Playoff hopes dim for baseball team after losing two to Harvard
The Big Green currently sits in sixth place in the Ivy League.
Arguably the most overused phrase in sports is taking the season one game at a time. But as the baseball team enters its last two weeks of Ivy League play, it is going to need to stick to this cliché in order to have any chance of reaching the Ivy League championship in spite of its current sixth-place standing.
The Big Green dropped two of its three games against Harvard University this past weekend, falling to 11-21 overall after their first two matchups. Dartmouth won the finale against Harvard on Monday and defeated Siena College 6-4 on Wednesday to build up some positive momentum and give the team its 12th and 13th wins, but the series loss versus the Crimson dropped the Big Green to 6-9 in conference play.
Due to rain, the Saturday doubleheader was pushed back to Sunday, with the finale moved to Monday. Sunday proved challenging for the Big Green, which lost the first game 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion. The team gave up the tiebreaking run with two outs in the final frame and stranded six of its seven runners during the course of the loss.
“The difference between winning and losing is really small,” head coach Bob Whalen said. “When you’re not able to [bring runners home], it makes things harder.”
While the Big Green struggled offensively in the opener, captain Cole O’Connor ’19 shined on the mound with seven one-run innings. Despite the loss, O’Connor’s effort was critical. He kept the bullpen fresh for the remainder of the series by going deep into the game and gave the offense chances to take the lead by keeping the game close.
“When you get a well-pitched game, you put your team in a position where you always have a chance to win,” Whalen said.
While the first Sunday game was close throughout, that was not the case for the second game. Dartmouth lost 11-3, with four-run fourth and fifth innings from Harvard leading the Crimson’s offensive charge. Justin Murray ’22, who won Ivy League Rookie of the Week the week prior for a masterful start against Brown University, had a tougher time containing Harvard.
The defining factor in the game was how Dartmouth continued to struggle with runners in scoring position whereas Harvard did a great job bringing runners home. Eleven of the Crimson’s 20 runners who reached base scored, compared to only three of Dartmouth’s 14 runners made the full 360-foot trip to home plate.
This problem of hitting with runners on base continued to plague the Big Green early in Monday’s game. After loading the bases in the first inning, the Big Green scored a run when Steffen Torgersen ’19 was hit by a pitch, but it failed to break the inning open. In the second inning, however, Dartmouth finally came through with runners in scoring position, exploding for a six-run inning.
“It felt good for the bats to come out and bust the game open early,” Nate Ostmo ’19 said. “It was on the forefront of our minds to capitalize with guys on base and in scoring position.”
After that second-inning outbreak, the Big Green continued to plate runners en route to a 15-7 victory, the only time the team has scored more than 10 runs in its last 10 games since its 21-inning loss to the University of Pennsylvania. Ostmo led the team with a two-run home run to go with three other hits on the day, while Torgersen added a long ball of his own.
Even if the offense had not been as dominant, the team would have still been in great shape due to a pitching gem from Nathan Skinner ’22. Skinner pitched six brilliant two-run innings, which was critical at the back end of a tiring Ivy League season with a bullpen that has accumulated plenty of wear and tear over the course of it.
“He had to pitch well today,” Whalen said. “For us to have a chance on the back end with our bullpen, we needed at least five or six innings out of him. He was really the key to the day.”
Skinner attributed his success to being relaxed and comfortable on the mound.
“Today felt great,” Skinner said. “We’re at the point where we aren’t nervous anymore; we’re part of the team. The offense played great, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure.”
On top of being recognized by his coach for his superb outing, Skinner was honored by the conference as he received the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award. Skinner is already familiar with the honor, as he was recognized earlier in the season after a stellar start in early March against Farleigh Dickinson University.
The team built on the positive energy from Monday in its midweek road trip to Siena in Upstate New York. Dartmouth won the game 6-4, largely due to more strong pitching. After Alec Vaules ’20 pitched five innings of four-run ball, the bullpen slammed the door with four scoreless innings. The first-year pitchers capitalized on key opportunities as Chase Jeter ’22 and Trystan Sarcone ’22 pitched 1.2 and 1.1 shutout innings, respectively. Jonah Jenkins ’21 succeeded Sarcone and put the nail in the coffin for his first save of the season.
Offensively, Ostmo continued his success at the plate by hitting another home run and knocking in three. A four-run fourth inning was the key for Dartmouth, giving the Big Green a lead it would not squander.
With the Siena game in the books, Dartmouth will not leave the friendly confines of Hanover for the remainder of the season. The team has seven consecutive home games remaining, six of which are in conference play. Yale University will make the trip north this weekend, the University of Maine will come for a Wednesday tilt next week and Cornell University will come during the final weekend of the season to finish up the 2019 campaign.
Dartmouth is four games back of second-place Harvard, which it would have to pass in order to make the Ivy League championship featuring the top two teams. The team’s only hope is to win out and hope for a wild series of events to occur. The odds of everything falling into place are slim, but the team’s focus right now is simply on its next game. In this case, that means turning its attention to Yale this coming Saturday.
“I think the players will tell you that [focusing on the next game] is all we talk about,” Whalen said. “Yale is a good team, they always are. But so are we.”