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Bulldogs Rally to Split Ivy League Twinbill

Brook Hart. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Brook Hart. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The members of the Yale baseball team are no strangers to playing from behind. One day after taking two games from Cornell, one in extra innings and one that they trailed entering the bottom of the sixth, the Bulldogs nearly came back from a 7-0 deficit in game one on Sunday against Princeton, then completed a come-from-behind victory with a 6-5 win in the nightcap. The Elis, who also came back from a 10-1 deficit to win on the road earlier this season, were led offensively by three doubles and two RBI from senior Trygg Larsson-Danforth. The Yale bullpen worked 11.0 strong innings in the double-dip, allowing just two earned runs as senior right-hander Robert Gruber got the relief win and junior left-hander Brook Hart notched the save in game two.

Yale now stands at 15-12-1 overall and 3-5 in the Ivy League. Gehrig Division foe Princeton is now 8-19 overall and 3-5 against Ancient Eight competition.

“I hate to keep saying that we battled, but that’s exactly what we did all day long,” said John Stuper, the Mazzuto Family Head Coach for Baseball at Yale.

Larsson-Danforth was 4-for-8 on the afternoon, while junior second baseman Gant Elmore added three hits to move his season batting average to an impressive .405. Junior infielders Trey Rallis and Andy Megee each added two RBI for the Bulldogs, and three Elis scored two runs in the twinbill.

Brook Hart was actually Yale’s game one starter, though he lasted just 1+ innings as Princeton grabbed a quick 7-0 lead.  Tigers’ leadoff hitter Matt Bowman beat out a dribbler to first base to start the game and promptly stole second. Noel Gonzales-Luna was then hit by a pitch, and Sam Mulroy followed with a single that plated Bowman. The one particularly hard-hit ball in the inning then came off the bat of Jon Broscious, who doubled down the left field line to score Gonzales-Luna. The third and fourth runs of the frame came on a single through the right side by John Mishu. Hart bounced back to strike out the next three batters, but Princeton already held a 4-0 lead before Yale took its first swings of the game.

After a 390’ fly-out by Elmore and a hard hit liner by Megee that went right to Broscious as a part of a 1-2-3 first inning for Yale, the Tigers tacked on three more runs in the second frame. Tom Boggiano drew a walk to lead off the inning, and Bowman notched his second infield hit with a bouncer to third base, Gonzales-Luna dropped down a sacrifice bunt and then reached safely as Rallis’ throw went wide. With the bases loaded, Mulroy slammed a triple to straightaway centerfield that cleared the bases and chased Hart from the game. Coach Stuper called upon his captain- senior right-hander Joe Castaldi- who stranded Mulroy at third to keep the deficit at 7-0.

The Yale offense began to chip away in the second inning, as the Bulldogs loaded the bases with none out on singles by sophomores Ryan Brenner and Charlie Neil and a walk by junior Andrew Moore. The Elis would actually not manage another hit off Princeton righty Zak Hermans in the inning, but a groundout by Rallis and a long foul fly-out by Andrew Kolmar cut the score to a more manageable 7-2 tally. Yale scored a third run in the frame when Moore dashed home on a wild pitch.

The Tigers took a run back in the fourth inning on a Mulroy double and an RBI two-bagger by Mishu, but would not get through to Castaldi again in the game.

The 8-3 score held until the bottom of the seventh and final inning, when the Bulldogs staged a furious rally. Kolmar led off with an infield hit, and pinch-hitter Josh Scharff followed with a double that nearly went over the right-field wall at Yale Field. That hit sent Hermans to the pine, as Princeton brought on right-hander Matt Grabowski. Grabowski got one out then surrendered an RBI single to Megee that put runners on the corners. Larsson-Danforth followed with a screaming groundball down the right field line that plated both Scharff and Megee, cutting the score to 8-6. The next batter was Brenner, who singled home Larsson-Danforth to trim the deficit to single run at 8-7, and was replaced by pinch runner Cam Squires. Neil followed with a groundball to second base that appeared to be a sure out, if not a game-ending double play. Gonzales-Luna, however, dropped the ball attempting to tag Squires as the tying run reached second and Neil reached first as the potential winning run.  Grabowski settled down, however, striking out Moore on a 3-2 pitch that just caught the outside corner and getting Rallis to ground out to escape with an 8-7 victory.

Hart (2-2) allowed six earned runs in 1+ inning of work to take the loss for Yale. He struck out three, walked a batter, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. Castaldi pitched the next six innings, scattering four hits and allowing just one earned run. The Yale captain struck out six batters, threw a wild pitch, hit two batters and did not issue a walk.

“Castaldi was outstanding in relief today,” said Stuper. “He gave us an opportunity to come back and nearly win that game.”

Hermans (2-2) labored through 6+ innings, allowing five earned runs and seven hits in the win. He registered three strikeouts, three walks and uncorked a wild pitch. Grabowski allowed two earned runs on three hits with a walk, a strikeout and two wild pitches.

Freshman southpaw Christopher O’Hare took the mound in game two, and the Bulldogs spotted him a three-run cushion in the bottom of the second inning. Back-to-back doubles by Moore and Rallis to lead off the frame ran the score to 1-0, and senior centerfielder Stephen Miehls kept the rally going with a walk. Rallis was put out on a home and groundball by Schmidt, but Yale was still in good shape with runners on first and second base with one out. Elmore then delivered with an RBI single to center field, and Megee followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Schmidt to give Yale a 3-0 lead.

The Tigers would strike next, plating two runs in the top of the fourth inning without the benefit of a hit. O’Hare walked the bases loaded to start the inning, when Broscious hit a pop-up in foul territory near first base. Larsson-Danforth was able to keep track of the windswept ball, which drifted all the way back into fair territory, but lost his footing when making the catch as Gonzales-Luna tagged up to turn the pop-up into a run-scoring sacrifice fly. An RBI groundout by Mishu would then score Mulroy to run the score to 3-2.

Nate Baird evened the score in the top of the fifth inning, leading off with his second home run of the season to right field. A single by Matt Connor then chased O’Hare from the game, as senior right-hander Matthew Smith came on in relief. After a double by Boggiano put runners on second and third, a wild pitch scored Connor and sacrifice fly by Gonzales-Luna plated Boggiano to give the visiting Tigers a 5-3 lead.

A one-out Larsson-Danforth single and stolen base jump-started the Yale offense in the bottom of the fifth inning, and first baseman Mishu then pulled his foot too early on a groundball by Brenner, allowing the catcher to reach and Larsson-Danforth to move to third. The next batter was Neil, who smacked a ground-rule double to right field that scored Larsson-Danforth. The hop into the stands actually aided the Tigers, as Brenner was forced to stop and third, where he was stranded as Bowman took the ball and got the final two outs of the inning to preserve the 5-4 lead.

After an error by Elmore and a Mishu double put runners on second and third base with one out in the next half-inning, Coach Stuper turned to Gruber, one of the Bulldogs’ most reliable arms in the bullpen, to pitch out of the jam. The 6’7” submariner delivered with a groundout and a strikeout that kept the score at 5-4 entering the bottom of the sixth inning.

Just as the Tigers had done earlier in the contest, the Bulldogs plated two runs without a hit in the sixth inning to claim the lead for good. Schmidt and Elmore both walked on four pitches with one out and, after Megee struck out, Larsson-Danforth smoked a groundball to second base. Gonzales-Luna had trouble handling the hot-shot, and his rushed throw sailed wide as Schmidt scored to tie the game and Elmore moved to third. A daring play proved to be the game-winner, as Larsson-Danforth took off for second base on an 0-1 pitch to Brenner with the go-ahead run on third. As the 6’6” slugger was hung up between first and second, Elmore raced for the plate. Gonzales-Luna fired home to cut down the runner, but Elmore slid in safely to give the Bulldogs a 6-5 advantage.

After the Tigers’ defense had failed them in the last half-inning, Yale’s fielder stepped up in the top of the seventh inning. Andrew Moore made a sliding catch in left field for the first out of the inning and, after a Mulroy double, Moore saved a run by tracking down a line drive that would have surely plated him with the tying run.

“Moore didn’t have a good day at the plate,” said Stuper, “but that’s the sign of a good ballplayer. He didn’t bring his bad at-bats into the field with him."

In the eighth inning, Broscious led off with a ground-rule double to send Gruber to the locker room. Stuper handed the ball to the hurler who had started the day on the hill for Yale: Brook Hart. The southpaw got a groundout and pop-up, then froze Connor on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. Hart would come on again in the ninth inning and retire the Tigers without allowing a run to preserve the 6-5 victory.

“That performance shows what kind of competitor Brook is,” said Stuper. The 18-year veteran of the Yale dugout could not recall ever using his game one starter in relief in the same day.

Gruber (3-0) allowed two hits and none earned in 1.2 innings of relief to record his third victory of the week. Hart got the last six outs, walking one and striking out two, to earn his first career save. Bowman (1-4) did not allow a hit or an earned run but took the loss in 3.2 innings out of the bullpen. He struck out five batters and walked three.

The Bulldogs return to the diamond on Wednesday, closing out an eight-game homestand with a 3:30 p.m. doubleheader against Fairfield. Yale will resume Ivy League play this weekend with four games at Red Rolfe Division opponent Dartmouth.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity

Highlights by David Dikranian: