BASEBALL: Halfway into season, Bulldogs look to regain their spark against Brown
Having lost two consecutive conference series, the Bulldogs hope to recover their form this weekend as they host Brown for a three-game series.
After losing two consecutive conference series, the Yale baseball team (14–10, 5–4 Ivy) will look to return to its winning ways this weekend as they host Brown (7–17, 2–7) for a three-game match-up. Currently ranked fourth in the Ivy League standings, the Bulldogs look to rise through the ranks in pursuit of a postseason berth.
With momentum after a successful spring break stretch, the Bulldogs had a strong start to the season. Yale swept Princeton and dominated the weekly Ivy awards after stellar individual performances from star players. However, after losing four out of their last six games against Cornell (7–15, 3–6) and Dartmouth (13–13, 5–4), the Elis now sit behind Columbia, Penn and Harvard in the Ancient Eight rankings.
“Collectively, there is a bit of a back against the wall mentality, where we know we have to perform,” catcher Jake Gehri ’22 said about the team’s current state. “If we don’t, we’re not going to have a chance to play beyond [the Ivy League regular season]. With the way the postseason works, where only the top two teams make it, every series is important.”
The veteran characterized last week’s game against Dartmouth as “a disappointing loss” and called on the Bulldogs to keep their focus for the rest of the season, as “the next four series coming up are against arguably the top four teams in the Ivy League.” After this week’s match-up against Brown, Yale will have individual non-conference games against Quinnipiac and UConn, as well as multiple three-game series against Columbia, Penn and Harvard.
The last time the Bulldogs faced off against the Bears was in a three-game series in March 2019 that consisted of a match-up on Saturday and a Sunday doubleheader. Though the Bulldogs lost the finale in a closely-matched 7–8 contest, they clinched the series by winning the first two games in dominant fashion, crushing the Bears 15–3 and 11–3. Prior to that loss, the Elis had a seven-game winning streak against Brown.
Though the Bears have lost eight of their past 12 games and ended last week on a sour note after being swept by Columbia, they will head into the series against Yale in a better mood after a colossal 23–5 Tuesday win against their in-state rival, the University of Rhode Island. Brown sits at the bottom of the Ancient Eight rankings along with Princeton, but it is not a squad to be underestimated. The Bears’ pitching staff looks promising, as it has allowed both the fewest walks and the fewest home runs in the league.
However, Yale’s own hurlers are no less impressive. Though the team ERA is currently 5.96, the fourth best in the conference, the Blue and White ranks second in the league in earned runs and walks allowed, as well as second in batters struck out looking. Yale also ranks third in hits allowed and opposing batting average. Except for two pitchers, all members of the pitching staff have WHIPs of less than two, and two pitchers even have sub-one WHIPs.
The Bulldogs’ pitching staff has significant depth, with skilled pitchers from different classes. The team can count on a reliable bullpen, with two-way talents Jimmy Chatfield ’24 and Colton Shaw ’25, as well as starter Michael Walsh ’23, who has struck out 49 batters this season.
Yale’s ace, Grant Kipp ’22, has also been a key pillar of the staff. He was most recently recognized as the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week, after pitching a gem last Saturday against Dartmouth. The right-handed starter from Texas threw a complete game three-hitter and struck out seven batters.
“Obviously, it is an honor,” Kipp said about his recognition. “But I think in the past few weeks, I’ve been more focused on just the process of what I know will make me perform well. [I’ve been] focusing on my preparation and everything that I do before I pitch, just simplifying the game as much as I can and just trying to execute pitches. I’m more focused on pitching well, and then the awards and wins will come as a result of that.”
Overall, the Bulldogs are currently 9–8 away and 5–2 at home. However, they look to be formidable opponents to the Bears. On the offensive end, Yale has remained solid. The team has a .253 batting average, but the line-up has the ability to be even more explosive and has gone yard 23 times so far this season. Eight batters are currently hitting above .250, while four are hitting over .300. Gehri leads the team in home runs, while Chatfield leads the team in RBIs and has a .337 batting average.
The match-up against Brown will take place in George H.W. Bush ’48 Field, consisting of a Saturday doubleheader and a Sunday finale. The first pitch will be thrown on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
“It’s definitely nice to be on your home turf,” right-handed pitcher Carter Kessinger ’23 said about the upcoming series. “It’s nice to be with your own fans. Bush Field is where we have all of our practices, where we have our intrasquad [matches], and where I throw my bullpens. The whole familiarity is very helpful. It helps you just establish a good mental process from the get-go.”
The Bulldogs continue to dominate the league defensively as the top-ranked team in fielding percentage, properly handling batted or thrown balls 97.5 percent of the time.