Yale baseball team tops Holy Cross, eliminated by No. 1 Oregon State – New Haven Register
CORVALLIS, Ore. >> The best season in the long history of Yale baseball came to an end in the most appropriate of ways. It came a game after setting the school record for wins in a season. It also came a game after the first multiple-victory NCAA Tournament showing since 1948. The final blow was delivered by the clear-cut, best team in the country in their own park, an 8-1 decision for Oregon State before another sell out at Goss Stadium.
The 52-4 Beavers, the only team to beat Yale in this tournament, have now won 19 straight games and are 28-1 at their place. You can see how tall the task was for anyone at the Corvallis Regional. The Big 10 Champions weren’t good enough, neither were the Patriot League’s best. The 2017 Ivy League Champions made it to the end of the tournament and finished the year at 34-18.
The Blue went 2-2 in the double-elimination event with great performances from sophomore center fielder Tim DeGraw (7 hits, 6 runs) and freshman IF/OF Alex Stiegler (6 hits, 6 RBI), while senior corner man Richard Slenker chipped in five hits. We also can’t forget the stellar, complete-game by sophomore Scott Politz that beat Nebraska Friday. DeGraw, Stiegler and Politz earned regional All-Tournament Team honors. Sophomore Kumar Nambiar wasn’t on that list, but his win on the mound today against Holy Cross deserved consideration.
The Elis began the night game almost the same way they did the earlier contest. DeGraw led off with an infield single against Drew Rasmussen (0.51 ERA) and came around to score when Stiegler laced a one-hop liner off the right center fence for his fourth double of the tournament.
Yale had a serious but unsuccessful threat in the third with two outs and a pair in scoring position, set up by another Stiegler hit and a Griffin Dey double down the left field line.
Rookie lefty Thomas Espig, starting just his fifth game as a Bulldog, deserved a much better fate. Espig struck out two in the second and entered the third in a 1-1 tie before the Elis committed two errors and allowed a three-run shot by Michael Gretler. The Yale starter got two outs in the third before giving way to classmate Tyler Sapsford, the pitcher who closed out the win over Holy Cross and then went four against the Beavers.
The Bulldogs are one of the best (.973) fielding teams in the country, but they were swimming upstream in some ways. Not only were they in their second game of the day after a short turn-around from the late Saturday contest, the Elis were facing a great bunting team with a ton of speed. That puts a lot of pressure on an infield.
Tim DeGraw got robbed of a bunt base hit in the fifth when he was called out at first. The video replay in the press box confirmed it should have been a safe call… Senior catcher Andrew Herrera, who has been putting his body on misfires all season, had a beauty of a stop two feet to the side of the dish with a runner on early in the game… Simon Whiteman was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with an injury. He had a double in the second inning… The Elis beat Holy Cross earlier in the day by getting three hits each from Tim DeGraw and Alex Stiegler (5 RBI) while Kumar Nambiar went seven innings and shortstop Dai Dai Otaka (9 assists) made numerous spectacular fielding plays… Yale’s 34 wins are a school record and one better than John Stuper’s 1993 team… The Blue had just three seniors (3B, RF, C) in the starting lineup, the rest were freshmen and sophomores.
YALE TOPS HOLY CROSS
There was a lot on the line for the Yale baseball team as the Bulldogs looked over to the other dugout to see a familiar opponent. The Elis and Holy Cross may have played six times during the regular season, but this encounter meant keeping a season alive.
The Bulldogs not only kept their season alive with a 9-5 win in game five of the NCAA Corvallis Regional, they notched a school-record 34th victory while becoming the first Yale team to win two NCAA Tournament games since 1948.
The top of the order was the primary reason Yale another shot at No. 1 ranked Oregon State (51-4) Sunday night, a game not completed before deadline.
Tim DeGraw went 3-for-3 with four runs and two RBI and Alex Stiegler was 3-for-3 with five batted in. The first two guys in the lineup had nearly half of Yale’s 13 hits.
The Elis must win tonight to force a decisive finale on Monday night.
The Bulldogs came out of the anthem swinging. DeGraw led off with a single up the middle and came home on a double down the left field line by Stiegler, who then moved to third on a passed ball. Griffin Dey singled to center to drive in Stiegler to make it 2-0.
The Blue added to the lead with the top of the order again in the third when DeGraw legged out an infield single, Stiegler, who was making his second start of the tournament at second base, walked and Richard Slenker singled to left. The Crusaders’ second double-play of the game got them out of the inning with just the one tally allowed.
DeGraw’s third hit of the game, a single up the middle, gave the Elis a 5-0 lead in the fourth. He knocked in Alec Hoeschel (2 hits) and Andrew Herrera (2 hits), both of whom singled and then moved over on a ground out. Stiegler’s third hit of the tournament scored the speedy center fielder from second to make it a six-run advantage.
Holy Cross, the visitors in this game, got two back in the fifth, but a three-run bottom of the sixth erased that Purple fender bender. All three Yale runs came with two outs on a bases-loaded double to right center by Stiegler, who lined a two-strike fastball off the Dutch Bros Coffee sign. The Crusaders walked DeGraw to fill the bags with Bulldogs following singles by Hoeschel and Herrera.
Sophomore Kumar Nambiar did his job as the Yale starting pitcher today by scattering 10 hits over seven innings. He threw 106 pitches, struck out four and allowed four earned runs.
“Kumar had good command today,” said Yale head coach John Stuper. “He’s a competitor who throws hard and has a good breaking ball and changeup.”
Freshman righty Tyler Sapsford came on in the eighth to put out a potential rally. He inherited a runner with no outs and proceeded to get a ground out and a fly out before freezing a Crusader with a breaking ball strike three. A did not allow a runner in the ninth.
LEATHER AND LACE
Shortstop Dai Dai Otaka went deep in the hole to backhand a grounder and then throw the other way to catch Bill Schlich by a step at first in the opening frame. In the fifth, with one out, he went behind the bag at second, did a spin and then fired in time at first. The freshman from Novi, Mich., made a third stellar play in the seventh with two out and two on base. He raced in toward the mound to get a ball that barely evaded the glove of the Yale pitcher and then threw on the run to end the threat.
“He [Otaka] saved us so many runs this year,” said Stuper.
Tim DeGraw, who had a team-high 17th stolen base today, is the only Bulldog to play in all 51 games this season… Simon Whiteman, who was injured in the Nebraska game, was not able to go today… The Crusaders had the short turnaround on Saturday, today it was Yale’s turn. The bus with Bulldogs arrived at the hotel by 11:30 p.m. Saturday and the ride to the field today was at 10 a.m…. Yale had the third base dugout for the first time this tournament.
Associate Head Coach Tucker Frawley probably established an NCAA Regional record for traveling the furthest to play against an alma mater. The former Crusader standout has faced his old squad in New York, Massachusetts and Oregon this spring… Assistant Coach Craig Driver (Seattle, Wash.) is the Yale team member whose hometown is closest to this regional. He played catcher at the University of Puget Sound.