Leading 11-0 After 6 Innings, Bulldogs Avoid Late Collapse to Escape with 11-9 win
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — The Yale University baseball team appeared to have its second consecutive victory well in hand, but a late rally by Bowling Green nearly cost the Bulldogs that win. Yale sophomore closer Kevin Fortunato took matters into his own hands and made sure that the Falcons' rally fell just short at the very end.
Leading 11-0 after six innings, Yale saw that big cushion nearly slip away after Bowling Green rallied with three runs in each of the last three innings, but Fortunato cut the rally short when he stepped to the mound with two outs and the tying run at the plate and struck out the only batter he faced to preserve an 11-9 win for Yale at the RussMatt Invitational at Chain O'Lakes Park.
Yale (2-4) scored two runs in the second inning, four more in the third, and capped its offensive output with a five-run sixth inning to take an 11-0 lead, but the rally by Bowling Green (3-9) nearly spoiled Yale's big night. Fortunato, who spent the first 8⅔ innings of the game at first base, was called in to close a game for the second consecutive night and he did not disappoint. Bowling Green right fielder Brandon Howard had already collected four hits when he stepped to the plate representing the tying run, but he could not find that same success against Fortunato, striking out with a runner on second to end the game.
Fortunato earned his second save of the season. Junior pitcher Christopher O'Hare (1-1) started the game and worked six scoreless innings, striking out six Falcons while allowing only five hits to earn his first victory of the season.
Fortunato proved to be Bowling Green's worst nightmare in more ways than one. He also went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored. Junior designated hitter Josh Scharff went 2-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored. Senior right fielder Charlie Neil went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs. Freshman second baseman David Toups went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Despite an 0-for-4 afternoon, senior captain Ryan Brenner also scored two runs.
The Bulldogs struck first in the second inning when Neil drove in Fortunato and sophomore Cale Hanson with his two-run triple. In the third inning, the Yale bats produced just one hit, but three Bowling Green errors allowed the Bulldogs to score four runs in the inning to increase their lead to 6-0. Fortunato's single was the only hit in the third, but Toups and Brenner scored on one throwing error and Scharff and freshman Joe Lubanski scored on another throwing error to account for Yale's four-run inning.
The big inning for the Bulldogs turned out to be the sixth, and this time they did all the work themselves. Five runs scored thanks to five Yale hits. Toups started the rally with his two-run single, scoring Brenner and junior third baseman Chris Piwinski. Scharff and Fortunato followed with back-to-back doubles, with Scharff driving in Toups and Brenner with his double and then scoring on Fortunato's double.
With Yale leading 11-0 and the game seemingly in hand, it was a perfect time to give the remainder of the work on the mound to the bullpen. However, the four relievers between O'Hare and Fortunato ended up working a little harder than expected.
Freshman Green Campbell started the seventh inning and could only get two outs before allowing three runs on two hits. Senior Greg Lyons took over and retired the only batter he faced to get the final out of the inning.
Sophomore Michael Coleman pitched the eighth inning and allowed four hits and three runs, but two of the runs that he allowed were unearned after an error by Hanson at shortstop negated a potential double play. Instead, Bowling Green followed with three singles in the next four at-bats, resulting in two runs, and scored the run of the inning on a fielder's choice to cut the deficit to 11-6.
The Falcons were not done yet. In the ninth, senior reliever Eric Shultz started the inning and gave up three runs on four hits, including a two-run double with two outs by Jake Thomas that cut Yale's lead to 11-9 and forced Fortunato to come to the mound to get the final out.
The Bulldogs return to Chain O'Lakes Park Friday to meet Georgetown for the second time in three days at the RussMatt Invitational.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity