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Season Preview: 2010 Bulldogs Are a More Experienced Breed

Eric Shultz (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Eric Shultz (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Fourteen freshmen and sophomores played significant roles on the Yale baseball team in 2009, and with those players now one year older, the Bulldogs have quickly grown from the youngest team in the Ivy League to one of the most experienced. The Elis return 21 letterwinners to the diamond in 2010 as Mazzuto Family Head Coach John Stuper, now in his 18th season in Yale dugout, leads the Bulldogs in the hunt for the program’s third Ivy League Championship.

There will be no “learning curve” around the horn for Yale, as the Bulldogs entire starting infield returns for another year, led by First Team All-Ivy first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth. The 6’6 lefty had a breakout season in 2009, hitting .344 with seven home runs and 37 RBI in 36 games en route to earning the G.H. Walker, Jr. Award as Yale’s most valuable player. Larsson-Danforth, now a senior, also swiped five bases and made just three errors in 270 chances at first base.

Junior second baseman Gant Elmore made tremendous strides at the plate last season, improving his batting average from a .264 clip as a freshman to a solid .294. Elmore also raised his on-base percentage by nearly 80 points (to .408) and, batting primarily out of the two-hole in the Bulldogs’ lineup, led the team with seven sacrifices.

For the third consecutive season, junior Andy Megee will occupy the hot corner at Yale Field. Megee, who started 36 games for the Bulldogs last season, led Yale in hits (47), doubles (11), triples (4) and stolen bases (9) while raising his batting average from .265 as a freshman to .329 in his sophomore campaign. Megee also made seven appearances on the mound, including four starts, and will work out of the Yale bullpen again in 2010. The native of Los Angeles received the 2009 Paul Sortal Award, which goes to the Yale player who maximizes his ability to the fullest.

Shortstop Matt Schmidt made an instant impact with his glove last season, and posted a strong finish to 2009 at the plate as well. After early struggles as a freshman, Schmidt hit .294 in the month of April and finished second on the team with nine doubles. The defensive dynamo was also a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts.

Despite a lingering injury throughout 2009, sophomore Ryan Brenner appeared behind the plate in 17 games and looks to take over full-time catching duties this season. Brenner had one home run and seven RBI in 57 at-bats last year. Junior Harry Koulos and freshman Chris Piwinski, both outfielders, also have experience at catcher and could spell Brenner as a part of the Yale battery.

New to mix in the Bulldogs’ infield are freshman first baseman Josh Scharff and junior utility player Trey Rallis. Scharff, a power-hitting lefthander, and Rallis could also see time in the outfield or at designated hitter.

The outfield has a big gap to fill, left by graduated 2009 team captain and centerfielder Stefan Schropp ‘09, but several Elis are ready for the challenge. Sophomore Charlie Neil was a mainstay in left field for the Bulldogs last season, driving in 13 runs as the team’s only switch-hitter and making 33 appearances in the outfield. Juniors Andrew Kolmar and Andrew Moore, as well as sophomore Zach Tobolowsky, split the majority of the innings in right field last season. Kolmar smacked four home runs and piled up 12 RBI, while Moore had a number of timely hits, including the go-ahead home run in a 4-1 win over eventual Ivy League Champion Dartmouth. Tobolowsky hit .320 in his freshman season, swatting five home runs with 18 RBI. He was the co-recipient, with closer Eric Shultz, of the David M. Darst Hustle Cup, presented annually to Yale’s rookie of the year.

Harry Koulos, Chris Piwinski, senior defensive specialist Stephen Miehls and freshman speedster Cam Squires will also log innings in the Elis’ outfield.

With the Seattle Mariners organization currently benefiting from the services of Brandon Josselyn ’09, the reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, Yale will have a number of arms vying for the spot at the top of Stuper’s rotation. The Bulldogs’ top returning hurler is junior Vinny Lally, who went 3-3 in his first season as a starter in 2009. The southpaw made nine starts and ranked behind only Josselyn with 33 strikeouts.

Pat Ludwig and Greg Lyons, both sophomore right-handers, worked primarily out of the bullpen in 2009 but turned in solid starts at the end of the season. Ludwig was effective in a pair of no-decisions as a starter and also tossed three innings of one-run relief to earn a win in his last appearance of the season against Brown. Lyons made one start, coming away with a no-decision despite holding Hartford to two earned runs over 5.2 innings and leaving with a 5-2 lead. Ludwig is projected to be in the starting rotation, while Lyons will continue to work as a long reliever and midweek starter.

Two newcomers are slated to join the Yale starting rotation immediately: junior Brook Hart and freshman Christopher O’Hare. Both big southpaws have been impressive in the preseason and are expected to make their debuts on the hill during the opening weekend of play.

Senior captain Joe Castaldi is among the more experienced pitchers on the Yale staff. Despite a deceptive 0-5 record in 2009, the right-hander was one of the Bulldogs' most effective hurlers, allowing three earned runs or fewer in eight of his 12 appearances and exiting with a lead on three occasions. Right-handers Andy Megee, the Bulldogs’ regular third baseman, and senior Chris Finneran have also had success as members of the Elis’ rotation in their careers.

Right-handed relief pitchers Will Stratton and Robert Gruber, as well left-handed specialist Alex Young, will all have the opportunity to log innings out of the bullpen. Senior right-hander Matthew Smith, who missed all of 2009 due to injury, also re-enters the fold for his final season in New Haven. Freshman righty Avery Lanman, whose sidearm delivery proved effective in fooling hitters throughout his high school career and at Stuper’s World Class Baseball Camp, should also be an immediate contributor to the middle innings.

The ninth inning will once again belong to sophomore Eric Shultz, who converted all three of his save chances in 2009. Shultz finished his freshman season with a 2.84 ERA. The 6’4 right-hander from Beverly Hills has proven himself as more than just a one-inning closer, as his rookie campaign was highlighted by hurling 4.1 innings of hitless relief to earn the win in an 11-inning contest against Fairfield. Shultz shared the 2009 David M. Durst Hustle Cup as Yale’s rookie of the year with Zach Tobolowsky.

The 2010 campaign begins this weekend at Maryland-Baltimore County with a 1 p.m. doubleheader against the Retrievers on March 7 and a single game at noon on March 8. A run of eight contests at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational commences the next day and continues through March 16. The Bulldogs’ return to the Nutmeg State starts with a pair of doubleheaders at Hartford on March 19-20 and a March 24 game at Connecticut prior to 2010 Opening Day at Yale Field, which will feature a doubleheader against the New York Institute of Technology on March 27.

2010 Roster
2010 Schedule
2009 Final Statistics (PDF)
2009 Results

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity