicate with each other on what we’re seeing and what we should be looking out for out there.”
Yale ended the series on a high note with a 1–0 shutout victory of its own against the Huskies. The promise of the Bulldogs’ pitching staff was on full display, especially with good performances from younger players. Southpaw starter Clark Klitenic had a strong outing, pitching a little more than two innings while giving up no runs and striking out three. Catcher Max Imhoff ’25 drove in the only run of the game, and relievers Mick Kelley ’25, Reid Easterly ’24 and Capell wrapped things up cleanly.
“Any time when you are able to be part of a collective effort like that, you just feel grateful for the guys behind you,” Klitenic said. “I felt so confident coming out of that game knowing that the back end of our bullpen would take care of that … Our whole staff did a really, really excellent job through the game and it was just really exciting to be part of something like that.”
This was Klitenic’s first career start at Yale after transferring from Duke. When recalling the moment, he expressed his excitement to contribute to the team and a desire to continuously improve his performance. Though he stated that the intense crowd presence at the game “almost caught [him] off guard,” he was able to channel the energy at Husky Ballpark into an “elevated sense of focus.”
The Bulldogs will now turn their attention to this week’s one-game match-ups against Long Island University and Fordham. Originally, the Elis were meant to travel south this weekend for a battle in the Bronx against the two teams, but the games were moved earlier into the week due to projected inclement weather in New York. The Bulldogs will now host LIU on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and travel to New York City to play Fordham on Friday at 4 p.m. The match-up against LIU will be the first official game played at Bush Field since the home of Yale baseball was renamed in April 2021.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” LaPlante told the News. “I’m looking forward to being able to step out on our field again for the first time for an actual game [in a full regular season] since [we faced off] against Princeton in 2019. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Yale’s first homestand of the season was originally scheduled to take place in a week with a match-up against Marist College on Tuesday, March 15.