A baseball team can’t win the Ivy League Championship in just eight games, but the Bulldogs knew entering this past weekend that they could very well lose it. In all likelihood, Yale needed to take at least three of four games against Cornell and Princeton to rebound from an atrocious 0-4 opening weekend at Columbia and Penn on April 3 and 4. The pair of doubleheaders were not without their share of drama, but the Bulldogs (15-12-1, 3-5 Ivy) ultimately took care of business by sweeping Big Red and taking one of two from the Tigers. All-Ivy first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth hit a walk-off home run in game one against Cornell on Saturday, and right-handed reliever Robert Gruber (3-0) earned two of the Bulldogs’ three wins out of the bullpen.
Larsson-Danforth’s walk-off blast capped a 4-3 victory, as Pat Ludwig and Gruber combined to allow just two earned runs in eight innings of work. Yale also got a pair of RBI from Andrew Moore as the Bulldogs managed three runs off of Cornell’s Ivy League Pitcher of the Year candidate Corey Pappel to force the extra frame.
In game two, the Bulldogs got a go-ahead, two RBI double from Gant Elmore, who had three hits in the nightcap, to claim a 7-5 win. Southpaw Vinny Lally (5-1) got the win and righty Greg Lyons earned the save (2) for Yale.
The story on Sunday against Princeton was junior left-hander Brook Hart. The rookie southpaw, a pro prospect and considered by many to be the ace of the Bulldogs’ staff, was touched up for seven runs (six earned) in 1+ innings of work as Yale went down by a 7-0 tally early in game one. Senior captain Joe Castaldi came on and handcuffed the Tigers for the remainder of the game, but a late-inning Yale rally fell just short in the 8-7 defeat.
The Elis found themselves on the comeback trail once again in the nightcap, as Gruber stifled the Princeton bats to facilitate the Yale victory. After a gutsy, two-out double steal attempt scored Elmore with the go-ahead run, Head Coach John Stuper looked back to the man who started the day on the mound: Brook Hart.
“There was no doubt that Brook was coming back in,” said Stuper, who had never re-used a starter in a doubleheader in 18 seasons with Yale.
Hart, throwing noticeably harder the second time around, threw two clutch innings of hitless relief to preserve the 6-5 victory and earn his first career save. Elmore had another three-hit game, boosting his season batting average to .405, and was one of four Elis to drive in runs in the contest.
If this weekend was about Yale staying alive, next weekend will be the time for the Bulldogs to make a move. With Red Rolfe Division play beginning, the 3-5 Bulldogs will play back-to-back doubleheaders at defending league champion Dartmouth (4-4). Elsewhere in the division, Brown (6-2) treks to Harvard (4-4) for a quartet of games on a Saturday and Sunday, meaning Yale could find itself sitting anywhere from a first-place tie to a full seven games out by next Monday morning.