Bulldogs Follow Tough Walk-Off Loss with Shutout Defeat
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Yale University baseball team braved temperatures in the mid-30s Sunday afternoon to squeeze in a doubleheader in an effort to beat the snow that was forecast for Sunday night through Monday. Unfortunately the Bulldogs had trouble raising the heat of their bats in the cold weather, leading to another doubleheader sweep.
Virginia Tech stole the opening game of Sunday's doubleheader with one swing of the bat, a walk-off home run by Andrew Rash in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Hokies a 6-5 victory. In the second game, two pitchers combined to toss a five-hit shutout in a 17-0 victory to complete the sweep at English Field.
The Hokies improved to 11-2 with the four-game weekend sweep of the Bulldogs, who fall to 0-4 to open their season.
"When I agreed to play this series, I knew it would be a big challenge. If you make a mistake against a very good team like Virginia Tech, they make you pay," Yale head coach John Stuper said. "We are a very young team and there is going to be a learning curve. We had some good moments this weekend, and we will build on that. I am very confident that we will play much better moving forward."
It turns out that the opening game of Sunday's doubleheader was the most promising one of the entire weekend for the Bulldogs and perhaps showed the level of play that the Bulldogs could reach moving forward, especially once the Ivy League season begins.
One thing is certain, Virginia Tech saw how much resolve Yale had in the tank. Mark Zagunis' solo home run in the bottom of the first inning gave the Hokies a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, Yale bounced right back with back-to-back two-out doubles by Kevin Fortunato and Cale Hanson, allowing Fortunato to score the tying run.
The Hokies reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Zagunis' one-out double drove in Brendon Hayden for a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the sixth, Yale bounced back once again, this time scoring a pair of runs on a two-run home run by Fortunato that gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead. The lead was short-lived as the Hokies tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Chad Morgan's RBI sac fly that allowed T. Horan to score the tying run.
The Hokies appeared to take control of the game with a two-run seventh inning. Horan's two-run single with two outs put Virginia Tech on top 5-3.
The Bulldogs were not down for the count, however. In typical Yale fashion, a big rally in the top of the ninth inning started with a little small ball when Charlie Neil and Cam Squires led off the inning with back-to-back singles and both advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by senior captain Ryan Brenner. Freshman David Toups followed with an RBI groundout to second base that scored Neil and allowed Squires to move to third base. Squires then scored on an RBI single from sophomore Jacob Hunter. The rally tied the game at 5-5.
It didn't take long for Virginia Tech to steal the momentum away from the Bulldogs. The first batter of the bottom of the ninth inning, Rash, belted a walk-off, game-winning home run to lift Virginia Tech to the 6-5 win.
Fortunato and Neil were both 2-for-4, with Fortunato driving in two runs and scoring two more. Neil, Josh Scharff and Squires each scored a run for the Bulldogs. Hanson went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Starting pitcher Pat Ludwig was brilliant on the mound, scattering seven hits, allowing three runs, just two earned runs, and striking out nine batters.
The outcome was much different in the final game of the four-game series. Virginia Tech pitchers Colin O'Keefe and Eddie Campbell combined to throw a five-hit shutout in the 17-0 win. O'Keefe started and gave up three hits in five innings, walking only one batter and striking out six. Campbell worked the final four innings of the game and gave up just two hits, striking out four Yale batters.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech bats produced 17 runs on 19 hits, including three doubles, three home runs and a triple.
Hanson went 2-for-4 to lead Yale. Fortunato, Neil and freshman Robert Baldwin each had a hit.
Regardless of the four-game sweep, Stuper saw encouraging signs from his players throughout the entire series.
"Charlie Neil, Josh Scharff, and Ryan Brenner had consistent at-bats," Stuper said. "Jake Hunter got a huge hit in the ninth to tie the first game. Kevin Fortunato hit a long home run to give us the lead. Cale Hanson is coming around. Pat Ludwig had the best stuff I have seen him have. He was outstanding."
The Bulldogs will now travel to Winter Haven, Fla., to participate in the RussMatt Invitational beginning Wednesday against Georgetown. Yale will play seven games in seven days in Florida, including two against the Hoyas, as well as games against Bowling Green, North Dakota State, Bradley, South Florida and Lafayette.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity