Bulldogs Host Princeton, Cornell in Ivy Home Opener

Pat Ludwig. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Pat Ludwig. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Hanson Carries Ivy-Best 23-Game On-Base Streak into Weekend


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University baseball team is hoping the comforts of home will lead to a quick turnaround for its Ivy League fortunes.

Yale will play the first Ivy League home games of the season as Princeton (Saturday) and Cornell (Sunday) visit historic Yale Field for back-to-back doubleheaders.

The Bulldogs (6-18-1, 0-4 Ivy League) are looking for their first Ivy League victory this weekend, which would snap a six-game losing streak.

The two opponents this weekend will not make that easy for the Bulldogs. Princeton (9-11, 3-1 Ivy League) and Cornell (17-6-1, 3-1 Ivy League) both opened their Ivy League seasons with wins in three of the four games last weekend. Cornell is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games, while Princeton had won five of seven games before Tuesday's 12-11 loss at Rutgers.

One player who appears to be ready for the tough weekend ahead is sophomore shortstop Cale Hanson, who is carrying an Ivy League-best 23-game on-base streak into the weekend. Hanson is Yale's offensive leader, with team-high marks in batting average (.378), slugging percentage (.463), on-base percentage (.457), total hits (31), doubles (7), walks (11), total bases (38), sacrifice bunts (5), and stolen bases (5). He is also second on the team in runs scored with nine.

Hanson is one of four Bulldogs to start in all 25 games this season, joining senior Charlie Neil and juniors Chris Piwinski and Josh Scharff.

Hanson's .378 average and .457 on-base percentage are both sixth among Ivy League leaders, while his 31 hits are tied for third-best in the league. Hanson has hit safely in 19 of Yale's 25 games this season.

Yale's senior pitcher Pat Ludwig has had a deceptively strong season to date. He leads the team in strikeouts (34), earned run average (2.27), opposing batting average (.246), innings pitched (35.2), and strikeouts looking (12). His 2.27 ERA, 35.3 innings pitched, and 34 strikeouts are all second among Ivy League leaders, while his .246 opposing batting average is seventh. He also leads the league with 12 strikeouts looking.

However, those numbers have not led to success in the win column. Ludwig holds an 0-3 record this season, largely due to the low offensive support in his starts. Yale is 0-5 in games that Ludwig has started, scoring a total of 13 runs in those games, including three losses in which they scored just one run.

Ludwig will likely get the nod in one of the games this weekend, and it might be best to hold him until Sunday. Ludwig is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 16.2 innings against Cornell in his career, which includes two starts in three appearances.

Outside of Hanson, the Yale bats have struggled. The Bulldogs returned home from their Florida spring trip with a team batting average of .253 through the first 11 games, which included the season-opening four-game set at Virginia Tech and seven games at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. Since their return home from Florida, the Bulldogs have hit just .197 as a team. Hanson has hit .386 since the Florida trip, but the next highest average is just .227.

Yale head coach John Stuper is convinced the offense will turn things around, and this weekend would provide the Bulldogs with a perfect opportunity.

"My staff and I didn't get into coaching to fold the tents as soon as things get tough. I believe in these kids." Stuper said last weekend. "We have to battle through this and we will. No one ever said it was going to be easy."

Stuper will have the Bulldogs ready to begin that battle this weekend. The key to starting the turnaround will be silencing the bat of Princeton's Sam Mulroy. The Ivy League's leading hitter is batting a whopping .432 with a slugging percentage of .765. Mulroy leads the Ivy League in hitting, slugging, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, RBIs, home runs, and total bases.

Cornell's bats may be just as tough on the Bulldogs' pitchers. Brian Billigen is hitting .422, while Chris Cruz is tied with Mulroy for the Ivy lead in home runs (7). Cornell is hitting an Ivy League-best .308 as a team, the only Ivy League team hitting better than .300. Princeton is third with a .283 average. The Tigers have belted a League-high 16 home runs, while the Big Red are second with 15 home runs. Cornell has scored a League-high 164 runs, while Princeton is second with 132 runs.

The test that awaits the Bulldogs will not be an easy one, but in the friendly confines of Yale Field, the advantages tilt in Yale's favor. Five of Cornell's six losses have come on the road, while Princeton is 6-10 in road games.

Both doubleheaders are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m., with a seven-inning game scheduled for Game 1 followed by a nine-inning contest in Game 2.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity