Baseball clinches eighth straight Red Rolfe Division title

by Gayne Kalustian | 4/21/15 6:01pm

If two weeks ago Dartmouth baseball was the king of splits, it has since become the king of streaks — winning 10 in a row, sweeping all of its conference competition so far and taking the Red Rolfe Division title for the eighth consecutive year with four conference games left in the season. It’s a good time to be watching baseball at Dartmouth.

But not everything is perfect for the Big Green. The action on what some might call the Ivy League’s stronger half — the Lou Gehrig division — unfolded this weekend to ensure that the Ivy League Championship Series will not be played at the College. The host, which will be determined in the final weekend of the regular season and, if necessary, a playoff game, will either be defending Ivy League champions Columbia University or the University of Pennsylvania. Both teams have 14-2 conference records.

In Hanover, the weekend slate of two doubleheaders against Brown University was kicked off by the latest solid outing by Mike Concato ’17 who has been extremely reliable on the mound for the Big Green this season. Concato went for seven innings — throwing the only solo shutout in the Ivy League this weekend. Two other pitchers, Penn’s Connor Cuff and Harvard University’s Matt Timoney, went for run-less tenures of similar lengths, leaving the mound after allowing no runs, but threw in nine inning games. Timoney, whose record is now 6-1, will pitch against the Big Green in the coming weekend.

Chris Burkholder ’17 took the win for game two, coming in to start the sixth inning and following up Jackson Bubala ’17, who allowed four runs against seven hits. Patrick Peterson ’18 pitched most of the final inning and earned his fourth save — a team high. A six-run game from the Big Green offense, spread across six single-run half innings, was enough to carry Dartmouth to the victory.

Both games on Sunday came down to the final inning, the first a product of a pitcher’s duel between Duncan Robinson ’16 and Brown’s Reid Anderson and the second an uncomfortable 8-7 victory, pieced together by captain and starter Louis Concato ’14 and four members from the bullpen — Chris England ’15, Adam Frank ’15, Burkholder and Peterson. In both games, Brown knotted the score at the last minute, forcing the Big Green to either make something happen in the bottom of the final inning or push the game into extra-innings. In both games, Dartmouth found strength in one of its defensive players: catcher Matt MacDowell ’15.

In the first game, MacDowell smacked a walk-off sacrifice fly out to center field. In game two, MacDowell kicked off the inning with a single up the middle. After being pushed over by a groundout from Bo Patterson ’15, MacDowell stuttered onto third base on a single by centerfielder Nick Ruppert ’16, unsure, he said, of his ability to get across in time. The team jokes, he said, about him being the “slowest player in the Ivy League.” Designated hitter Joe Purritano ’16 finally drove in the walk-off, game winner on the first pitch he saw.

MacDowell, who has a perfect fielding record, with the exception of two early catcher’s interference calls before conference play began, has been struggling in the box, batting .162.

“I haven’t been having my best year, so I’m happy that I’ve just stuck with it,” MacDowell said. “It worked out when it mattered today. It’s tough when they score in the ninth inning, so it’s good that we were able to key back in.”

The team saw some shuffling on the infield during game two as both the freshmen who have been platooning on second base — Justin Fowler ’18 and Dustin Shirley ’18 — found themselves in the line-up. Shirley was moved to first base in place of Michael Ketchmark ’17 until the eighth inning. Shirley, still hitting well below where the team would like a player to, has been moving steadily upward since the Big Green hit its stride a couple of weeks ago. Now hitting .218, Shirley said he’s working on going after the early fastballs and is indifferent to which base head coach Bob Whalen puts him on.

“It’s just two different worlds,” Shirley said. “First base is a little more chill, you’ve just got to catch the ball, the basic stuff. Second base, you’ve got to hold the runners at second and watch for the steal. It’s just a lot more stuff to do.”

While there are many factors that play into where a player will land, Shirley’s reach at 6’5” could be useful at first, especially with the departure of veterans Nick Lombardi ’15 and Matt Parisi ’15 on the left side of the infield next year.

Watching from the stands as the Big Green locked in the Red Rolfe Division was would-have-been co-captain and second baseman Thomas Roulis ’15, who is just now returning to baseball-related activities after undergoing surgeries for a bulging fracture and two inguinal hernias. Roulis has seen the team play in four states this season, despite sitting in the bleachers, and has every intention of returning to play baseball at Dartmouth next year as a fifth-year player. The team, he said, is working the way it needs to in order to win the Ivy League at just the right time.

“They’ve been doing really well in the Ivy League — taking advantage of their opportunities and the pitching has been great for us,” Roulis said. “The bats are starting to wake up a little bit which is a plus, especially going into the last two weekends. Hopefully, they keep swinging and keep pitching and they’ll be alright.”