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Larsson-Danforth’s Game One Walk-Off Fuels Yale Sweep of Cornell

Trygg Larsson-Danforth. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Trygg Larsson-Danforth. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale baseball team fell behind 2-0 in both ends of a doubleheader against Cornell on Saturday afternoon at Yale Field in New Haven. The Bulldogs, however, proved to be down but not out as they rallied in both contests to sweep the visiting Big Red by scores of 4-3 and 7-5. Senior first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth hit a walk-off home run to give Yale the win in the seven-inning first game, and junior second baseman Gant Elmore had the go-ahead, two-run double in the nightcap as a part of a four-hit day.

With the sweep, the Bulldogs rebound from a winless opening Ivy League weekend to move to 2-4 in the Ancient Eight and 14-11-1 overall. Cornell drops to 2-4 in league play and 6-12 overall.

“Coming off of a nightmare of a weekend, I’m very proud of the way we competed all day,” said John Stuper, Yale’s Mazzuto Family Head Coach for Baseball.

Elmore was 4-for-8 on the day, while Larsson-Danforth and sophomore catcher Ryan Brenner each pounded out three hits. Junior outfielder Andrew Moore drove in three runs in the doubleheader, and five different Bulldogs scored two runs apiece.

On the mound, sophomore right-hander Pat Ludwig started game one and did not factor into the decision. Senior right-hander Robert Gruber (2-0) recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning and got the win. Junior southpaw Vinny Lally (5-1) started and got the win in the nightcap with sophomore right-hander Greg Lyons tossing the last 2.1 innings to earn his second save of the season.

In game one, Cornell used a pair of two-out hits to start the scoring in the first inning. After Ludwig set down the first two hitters, Mickey Brodsky singled through the right side and came around to score as Frank Hager tripled over the head of Andy Megee in centerfield. Big Red would another run in the next frame as Kyle Groth homered to right field to put the visitors on top, 2-0.

Yale was held to just one single through the first three innings by Cornell starter Corey Pappel, but the Bulldogs’ offense finally got to the junior right-hander in the fourth. Megee led off the inning with a single to right field, and Brenner followed two batters later with a base hit to left. After sophomore designated hitter Charlie Neil was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Moore singled through the right side to score both Megee and Brenner and tie the game at 2-2. The Elis would then claim their first lead of the afternoon as Pappel balked to allow Neil to trot home with the go-ahead run.

The 3-2 lead would be short-lived, however, as Brenton Peters doubled with one out in the next half-inning to put himself in scoring position. After Peters moved 90 away from scoring on a passed ball, a groundout from Brian Billigen allowed the unearned tally to cross home and knot the game at 3-3.

The visitors looked poised to reclaim the lead in the top of the sixth inning, as Brodsky doubled to lead off, and Hager reached on an uncharacteristic error by Larsson-Danforth to put runners on the corners with none out. An attempted sacrifice bunt turned into a spectacular defensive play, however, as Ludwig fielded to cut down the batter, Brandon Lee, and Larsson-Danforth then fired home to cut down Brodsky and complete a 1-3-2 double play. After Cornell Head Coach Bill Walkenbach was ejected for arguing the call, Ludwig got the final out of the inning to strand Hager in scoring position.

Ludwig and Pappel both took scoreless seventh innings to bring the game to an extra frame, and Cornell threatened to take the lead in its turn at-bat. Brodsky once again doubled, this one of the ground-rule variety, to put himself on second base with one out in the inning. Stuper went to his bullpen and brought on Gruber, who pitched out of the jam with a strikeout of Hager and a harmless pop-up to shortstop that quelled the threat.

Cornell went to its bullpen as well in the eighth inning, bringing in right-hander Taylor Wood to replace Pappel. Wood got the first out of the inning, but the next batter was Larsson-Danforth, who crushed his seventh home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 victory.

The walk-off blast was the second in the career of Larsson-Danforth, who hit a two-run shot to nearly the same spot in Yale’s 7-6 win over Penn last season.

“I’m just glad he’s on our side,” said Stuper of his 6’6” left-handed slugger.

Ludwig went 7.1 innings, matching the longest outing for a Yale starter this season, and did not factor into the decision. The sophomore right-hander scattered eight hits and two earned runs his time on the hill, striking out five batters without issuing a walk. Gruber retired the only two batters he faced in relief, throwing just seven pitches to earn his second win in as many appearances.

“Pat looked very good today, and Gruber continues to be one of our most reliable arms in the bullpen,” said Stuper.

Pappel allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings of work for Cornell. He struck out six batters with one walk, two hit batsmen and a balk that allowed a run to score. Wood (1-3) gave up one run and one hit in one-third of an inning.

Big Red once again wasted no time getting on the board in the nightcap. Brodsky started the rally again with a two-out single, and Hager followed with a double to put Cornell on top, 1-0, as Lally struck out the side in the first.

A lead-off walk in the second inning turned into another Cornell run, as the base-on-balls followed by a fielder’s choice and a bunt single put Conor McCabe on third base with one out in the inning. Billigen then tabbed his second RBI of the afternoon without the benefit of a hit, skying a sacrifice fly to left that allowed McCabe to come home and run the score to 2-0.

With Lally maintaining the two-run deficit, the Elis finally got on the board in the fifth inning of the second game. Sophomore shortstop Matt Schmidt singled with one out to get things going, and then stole second and advanced to third base on a throwing error. After a four-pitch walk to Megee, Larsson-Danforth singled to left field to score Schmidt with Yale’s first run of the game. An unearned tally then served as the equalizer, with shortstop Marshall Yanzick dropping a pop-up that let Megee score to tie the game at 2-2.

Cornell got back on top in the next half-inning as Brian Billigen belted a two-out shot to centerfield that landed in the perfect spot for the Cornell right fielder. Billigen dashed all the way around the bases, touching home plate with Brenner applying the tag just a second too late.

Walkenbach went to his bullpen for the next half-inning, moving Brodsky from first base to the mound for the bottom of the sixth. Yale would put together a two-out rally against the left-hander, however, started when sophomore outfielder Zach Tobolowsky was hit by a pitch. Schmidt then walked to move Tobolowsky to second, and Elmore followed with a two-run double down the right field line that put the Bulldogs on top for good at 4-3.

Big Red would threaten in the top of the seventh inning, as Lee reached on a dropped pop-up by Elmore, which would have been the third out, and moved to third base on a single by Nate David. That base-hit closed the book on Lally, but Lyons did his job in relief by inducing a McCabe groundout to end the inning.

“Greg got a big out and gave us chance to pull away,” said Stuper.

Pulling away is exactly what the Elis did, as a trio of insurance runs went on the board in Yale’s half of the seventh frame.  Larsson-Danforth walked, Brenner singled and Neil dropped down a bunt on an unsuspecting Cornell infield to load the bases with none out. The Bulldogs then added their three tallies without the benefit of a hit, as two Brodsky wild pitches and a Moore sacrifice fly cleared the bases and gave Yale a more comfortable 7-3 advantage.

Cornell managed a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning, but Lyons got McCabe to pop-up to end the game with the Bulldogs taking a 7-5 win to complete the Ivy League sweep.

Lally earned his league-best fifth win after allowing eight hits and three earned runs over 6.2 innings. He struck out six batters and walked four.

“Vinny still needs to work on throwing strikes and keeping his pitch-count down,” said Stuper, “But he battled like he always does and got outs when we needed them.”

Lyons allowed three hits and two earned runs to notch his second save. He struck out one and walked one in a 2.1 inning relief appearance.

Tony Bertucci started for Cornell, allowing one earned run and six hits in five innings. Brodsky falls to 0-1 on the season after allowing five earned runs in 2.0 innings out of the bullpen. He walked two batters, hit two and threw two wild pitches.

The Bulldogs will aim for a .500 Ivy League record tomorrow, as Princeton visits Yale Field for a noon twinbill. The Tigers, who were swept at Brown to fall to 7-18 overall and 2-4 in the Ancient Eight, are scheduled to face Yale southpaws Brook Hart and Christopher O’Hare.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity

Video by David Dikranian: