April 1, 2011

Yale Begins Ivy League Play At Cornell, Princeton This Weekend

Bulldogs Riding Five-Game Winning Streak Heading Into Gehrig-Rolfe Crossover Slate


 

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University baseball team has won the Ivy League championship only twice, and last won it in 1994, but the Bulldogs are confident that they can contend for the Red Rolfe Division crown when they begin Ivy League play this weekend.

The Bulldogs begin Ivy League play with a pair of doubleheaders at Cornell on Saturday and at Princeton on Sunday. Both doubleheaders are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.

Ivy League action begins Saturday for all eight teams, all of which will play a pair of doubleheaders this weekend against cross-division opponents. The Ivy schedule consists of two games each against non-division opponents and four games against inter-division teams.

Yale finished in fourth place in the Red Rolfe Division in 2010 with an 8-12 record, two games behind Harvard and Brown for second place (both finished 10-10) and five games behind Dartmouth, the 2010 Ivy League champion.

However, with six wins in the nine games since returning from Florida, including their current five-game winning streak, the Bulldogs are playing with a confidence that has them believing this year's Ivy League season will be different.

Yale has eight players who are hitting at or better than .300, led by Cam Squires, who is hitting .391 in his 11 games with a .522 slugging percentage and a .462 on-base percentage. 

Josh Scharff is hitting .367 in 12 games, while leading the team in slugging (.633) and on-base percentage (.486). Senior captain Andy Megee leads the team in hits (25), doubles (6), RBIs (15), home runs (2), total bases (37) and stolen bases (6).

Overall, Yale is third among Ivy League teams in hitting with an average of .284.

Of the 13 Yale players who have earned more than 10 at-bats this season, 11 hitters have an on-base percentage of .320 or better and seven have an on-base percentage of .400 or better. Of those 13, three have a slugging percentage of .500 or better and seven are slugging higher than .425.

The Bulldogs' defense is nearly as impressive. Of the eight Ivy League teams, the Bulldogs are second with a fielding percentage of .967, just behind Dartmouth (.969).

Yale's pitching staff has been just as dominant. The Bulldogs' hurlers are leading the Ivy League in strikeouts, with a total of 141. Only Yale and Penn (136) have strikeout totals higher than 125. The Bulldogs' pitchers are holding opposing hitters to a .274 batting average, which is the third lowest in the Ivy League.

Senior starter Vinny Lally (2-0) leads Yale with 36 strikeouts, while junior Brook Hart (2-1) is second in strikeouts (22) and earned-run average (1.07). Out of the bullpen, freshman Cale Hanson, who has been Yale's primary center fielder, is off to an impressive start to his Yale career. He is 1-1 and has an ERA of 0.00 in four relief appearances while holding hitters to a .167 batting average, the lowest on the pitching staff. His only loss came in Yale's 17-inning loss to Central Connecticut off of an unearned run in the final inning. Closer Eric Shultz is 2-0 with two saves in nine appearances, which include one start. He has an ERA of 2.66 with 13 strikeouts.

However, as impressive as they are, all of these statistics were recorded in non-league games. The games that count begin Saturday at Cornell.

Yale is scheduled to send Lally and junior Pat Ludwig to the mound against Cornell and Hart and Christopher O'Hare against Princeton. 

While Yale is in the midst of a five-game winning streak, Cornell is 2-14 overall with losses in nine of its last 10 games. All but the last game against LeMoyne College have come on the road. Saturday's doubleheader is only the second scheduled home date for the Big Red.

The Big Red offense is led by Mickey Brodsky, who leads the team in hitting with a .348 batting average, while Frank Hager has a team-best 11 runs scored. Brian Billigen has driven in a team-best nine runs to go along with three home runs.

Jadd Schmeltzer leads the Big Red pitching staff with a 2.59 earned-run average in 24.1 innings of work, striking out 16 with nine walks to go with a 1-2 record. Corey Pappel has a 6.31 ERA and an 0-5 record in 25.2 innings, striking out a team-best 19 but also allowing 15 walks.

Live stats and live streaming video from both games can be found at CornellBigRed.com.

Princeton, Yale's opponent on Sunday, enters the weekend following two consecutive wins. The Tigers are 5-13 overall, but lost six in a row prior to wins over Navy and Seton Hall last week.

Mike Ford will start the opening game on Sunday, while the Game 2 starter will not be determined until Sunday. Ford is 0-3 so far with a 9.15 ERA.

The teams have split their last three doubleheaders and five of the last seven. The only two times in that span that weren't splits were Princeton sweeps in 2007 and 2005. Last year Princeton won the opener at Yale 8-7 and fell in the nightcap 7-6.

Alec Keller leads the Tigers with a .302 batting average, while Sam Mulroy is leading the team in RBIs (14), home runs (3) total bases (33), and slugging (.508).

The live stats link can be found at GoPrincetonTigers.com.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity

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