NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Senior Robert Gruber threw 3.1 innings of scoreless relief and junior Gant Elmore drove in the go-ahead run as the Yale baseball team rebounded from a tough Ivy League opening weekend to knock off Sacred Heart by a score of 7-3 in game one of a doubleheader (two seven-inning games) on Tuesday afternoon at Yale Field. The Bulldogs (12-11-1) got four hits apiece from Elmore and junior Andrew Moore in the twinbill, but the visiting Pioneers (10-14) stole game two by a score of 5-4.
Moore was 4-for-6 in the double-dip with three runs batted in, including his third home run of the season. Elmore reached safely five times on the day, drove in two runs and chipped in with a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore shortstop Matt Schmidt also picked up a pair of RBI and potentially saved a few Sacred Heart runs with several dazzling plays in the field.
Senior right-hander Joe Castaldi picked up a no-decision in his game one start, surrendering eight hits and three earned runs over the first 3.2 frames. Gruber (1-0) relieved the Yale captain, and allowed just one hit over the final 3.1 innings. The 6’7” right-hander struck out one batter and walked one.
Sacred Heart scored the first run of the day thanks to a fortuitously-placed blooper off the bat of Dave Boisture. The short double, which dropped in shallow left field in between three charging Yale fielders, plated Robert Griffith to put the Pioneers on top, 1-0, in the middle of the second inning.
The visitors’ lead was short-lived, however, as sophomore catcher Ryan Brenner singled to start up the Yale offense in the bottom of the second. Sophomore designated hitter Charlie Neil followed with a double over the centerfielder’s head, and Moore drove both Brenner and Neil home with a single up the middle. After a double play ball erased Moore, a Schmidt walk started another Bulldogs’ rally with two out in the frame. The Yale shortstop promptly stole second base and moved to third as catcher Jeff Heppner’s throw went into centerfield. The miscue allowed Schmidt to then trot home easily as Elmore roped a base-hit to right field to put Yale on top, 3-1.
The Pioneers took a run back in their next turn at-bat, as leadoff hitter Mike Drowne drew a walk and moved himself into scoring position via his second stolen base of the game. Three batters later, Heppner atoned for his throwing error with a double that scored Drowne and cut the Yale lead in half at 3-2.
Sacred Heart would strike again in the top of the fourth inning, as a Drowne double down the left field line scored Boisture to tie the game and send Castaldi to the locker room. Gruber came out of the bullpen and got the final out of the inning, keeping the score at 3-3.
Yale responded immediately in the bottom of the inning, taking a 4-3 lead courtesy of a two-out RBI double from Elmore. The two-bagger, Elmore’s third hit of the game, scored junior Andrew Kolmar, who had walked earlier in the frame.
After Gruber held the Pioneers hitless in the fifth, the Bulldogs tacked on a trio of insurance runs to put the game out of reach. Junior Trey Rallis doubled to start the bottom of the fifth inning and was replaced at second base by pinch runner Stephen Miehls. After right-hander Carl Brooks replaced Pioneers’ starter John Hermanson and got two quick outs, Neil delivered with another clutch hit, singling through the right side to score Miehls. Freshman speedster Cam Squires pinch ran for Neil and went from first to third on a Moore single. Another Kolmar walk loaded the bases, and Schmidt followed with a single up the middle that bounced off the second base bag, allowing both Squires and Moore to cross the plate and running the Elis’ lead to 7-3.
Gruber (1-0) allowed just one hit the rest of the way to keep the 7-3 score intact and earn his first win of the season. Hermanson (1-1) went the first 4+ innings for Sacred Heart, allowing four earned runs and eight hits.
Senior right-hander Chris Finneran made his first start of the season in game two, allowing just five hits and three earned runs over the first six innings. Finneran, who did not factor into the decision, struck out two batters, walked two and hit two.
In the nightcap, Sacred Heart again struck first as Drowne reached on an error to start the game and moved to second when Steve Tedesco was hit by a pitch. A double by Chris Whittemore ran the score to 2-0 before Finneran settled down and retired the next three batters to keep the game close.
The Bulldogs took one back in their half of the first, as Elmore reached with one out due to a dropped pop-up. Whittemore was then unable to come up with a hard infield single of the bat of Megee, giving Yale runners on the corners with one out. Senior first baseman Trygg Larsson-Danforth then grounded to second base, but Megee avoided Hunter Phillips’ tag to stay out of the double play and allow Elmore to score. Yale would then tie the game in the bottom of the second inning as Moore belted an opposite field homer to run the score to 2-2.
The Pioneers would get to Finneran once again in the third inning, as a Heppner smacked a two-run double to left field to put Sacred Heart back on top, 4-2.
That would be the last time that the visitors scored off of the Yale senior, however, as the Bulldogs started their comeback in the bottom of the third. Squires led off with a single to right field, and Elmore followed with a base-hit of his own that moved the speedy centerfielder to third base with none out. Sacred Heart starter Mike Korevec bounced back by inducing a double play ball, but the twin killing allowed Squires to race home and cut the Pioneers’ lead to 4-3.
Squires again jumpstarted the Yale offense with a lead-off walk in the bottom of the fifth frame. After Elmore sacrificed Squires into scoring position, a wild pitch moved him 90 feet away from tying the game. Megee would drive him home with a sacrifice fly that knotted the contest at 4-4 with two innings left to play.
After both teams came up empty in the sixth inning, M.J. Schifano led off the top of the seventh with a walk and moved to second on a single by Drowne off of Yale reliever Eric Shultz. Tedesco then dropped down a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners into scoring position. With the Yale infield playing in, Whittemore then grounded to Megee, who cut down Schifano at the plate to keep the game tied. Shultz and Heppner then engaged in a two-out battle, with the Sacred Heart catcher fouling off four straight 1-2 pitches before sending the ninth pitch of the at-bat through the right side of the infield to score Drowne with the go-ahead run.
Squires singled with one out to keep the Bulldogs alive in their last chance at-bat, but after Elmore popped out to shortstop, the Yale centerfielder was caught stealing to end the game with Sacred Heart taking a 5-4 victory.
Shultz (0-1) pitched 0.2 innings of relief in his first appearance since suffering an injury during the Elis’ trip to Florida in mid-March. He allowed one run on two hits and one walk. Pioneers’ lefty Matt Fitton (2-3) pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win. The 6’9” southpaw allowed just two hits out of the Sacred Heart bullpen.
The Bulldogs return to the diamond this weekend, as Cornell and Princeton visit Yale Field for a pair of Ivy League doubleheaders. First pitch on both Saturday and Sunday is scheduled for noon.
report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity
Video Highlights by David Dikranian, Yale Sports