By: Rick Bender
DARTMOUTH (13-21, 6-9)
vs. YALE (14-22, 8-7)
Saturday, April 27 (DH) 11:30 a.m. | Sunday, April 28 12:00 p.m. | ESPN+
Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park | Hanover, N.H.
Dartmouth plays host again this weekend with the 2018 Ivy League regular-season champion, Yale, in town for a three-game series. The Big Green still have a shot at qualifying for the Ivy League Championship, but it’s going to take a lot of work and some help from others to get it done. The Bulldogs aren’t in as dire straits as Dartmouth, but must pick up some wins or risk being eliminated from the race as well.
And while it’s not the final home weekend of the season, Dartmouth will celebrate its senior class between games of the doubleheader on Saturday on Senior Day. Be sure to be on hand between the two games to thank Zac Bygum, Matt Feinstein, Cole O’Connor, Nate Ostmo, Sean Sullivan and Steffen Torgersen for their service and performance over the past four years.
Overall Record vs. Yale
• The two teams have met 231 times on the diamond with the Bulldogs leading 129-101-1.
• Yale has not played at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park since taking three of four from the Big Green in the 2016 season.
• Although the Bulldogs have won nine of the last 12 games, Dartmouth has won 25 of the last 40 going back to the 2009 season.
• The Big Green have swept the Bulldogs four of the last nine series in Hanover, plus have a 32-17 record here since the split into divisions in 1993.
• Dartmouth is 52-42 at home against the Bulldogs since 1930.
• Big Green head coach Bob Whalen enters this series with a 59-52 mark versus Yale.
• The first game in the series took place 137 years ago in 1881 when the Big Green defeated Yale, 6-3.
Scouting the Bulldogs
• Yale has had a bit of a roller-coaster season, most recently losing five straight games, including all three at home to Columbia, before sweeping Penn on the road last week.
• Don’t let the 6.33 team ERA fool you. The Bulldogs rely heavily on their three-man starting rotation — RHP Scott Politz, RHP Alex Stiegler and LHP Kumar Nambiar — who have combined for a 3.75 ERA in 58 percent of the team’s innings this season.
• The relievers to see the most time this year have been RHP Tyler Sapsford (0-3, 7.88 in 16 appearances) and LHP Rohan Handa (0-3, 7.94, 2 saves in 13 appearances).
• Yale ranks second in the league in batting average (.288) and on-base percentage (.379), but speed is what defines this team with 102 stolen bases (fifth in the nation) while being caught just 17 times. Simon Whiteman is perfect in 30 attempts and Matt LaPlante has stolen 26 more.
• That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs lack power with 24 homers with Griffin Dey (10) and Jake Gehri (7) hitting most of them.
• Yale has not had the services of one of its most potent hitters (and closer) in Benny Wanger since the sixth game of the season.
• The Bulldogs and Dartmouth are the top two fielding teams in the league, each with a .979 fielding percentage, and Yale has turned 44 double plays and thrown out 11 of 38 base stealers.
Last Time Against Yale
Dartmouth narrowly dropped the series in New Haven to the Bulldogs last year, falling in the opener, 10-3, before evening things up with a 3-1 victory. But Yale nipped the Green in the finale, 5-4.
The Bulldogs roughed up Cole O’Connor in the first inning of game one, scoring four times, before the right-hander settled in. The Big Green scored twice in the seventh to close the gap to 6-3, but another four-spot in the eighth put the
contest out of reach as Yale rapped out 15 hits. Blake Crossing had three hits and Michael Calamari added a double and a home run to the effort.
Jack Fossand and Austen Michel teamed up to limit the Bulldogs to six hits and one run, that coming on a solo homer in the fifth by Teddy Hague. The Big Green offense scored once in the first on a bases-loaded walk to Calamari, again in the fourth on a Steffen Torgersen sacrifice fly and an insurance run in the ninth when Nate Ostmo singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single off the bat of Bennett McCaskill.
Dartmouth jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the third game on a Matt Feinstein solo homer, and the two teams traded runs in the second. But a Griffin Dey two-run single followed by an Alex Stielger two-run double in the fifth put Yale on top, 5-2. McCaskill and Feinstein both drove in runs in the eighth to close the gap to one, but the Big Green could not get the tying run home in the ninth after Kyle Holbrook doubled with one out as Benny Wanger picked up a five-out save in relief of Eric Brodkowitz.
Probable Starting Pitchers
• The series opener on Saturday will feature staff aces in senior RHP Cole O’Connor (3-3, 6.56) and Yale RHP Scott Politz (5-2, 2.97). O’Connor has pitched well his last two starts, going seven innings in each and allowed a total of three earned runs, but has a career 9.00 ERA against the Bulldogs in three starts and 15 innings. Politz, a three-time All-Ivy League First Team pitcher, leads the conference in ERA and has thrown at least eight innings in each of his last four starts but has won just once.
• Game two will likely pit freshman RHP Justin Murray (2-3, 6.26) against RHP Alex Stiegler (4-4, 3.94). A pattern has emerged in Murray’s starts this season, posting a quality start every other start. Since he gave up eight runs in five innings last week, he is on schedule for a good outing this week. Stiegler, who leads the league with 65 strikeouts, had a streak of four quality starts come to an end last week, though he still earned the 9-7 win over Penn
• The finale will pit the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week — freshman RHP Nathan Skinner (2-5, 6.53) against the reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Week — LHP Kumar Nambiar (2-2, 4.59). Skinner will look to build upon his strong start (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 K) against Harvard, while Nambiar is coming off a three-hit shutout of Penn, the league’s most potent offense.
What’s Up Next
Next week is the final week of the regular season for the Big Green with a non-conference matchup with head coach Bob Whalen‘s alma mater, Maine, on Wednesday, followed by a three-game series against Cornell, all at home.
Countdown to 600 Wins
Head coach Bob Whalen needs just two more wins to reach 600 in his career as Dartmouth’s head coach, now in his 30th season in Hanover. Only four coaches in Ivy League history — in any sport — have won 600 or more games at one school, led by Bob Sneddon with 634 as Penn’s head baseball coach for 35 seasons (1971-2005). Two of the other three are current Harvard coaches (Jenny Allard in softball with 628, Kathy Delaney-Smith in women’s basketball with 602), while former Cornell softball coach Dick Blood is third on the list with 623.
Ostmo Surge Leads to Win at Siena
Senior Nate Ostmo went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs as Dartmouth defeated Siena in the final road game of the season on April 24, 6-4. Over the last three games, the shortstop raised his average 33 points to an even .300 while going 8-for-15 (.533) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBIs. And three of his four home runs this season have come in the last two weeks.
Jenkins Saves the Game
Clinging to a 6-4 lead in the ninth at Siena, sophomore Jonah Jenkins was summoned in the ninth with a man on and one out to preserve the victory. He heightened the drama by yielding a single to the first batter he faced, then uncorked a wild pitch to put the tying runs in scoring position with two outs. But he got the job done, getting the final batter on a grounder to second for his first career save.
Ivy Rookie of the Week — Again
Apparently, if freshman Nathan Skinner wins a game on the mound, he is named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. The right-hander kept Harvard in check for six innings on April 22, limiting the Crimson to two runs, one earned, on four hits while striking out six in six stanzas as Dartmouth earned a 15-7 victory. It was his second win of the season and second honor from the league office. Two other rookie pitchers on the staff have also won the award in Trystan Sarcone and Justin Murray, extending the Big Green streak of earning at least one weekly rookie honor to 14 years. No other team has a current streak longer than five years.
Series Finale Salvaged vs. Harvard
After dropping the first two games of the series to the Crimson on April 21, Dartmouth managed to avoid a sweep with a resounding 15-7 victory in the finale. The Big Green built up a 7-0 lead through two innings with Steffen Torgersen providing three RBIs. After Nathan Skinner was touched for two runs in the fourth — the only runs against him in six innings of work — Dartmouth answered back with seven more over the next three innings to put the game out of reach. Torgersen finished the game going 2-for-3 with a homer (the third of his career, two of which have come against Harvard) and a career-high five RBIs (he hadn’t had more than one in a game all season), while Nate Ostmo had four hits with a homer and drove in four.
Torgersen on a Tear
Senior third baseman Steffen Torgersen is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak during which he has hit .457 (16-for-35) with two doubles, a triple, home run, seven runs and seven RBIs. In the last 22 games (starting with the Bradley series), he has reached base in 21 of those contests. Torgersen leads the team in both batting (.336) and on-base percentage (.439).
Sullivan In The Swing of Things
Senior Sean Sullivan has been swinging the bat as well as anyone over the last 22 games, matching Steffen Torgersen for the team with a .352 average (32-of-91) since March 19. The leadoff hitter has also drawn 15 walks and not struck out in his last 35 at-bats, plus driven in 16 runs, fourth on the team. And his on-base percentage of .435 is second only to Blake Crossing (.437).
O’Connor Moving Up
Two weeks ago, senior Cole O’Connor became the 18th Big Green pitcher to throw 200 innings in a career, and he currently has 208.1, which ranks 13th in Dartmouth history. With two starts remaining, he has a good chance of surpassing the 219.2 thrown by Mark Johnson ’90 (father of teammate Trevor Johnson) for ninth place on that list. Those two starts would also tie him with Jim Croteau ’82 and Robert Young ’10 for the most starts on the mound for the Big Green with 38.
Feinstein Etching His Name, Too
Senior Matt Feinstein moved into Dartmouth’s career top 20 in hits during the first game against Harvard and is currently tied for 18th with 164 knocks to his credit. To reach the top 10 he would have to collect 13 more, or as many hits he has banged out over the last eight games with just seven remaining. He also homered at Siena, tying him for the team lead with five this year, a total not surpassed since Jeff Keller ’14 hit six in 2013.
Junior Blake Crossing has gotten on base in Ivy League games better than any other Big Green player. His .490 on-base percentage is nearly 200 points higher than his batting average in conference games (.297) and ranks third in the league. He is joined in the top 10 by senior Steffen Torgersen at .458, thanks in large part to his .381 batting average, which ranks seventh in the Ancient Eight.
Glove Man at the Hot Corner
Dartmouth’s most dependable defender over the past year has been senior third baseman Steffen Torgersen. It was April 8, 2018, when he took over the starting duties at the hot corner, where he has committed just two errors in 176 chances since for a fielding percentage of .989 (one of his three errors this season came as a shortstop).
The Dartmouth defense ranks among the top fielding teams in Division I with a .9786 fielding percentage through 34 games, just below the .9788 school record set in 2013. That ranks 26th in the country, its best showing since the 2015 campaign when the Big Green were 22nd at .976.
Best Time to Score? Ninth Inning!
Of all the innings played this season, Dartmouth has scored more runs in the ninth than any other with 34 runs. Although the team batting average in that inning is just .267, the team OPS is .946 (56 points higher than the next best inning) thanks to 29 walks, nine doubles and seven homers. Three times the Big Green have rallied from a deficit to either win the game or send it into extra innings, and another time tied it before falling in extras. Just like my teenage son (and myself), a bunch of procrastinators …
Rice Soaking It In
Freshman Ben Rice opened the season as the third-string catcher, but he has pushed his way into more playing time. The rookie has started 12 games in the last five weeks at catcher and DH, going 15-for-45 (.333) with four doubles, two triples, a homer, seven walks, seven runs and 10 RBIs. His first career home run started a three-run, ninth-inning rally against Penn to tie the score, leading to the 21-inning marathon, and he matched the three hits he had in that game in the 15-7 win over Harvard, coming a four-bagger short of the cycle.