Baseball team wins one-game playoff for Rolfe Division crown

by Gayne Kalustian | 5/4/14 3:11pm

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by Jin Lee / The Dartmouth

In the rain and against the odds, the Dartmouth baseball team brought home its seventh straight Red Rolfe Division title by crushing the Yale University Bulldogs 11-4 in a one-game playoff Sunday afternoon at Biondi Park. The team, rising from the hole it dug itself by opening the season with a 5-9 Ivy League record, ended on an eight-game winning streak, which it will take to Columbia University (25-17, 15-5 Ivy) next weekend for the Ivy League Championship Series.

The Big Green (18-19, 11-9 Ivy) felt confident going into the game against Yale (19-22, 11-9 Ivy) on their home field, co-captain Jeff Keller ’14 said.

“I think we always knew we had a chance,” he said, “but there were definitely a number of times when we were against the wall and it didn’t look very good. We always assume you’re never out until you’re fully out, but there were definitely times when this didn’t look as possible as it obviously is.”

The team put Beau Sulser ’16, a right-hander, on the mound to start the game. Despite striking out two in the first, a fielder’s choice in the second gave Yale the first run of the game. In the next at-bat, a 2-2 pitch in the dirt from Sulser was not blocked by catcher Matt MacDowell ’15, allowing the ball to skip to the backstop. Yale’s runner on third took home. Looking for Sulser to be covering the plate, MacDowell tossed the ball to open space, but the pitcher was on the ground near the mound holding his arm. The Big Green recovered the lost toss to keep the trailing runner at third, but Sulser left the game immediately, bringing in Duncan Robinson ’16 for emergency relief. He hurled a fastball that froze the Yale batter to end the inning with a full count and two outs.

Sulser needs an MRI to determine the extent of his injury, but the team kept a positive attitude after giving up two runs, Keller said.

“We knew we had a lot of game left,” he said. “You don’t panic and expect that you’re going to turn around a little bit. They had their run of sorts, and we were going to take ours. You just have to let the talent play.”

A hitless Dartmouth order came to bat in the bottom of the third, led by MacDowell who singled between first and second. Matt Parisi ’15 and Keller loaded the bases with two more singles, bringing Nick Ruppert ’15 to the plate. Ruppert narrowly avoided a double play when a bouncing grounder to center escaped the Bulldog shortstop, bringing in MacDowell and leaving Dartmouth spread across the diamond with showers raining down on the park.

Still with no outs, a wild pitch gave Parisi time to run down the third baseline, knotting the score two all. The bases were loaded yet again after a four-pitch walk for Thomas Roulis ’15. The designated hitter Joe Purritano ’16 singled into right, driving in Keller and Ruppert to take a decisive two run lead with one out. The Bulldogs swapped starter Chris Lanham for Chris Moates on the mound.

The change on the mound did little good for the visitors when Nick Lombardi ’15 sent a triple off the fence to drive in two more Dartmouth runs. Lombardi would be brought in by Bo Patterson ’15, who popped a ball into shallow left that hung in the air long enough to throw off Bulldog shortstop Cale Hanson and brought the Dartmouth lead to 7-2.

A two-run home run for the Bulldogs in the seventh brought Louis Concato ’14 to close the game in the eighth. Concato, typically a starter, earned his first save of the season with his parents in the stands.

“Coach told the rest of the pitchers just to be ready when he called us into the game,” Concato said. “We kind of took the week in preparation to come in out of the bullpen whatever inning that was. It happened to be in the eighth, so I just tried to get my outs.”

In the bottom half of the eighth, Roulis tripled deep to center to score Keller to double up the Bulldogs with one out. Selzer scored Roulis on a sacrifice fly and Purritano reached on an error before a two-run homer by Lombardi — his fifth home run of the season — gave the Big Green the final seven-run lead it carried through the ninth.

The win and consequent Division title is a victory the entire team has been waiting for but comes with additional poignancy for the seniors, Selzer said.

“We have kind of our backs against the wall for the first time since we’ve been here,” he said. “Being able to fight through that and get it done today is more special than usual because usually at this point it’s kind of expected we would have won the division. To be able to do it at home like this in this playoff game felt really good for a lot of guys.”