Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Although the Yale baseball team was due for a promising season in 2020, there is still a strong foundation for success in the near future, despite the lost year of competition due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The start of the 2020 season followed a major departure from the program. Associate head coach Tucker Frawley left the team in December for a position as the Assistant Field Coordinator and Coordinator of Skill Development for the Minnesota Twins. In his 12-year tenure with the Blue and White, Frawley transformed Yale’s team into one of the best defensive corps in the country, tying an NCAA record of .985 fielding percentage in 2018 and leading the nation in double plays per game for the past two years.

The Bulldogs soon hired Andrew Dickson, who arrived from Northwestern in January. Dickson is also a defensive specialist and has coached 10 all-conference infielders in his young career.

Yale’s squad also boasted a strong first-year class that is sure to contribute in the next couple of years. Headlining the young stars was Carson Swank ’23, who has already made an impact despite his short time in New Haven. Donning the Blue and White in 10 games, Swank accumulated four stolen bases and 13 RBIs, while boasting an impressive .341 batting average. 

On the mound, potential professional Michael Walsh ’23, whose fastball is in the low 90s, was a new and exciting addition to the rotation. Walsh had a slow start to his collegiate career, getting hit around in his first career start, but settled down afterwards and finished the season with two scoreless appearances.

Although the end came suddenly, the start of the season occurred earlier than usual for Yale.

“This is the earliest opener we’ve had in my 28 seasons, so we will have to be ready sooner than ever,” head coach John Stuper said. “Being able to get outside, as most of you know, is huge for us at this time of year. The guys have been getting after it, and my optimism runs high. We just lost an incredibly talented class that led us to the best record in the league over the past four years, but the current group is ready to ‘write their own story.’”

At the outset of the season, no one knew that this early start gave the Bulldogs a crucial set of games that would prove even more valuable when collegiate baseball was cut short by the COVID-19 crisis. Yale finished this year with a record of 3–7 when the season ended on March 11, 10 days before Ivy League play was set to begin and a week before the team’s first home game. 

At Jacksonville University, Michael Walsh ’23, left, hugs fellow pitcher Bobby Cecere ’20 after the final out of Yale’s season in March. (Photo: Yale Athletics)

The 2020 season was supposed to be a season of redemption and the swan song for an extremely successful graduating class. The seven seniors — Justin Ager ’20, Bobby Cecere ’20, Thomas Espig ’20, Dai Dai Otaka ’20, Brian Ronai ’20, Tyler Sapsford ’20 and captain Alex Stiegler ’20 — won Ivy League Championships in 2017 and 2018 and helped set a school record with 34 wins as first years after winning two games in the NCAA Tournament. Yale has not won a berth since.

“They were a really great class of seniors,” catcher Jake Gehri ’22 said. “They taught me to never take anything for granted and to play everyday like it could be your last — whether it’s practice or game three of the Ivy League championship.”

After an underwhelming 2019 season in which Yale failed to meet the lofty expectation of winning three Ivy League titles in a row, the Bulldogs were looking to defy the odds and reclaim their place at the top after losing a class of seniors that included four MLB draftees.

Despite being predicted to finish fourth in the division according to the 2020 Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, the Bulldogs were the third best squad in the Ancient Eight through ten games according to the NCAA’s Division I Rating Percentage Index, which standardizes a team’s record based on their strength of schedule. 

“I’m very aware how devastated the seniors must feel with the sudden end of their senior season,” Benny Wanger ’19, who missed most of his senior year at Yale with an injury but played last season as a graduate transfer at USC, said. “The thought of my baseball career ending on that note [hamstring injury] was sobering. Fortunately for me, it didn’t. However, I know that for the majority of the seven Yale baseball seniors this year, their competitive careers will be cut short by something completely out of their control.”

Yale’s first matchup of the 2020 season was a battle of the Bulldogs against The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.

Eugenio Garza Garcia |