Lally Nears Perfection; Bulldogs Split Ivy League Opener at Princeton

March 28, 2009

Game 1 Box Score
Game 2 Box Score

PRINCETON, N.J. - Three of the Yale baseball team's four victories in the early stages of the 2009 season came on the back of a solid performance by the Bulldogs' starting pitcher. On Saturday afternoon, in the Elis' Ivy League opening 6-0 win at Princeton, sophomore left-hander Vinny Lally continued that trend with the best pitching performance by a Yale starter to date. The southpaw set down the first 19 Tigers he faced in order, falling just two outs shy of a perfect game in the seven inning affair, en route to tossing a nine strikeout, complete game shutout. Princeton salvaged a split of the twin bill with a 9-3 victory in the nine inning second game.

"Vinny's performance was one of the best I have seen in my time at Yale," said John Stuper, the Mazzuto Family Head Coach for Baseball. "He was ahead of virtually every hitter and threw all his off speed stuff for strikes. He was just outstanding."

Yale now sits at 5-8 overall and 1-1 in Ivy League play. The Tigers moved to 8-7 on the season with a 1-1 mark in the Ancient Eight.

Offensively, sophomore third baseman Andy Megee led the Bulldogs with a 6-for-8 showing in the double-dip, including a 4-for-4, five RBI performance in the game one victory.

The Bulldogs started the scoring off early in game one. Senior center fielder Stefan Schropp drew a one-out walk to start the offense in the top of the first inning, and Megee followed with his third triple of the season to plate the Yale captain with the game's first run. Junior right-hander David Hale, who went the distance for Princeton, struck out the next two batters to prevent further damage and keep the score at 1-0 in favor of the Elis.

While Lally cruised through the first two innings, the Bulldogs got on the board again in the top of the third frame. Again it was Schropp getting on base to set the table, this time via a two-out single, and Megee bringing him around to score with an extra-base hit.

Yale benefited from another two-out rally in the fifth frame, started off by a single off of the bat of sophomore second baseman Gant Elmore. After Schropp drew a walk to extend the inning, Megee cashed in once again, slapping a single that plated Elmore and gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

With Lally just three outs away from perfection, thanks in part by a diving stop by freshman shortstop Matt Schmidt in the fifth inning, the Bulldogs posted a trio of insurance runs for their starter in the top of the seventh inning. Schmidt roped a one-out double to get things started, and Schropp drew his third walk of the contest two batters later. With two runners one, Megee came through once again, smacking a double to right center field to clear the bases and record his fourth and fifth RBI of the game. The next batter, junior first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth, singled to push Megee across the plate and give the Bulldogs a commanding 6-0 lead.

Lally retired the first batter of the seventh inning, but senior Dan DeGeorge came through with a one-out double to break up the perfect game. DeGeorge would be the only Tiger to reach base in the contest, however, as Lally maintained his composure and retired the next two hitters to close out the one-hit shutout and improve to 2-1 on the season.

Hale allowed nine hits and six runs for the Tigers to fall to 1-1. He matched Lally's nine strikeouts and walked three Bulldogs in a complete game performance.

In the night cap, Yale once again jumped out to an early lead with runs in the second and third innings. Freshman left fielder Charlie Neil led off the second frame with a single and promptly moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior designated hitter Chris Sweeney. Neil then took third and home on consecutive wild pitches by Princeton starter Brad Gemberling.

In the third inning, Matt Schmidt led off with a double and took third on a throwing error that allowed Gant Elmore to reach safely. Stefan Schropp then grounded into a double play that allowed the freshman shortstop to come home with the Bulldogs' second run.

While Yale starter Joe Castaldi put together a solid start in his own right, allowing three hits and no runs through the first five innings, the Elis extended their lead to 3-0 in the top of the sixth inning courtesy of a solo home run by Sweeney.

The Tigers got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning, as a bunt single and a double chased Castaldi from the contest with one out in the frame. Junior Robert Gruber came out of the bullpen for Yale, and promptly surrendered an infield single that allowed the first Princeton run of the afternoon. The Tigers would another run in the frame on another infield hit before Gruber retired the side with the score now 3-2 in favor of the Bulldogs.

Princeton would take the lead and put the game away in the bottom of the eighth inning. Greg Van Horn led off with a single and took second on an error. He then scored on a Jack Murphy single that tied the game. Brian Berkowitz, the Tigers' leading run producer, cashed in on the RBI opportunity with a double that gave Princeton a 5-3 advantage that they would not relinquish. The home team would add four unearned runs in the inning to push the score to its eventual final of 9-3.

Gruber allowed five hits and two earned runs to take the loss and fall to 1-2. Gemberling went the distance for the Tigers, as he settled down to allow just one hit in the final three innings. In total, he scattered seven hits and allowed three earned runs to improve to 3-0.

"You have to give Princeton credit," said Stuper. "They never quit."

Tomorrow's doubleheader at Cornell has been postponed due to the threat of inclement weather in Ithaca, N.Y. Details regarding the make-up date will be announced on yalebulldogs.com as soon as they are made available.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity