By: Rick Bender
Done with its three southern trips during the first month of the season, Dartmouth begins play in the Ivy League with a three-game series against Princeton. Originally scheduled to be played at the Tigers’ Clarke Field (which is a natural grass surface), torrential rain in the region forced the series to be moved to Rutgers’ Blainton Field in Piscataway, N.J. Last year, the Big Green won their first Ivy game at Penn, 5-4, but are just 4-5 this decade in their conference opener.
Spring Trip in Review
• Dartmouth picked up a single win on its seven-game trip to Florida, topping Bradley on March 19 (my son’s birthday!) by a final of 6-2.
• The Big Green hit .209 as a team during the trip and posted a 6.56 ERA.
• The first game was a pitchers’ duel that featured a total of just 10 hits, but Wayne State, a nationally ranked Division II team, came out on top, 3-2.
• Dartmouth was in line to beat USF in the first of three games, but a 3-1 lead in the eighth evaporated when the Bulls tallied six runs in the 7-3 loss. The rally ruined a fine start from freshman Justin Murray (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K).
• The second game of the USF series was never in doubt as the hosts topped the Green, 16-1.
• Freshman Nathan Skinner dazzled for six innings in the series finale, taking a no-hitter into the sixth. But the Bulls got to him in the seventh, putting four runs on the board to erase a 1-0 Dartmouth lead and finish the series sweep, 4-1.
• Sophomore Ubaldo Lopez was the star of the 6-2 win over Bradley, swatting the first two home runs of his career, including a two-out grand slam in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie. He drove in all six runs for the Big Green with his two jacks.
• Don’t let Lopez’ heroics bury the start by junior Tyler Fagler, who allowed two runs over six innings while striking out a career-high nine batters, the most by a Dartmouth pitcher this year.
• The Braves put five runs on the board in two separate innings to even the series in a 10-2 victory over the Green.
• In the final game on Thursday, Dartmouth tied the game in the sixth with three runs thanks to a Matt Feinstein triple and a Trevor Johnson double, but Bradley scored one in the seventh and two more in the eighth to clinch the series, 6-3.
Overall Record vs. Princeton
• The Tigers have the advantage in the all-time series, going 99-89 against Dartmouth.
• The Big Green have won the last four meetings and 20 of the last 32 over the previous 14 seasons.
• With a series sweep of Princeton, Dartmouth would have its longest-ever winning streak against the Tigers at seven games.
• The last time these two teams played on a neutral field was 16 years ago when Dartmouth’s field was unplayable. Princeton won both games in Ithaca, N.Y., 6-5 in extra innings and 15-5.
• Big Green head coach Bob Whalen has a 30-39 record against the Tigers, while Princeton’s Scott Bradley is 28-25 versus Dartmouth.
• The two teams first met on the diamond in 1880 with Princeton winning both contests, 2-0 and 9-4. The Tigers won 17 of the first 18 games.
Scouting the Tigers
• Princeton finished the 2018 campaign on a 10-game losing streak, and has not had much more luck to start 2019 with a 3-11 record.
• As a team, the Tigers are hitting .226 and averaging 3.6 runs per game, but are willing to take a walk as evidenced by its .341 on-base percentage.
• Jake Boone leads the team in batting (.322) and slugging (.441) and is tied for the team lead in RBIs (8) with David Harding.
• The top players at getting on base are Max Machiorlette (.467 OBP despite a .158 average) and Nadir Lewis (.409 with 13 walks).
• The pitching staff has posted a 5.35 ERA, but the top two starters have combined for 45 strikeouts in 34.2 innings with an ERA of 2.34.
• Eric Hoefer has seen the most action out of the bullpen, tossing 15.2 innings in five relief appearances with a 4.02 ERA and one save.
• The defense has been solid with 15 errors and a .969 fielding percentage while gunning down one-third of would-be base stealers (9-of-27).
Last Year Against Princeton
Dartmouth showed no mercy against the Tigers in Hanover last year, sweeping the series by a combined score of 36-6. Cole O’Connor had a 13-0 lead before being replaced during the seventh inning as the Big Green had eight extra-base hits — three from Dustin Shirley who was 3-for-5 with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs in the 14-3 win to start the weekend.
The second game went in a similar fashion as Dartmouth scored 16 runs before Princeton tallied one in the ninth. Jack Fossand tossed 7.2 shutout innings for the win, striking out eight, while Kyle Holbrook had three hits with a grand slam and six RBIs, and Michael Calamari also had three hits with a homer and drove in four.
The finale was a bit tighter, though the Big Green jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first. Clay Chatham surrendered just one unearned run over six stanzas on the mound, and the bats picked up four more runs as Steffen Torgersen drove in two with two doubles and Nate Ostmo blasted a solo homer as one of his three hits in the 6-2 triumph.
Probable Starting Pitchers
• Dartmouth is set to send senior RHP Cole O’Connor (1-2, 8.00) to the mound in the opener. The co-captain was knocked around in his last start for eight runs in six innings at USF, just the fifth time in 31 career starts he has allowed five or more ER. Princeton will counter with left-hander Ryan Smith (2-1, 2.79), whose best outing was his first — six no-hit innings of relief against George Mason with 10 strikeouts.
• Freshman RHP Justin Murray (0-1, 4.40) will be looking for his first career victory when he strides atop the hill for the second game on Saturday. He was terrific in his start at USF, hurling 6.1 innings of one-run ball, striking out five along the way. The Tigers will match up against the rookie with RHP James Proctor (1-1, 1.76) who has not given up a run in his last two starts spanning 13 innings, fanning 18.
• On Sunday, the Big Green will likely turn to junior RHP Tyler Fagler (0-1, 2.63). Back at full strength, Fagler held Bradley to two runs over six innings with a career-high nine strikeouts in his start on Tuesday. RHP Andrew Gnazzo (0-3, 8.22) is scheduled to pitch for Princeton in the finale, though he failed to get out of the first inning against Old Dominion while giving up six hits and a walk.
What’s Up Next
The Big Green will continue their traveling ways, playing at Quinnipiac on Wednesday in a non-conference game before heading to Columbia for a three-game set next weekend. The Lions won the Ivy League Championship Series last year, but are currently 3-10 against the 12th-toughest schedule.
Senior CLASS Candidate
Of the 30 NCAA baseball student-athletes chosen as candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, given to a senior with notable achievements in four areas of excellence — community, classroom, character and competition — Cole O’Connor was among those selected. A government major with a 3.26 GPA, O’Connor enters the weekend with a career 4.48 ERA over 174.2 innings spanning 33 appearances (31 starts) while posting a 10-10 record. An All-Ivy League honorable mention last year, O’Connor has had great control throughout his career, walking just 1.8 batters per nine innings.
Putting the Bat on the Ball
While Dartmouth’s bats haven’t quite thawed out yet, first baseman Michael Calamari has shown an uncanny ability to put the bat on the ball. The junior has struck out just twice in 48 at-bats, making him the second toughest to strike out among Division I hitters thus far. Only Jacksonville’s Dakota Julylia has a better ratio (2 K in 78 AB).
Relying on Rookies in Rotation
After 15 games, Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen has shown he is not afraid to send any number of rookie pitchers to the mound. More than half (8) of the games have featured a freshman on the mound — Nathan Skinner (3), Justin Murray (2), Trystan Sarcone (2) and Chase Jeter (1). That trend is expected to continue this weekend with Murray scheduled to start the second game against Princeton with Skinner likely to see a bit of action out of the bullpen. Of the 120.2 innings thrown by Big Green pitchers this year, 45.1 (37.6 percent) have been thrown by that quartet
Lopez Long Balls
Sophomore Ubaldo Lopez had a hard time getting on track at the plate during his college career, collecting just five hits in his first 50 at-bats (I’ll let you do that math). But something clicked against Bradley in Florida, beginning with the first game when he blasted his first two homers and drove in all six runs in a 6-2 Big Green victory. His two-run shot in the fifth tied the game up, and his two-out, grand slam in the ninth proved to be the game-winner. He then proceeded to go 1-for-3 with a double in each of the next two games to finish the series 4-for-10 with a slugging percentage of 1.200.
Fagler Fans the Flames
Well, really, he fanned the Braves, but that simply wasn’t as alliterative or a known phrase. Lopez wasn’t the only star in the 6-2 win over Bradley as junior Tyler Fagler struck out a career-high nine batters in his six innings of work while surrendering just two runs. It was his first outing of five innings or more in his career, and just the second of more than three. The nine punchouts were the most by a Dartmouth pitcher since Jack Fossand had nine in the penultimate game last year at Harvard.
No No-No for Skinner
Freshman Nathan Skinner flirted with a no-hitter in his start at USF on March 17, recording the first 16 outs before the Bulls collected their first hit of the game. But with a 1-0 lead after six innings, Skinner ran into trouble in the seventh when USF loaded the bases with one out. Skinner was replaced on the mound, but the Bulls continued the rally against the bullpen and ended up scoring four times to end the scoring in a 4-1 contest. Wondering when the last no-hitter was thrown in Big Green history? Try 1975 by Dave DeMarco in a seven-inning game against Old Dominion.
A Few Firsts
The youngsters haven’t seen much time at the plate, but all four that have all have recorded their first hit. THe first was Kade Kretzschmar during the first weekend of play at UTSA, but the other three all came during the spring trip. Bryce Daniel rapped out a single in the first game at USF on March 15, Justin Murray had one in his first career start (along with two walks) in the win over Bradley on March 19, and Ben Rice matched Murray’s line in the series finale against the Braves.