Senior Hurler's Gem Spoiled by Bison's Ninth Inning Rally
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Senior hurler Pat Ludwig carried the Yale University baseball team on his shoulders throughout most of the game Saturday, but he and the Bulldogs caught a bad break in the final inning when the skies opened up and turned a ninth-inning lead into a loss in a stunning and rainy finish in their fourth game at the RussMatt Invitational.
North Dakota State used two hits and an error to produce two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, erasing a 1-0 Yale lead, and plated the winning run on a wild pitch from sophomore reliever Kevin Fortunato to slip past Yale, 2-1, at Chain O'Lakes Park.
With the loss, Yale falls to 2-6 overall, while North Dakota State improves to 7-5.
Ludwig (0-1) tossed a gem of a game. He scattered eight hits, all singles, striking out six and walking only one in 8⅓ innings of work. He also induced 12 groundouts, including three double plays, and only four fly outs. He was charged with both of the Bison runs, with one earned run and one unearned run.
Prior to facing the Bulldogs, the Bison were ranked high in several offensive categories in the first NCAA Division I statistics rankings. They were first in triples (10), second in triples per game (0.91), 16th in hitting (.327) and 12th in slugging (.510), 20th in runs (91) and runs per game (8.3), 29th in hits (125), 37th in home runs (9) and 46th in homers per game (0.82), and 39th in HBPs (17).
However, that high-powered offense had a hard time solving Ludwig. According to Yale head coach John Stuper, it was one of the best pitching performances he had seen in his 20 seasons as Yale's head coach.
"Pat Ludwig was unbelievable," he said. "It was one of the top five pitching performances I've had at Yale. North Dakota State came in hitting .327 as a team, but they had no chance. It started to pour in the bottom of the ninth and the umpires wouldn't stop the game. They got a soft single to center and a bunt to the mound where the batter reached base because of a wet ball that caused a bad throw. A chopper scored the first run and a wild pitch scored the second. Our kids played great. It is a tough, tough loss, but these kids are resilient. They'll bounce back."
Both teams had trouble getting runners on base through the first six innings, and of the runners that made it on base, only one from each team managed to make it to third base.
Through the first six innings, North Dakota State outhit Yale 4-3, but two of Yale's hits came in the second inning when Cale Hanson and Charlie Neil both reached on back-to-back one-out singles and moved to second and third on a groundout by Joe Lubanski, but the Bulldogs could not score either runner as Cam Squires struck out to end the inning and the Yale threat.
The Bison's best chance came in the fourth inning when they opened the inning with a pair of singles. Ludwig eased some of the pressure when he forced the second of his three double plays. The Bison still managed to push a runner to third base on the play, but Ludwig got out of the jam with a strikeout to end the inning.
Yale broke through in the seventh inning when Fortunato led off with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Hanson. However, North Dakota State appeared to shut down the Yale threat when Neil bounced into a fielder's choice that forced Fortunato out at third base. Neil took matters into his own hands when he stole second and then scored from second on Lubanski's single to left field to give Yale a 1-0 lead.
The lead stood firm until the ninth inning when Zach Wentz led off with a single. Ludwig then committed a throwing error on a sac bunt by Ben Herauf, allowing both Herauf and Wentz to move to second and third with no outs. Ludwig managed to get one out on a groundout to third base, which kept Yale's 1-0 lead intact. However, the next batter, pinch hitter Kyle Kleinendorst, singled to left field to drive in Wentz with the tying run. Stuper pulled Ludwig in favor of Fortunato, Yale's closer, but he threw a wild pitch to the first batter that he saw, which allowed the winning run to cross home plate.
Yale returns to action Sunday afternoon when it takes on Bradley.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity