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Bulldogs Begin Ivy League Play at Columbia, Penn

Cale Hanson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Cale Hanson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Hanson Carries Ivy-Best 15-Game On-Base Streak into Weekend

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University baseball team is looking for its first Ivy League championship since 1994, but the Bulldogs have a lot of work ahead of them to reach the summit and obtain the automatic bid into the NCAA Championship that comes with it.

Yale kicks off Ivy League play on the road this weekend with back-to-back doubleheaders at Columbia in New York City on Saturday and Penn on Sunday in Philadelphia.

One player who appears to be ready for the tough road ahead is sophomore shortstop Cale Hanson, who is carrying an 18-game on-base streak into the weekend. So far this season, Hanson has put up numbers that should put him among the leading candidates for Ivy League Player of the Year, especially if he can keep up the pace that he has shown through the first 20 games of the season.

Hanson has hit safely in 15 of Yale's 20 games this season, and he leads the team in hitting (.385), slugging percentage (.477), on-base percentage (.467), total hits (25), doubles (6), walks (9), total bases (31), sacrifice bunts (4), and stolen bases (4).

Hanson's .385 batting average is sixth among Ivy League leaders. He is also fourth in the League in on-base percentage, second in total hits, fourth in doubles and walks, sixth in total bases, tied for first in sacrifice bunts and fifth in stolen bases.

He is not the only Bulldog who could earn top recognition at the end of the season. Senior pitcher Pat Ludwig, who will likely start one of the four games this weekend, certainly could garner some consideration for Pitcher of the Year honors if his recent play continues. He leads the Ivy League in strikeouts (29) and strikeouts looking (10), and he is among the Ivy League leaders in earned run average (sixth, 2.43), opponents' batting average (ninth, .245), and innings pitched (second, 29.2).

Through the first 20 games, Yale (6-13-1) has faced some tough opponents in preparation for Ivy League play, including defending Big East champion UConn (10-0 loss) and fellow Big East powers Georgetown (3-2 win and 9-3 loss) and South Florida (2-1 loss), along with the season-opening four-game set at Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse Virginia Tech.

So, on Saturday at Columbia, which opened its season at 6-13 overall, and on Sunday at Penn, which stands at 8-9 heading into the weekend, Yale should be ready to begin its quest for its third Ivy League crown since the League began using a best-of-three series to determine its champion in 1993.

Columbia has played just three games at home at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium, losing a pair to Stony Brook last weekend before beating Army on Wednesday. The Lions own a 6-2 record over the Bulldogs since 2008. Yale last won at Columbia in 2008, a 7-2 win in the first game of a doubleheader.

The Lions are finding production from a few players this season. Alex Black is leading the Lions in hitting (.375 average) and slugging (.600), while Nick Ferraresi is tied with Black in slugging while leading the Lions in home runs (3), doubles (8) and total bases (36). Dario Pizzano, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, is the team's leader in on-base percentage (.459), total hits (22), RBIs (13), runs scored (14) and walks (17).

On the mound, several pitchers have stepped up in the first half of the season. Six different pitchers have one win apiece, while Pat Lowery is the team leader in ERA (3.04) and innings pitched (23.2) and David Spinosa leads the team in opponents' batting average (.235) and strikeouts (17).

Like Columbia, Penn has played only a handful of games at home, going 2-2 in four games, including a loss to Temple, a doubleheader split with Lafayette, and a win over Villanova. Penn will face Brown on Saturday before hosting the Bulldogs.

Yale is 4-3-1 over Penn since 2008, splitting a doubleheader last year that included a 2-0 loss in the seven-inning opener and a 13-6 win in Game 2. Yale last won at Penn in 2008, taking a 5-1 win in the opener before a 9-9 tie in Game 2.

Greg Zebrack is the Quakers' top hitter, leading the team in hitting (.357), slugging (.732), on-base percentage (.480), runs scored (17), total hits (20), RBIs (16), home runs (3), triples (2), doubles (8), total bases (41), walks (10), and stolen bases (8).

Penn's top pitcher is Vince Voiro, a two-time Ivy League Pitcher of the Week this season. He leads the Quakers in ERA (1.67), wins (3), innings pitched (32.1), and walks allowed (a team-low 5).

Both teams should give the Bulldogs a tough challenge, but the two matchups should provide an exciting start to the Ivy League season.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity