WEST HAVEN, Conn. - As the winter freeze begins to thaw at Historic Yale Field, anticipation is building for the upcoming Yale Baseball season. Bulldog players and coaches have high expectations that this will be "their year". Looking forward, it's hard not to agree with them.
Last season Yale finished at an even 10-10 in the Ivy League, finishing behind a 15-5 Dartmouth in the Red Rolfe Division. The Elis will attempt to close that gap this year with a strong returning core group of players.
It comes as no surprise that pitching will be the top strength of the Yale squad. Losing no arms from last year, the Bulldogs have perhaps the deepest staff in the league. Senior David Hickey dazzled on the mound last year in the Ivy League, striking out 30 and walking only 2 in over 28 innings, surrendering 0 earned runs in the process (a league best). Senior Rob Cerfolio capped off a solid Ivy League season with a 2.97 ERA, and earned a professional draft pick in the process. He was picked in the 34th round of the MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but decided instead to return to Yale for his final season. Finally, freshman Chasen Ford looks to make an immediate impact on the hill as well. Ford, a Southern California native, was projected by Baseball America as the Ivy League Freshman of the Year.
In terms of defense, this year's Yale team is the most flexible in a long time. Getting senior Cale Hanson back on the field after injury will be huge for the infield. Head coach John Stuper says Hanson "could end up being the best defensive shortstop in the Northeast." His return adds to a fluid mix of convertible infield types; Hanson, sophomores Tom O'Neill and Brent Lawson, junior David Toups, and freshman Richard Slenker can all play multiple positions in the infield. The outfield will be anchored by the athletic junior Green Campbell in centerfield. The biggest question defensively will be catcher, where the graduated Chris Piwinski '13 leaves an open spot. Junior Robert Baldwin and freshman Andrew Herrera both look to get time behind the dish as a result.
Offensively, the club will look to boost production from years past, led by its seniors. Senior first basemen Jacob Hunter, who Stuper suggests could be "the best hitter in our league", looks to follow a monster year with a slash line of .319/.378/.361. Hanson projects well also, with healthy 2012 numbers that led the team in batting average (.340) and on-base percentage (.412). Additionally, Lawson hopes to continue his Ivy League domination, last year batting .361 in conference.
From pitching, to defense, to offense, the Yale team is primed to improve across the board. Led by strong leadership from its senior class – who Stuper calls "the hardest working senior class I've had" – this team is ready to compete and be a major factor in the Ivy League. Deeper and more experienced than ever, they are capable and hopeful of playing in May.
The Bulldogs open the season Friday at Louisiana State University.
Report by Skylar Shibayama '16, Yale Sports Publicity