Baseball wins its final series of the year to take third in the Ivy League

The Big Green ended Columbia’s NCAA-leading winning streak of 19 games.

by Heath Monsma | 5/16/22 2:05am

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Courtesy of Justin Murray

In 1970, Dartmouth baseball set the Ivy League record for consecutive wins with 21. Over 50 years later, Columbia University came to Hanover riding high on a 19-game streak, hoping to break that record. In addition to preserving the legacy of the 1970 Ivy League champions, Dartmouth’s 2022 squad was looking to earn its own spot in the Championship Series. While the Big Green was not ultimately able to qualify for the postseason series, the team defended its record and secured a victory in the Columbia series to close out its season in fairytale fashion on May 15. 

Sitting at third in the conference heading into the series, the Big Green could qualify with a sweep of Columbia if second-ranked University of Pennsylvania was simultaneously swept by last-place Princeton University. Head coach Bob Whalen had some succinct words to guide the Big Green through the weekend. 

“I told the team after practice on Friday, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” he said. “And based on record right now, Columbia is the best.”

The first game on Saturday was Senior Day for the Class of 2022, and the team showed up to put their stamp on the first winning season of their careers. After the league-leading Columbia offense put up three runs in the top of the first, the Big Green was not discouraged, responding with two of its own in the bottom of the second. A pitcher’s duel ensued until the fourth when a two-run homer for Columbia widened the gap back to three runs. With the season on the line, Dartmouth began to slowly claw its way back into the game, picking up runs in the fourth and sixth innings. 

In the bottom of the seventh Kade Kretzschmar ’22 stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second. He watched one ball go by and then belted a rocket out to right field, putting the Big Green up 7-5. Columbia threatened the next inning, bringing the score back to within one, but there was some senior magic in the air as Bryce Daniel ’22 clubbed a two-run home run for the first of his career. Those runs would prove to be the nails in Columbia’s coffin as the final stood at 11-8 for the Big Green. 

“We’ve been seeing 19 wins all over social media,” Kretschmar said. “So we wanted to be the guys to take them down.”

After a half hour break, the teams were back at it again for the second game of the double header. Again, Columbia struck first putting up a run in the top of the first. The Big Green matched it in the bottom of the inning, and the tie carried through until the third. The two teams continued to battle until the fifth inning, at which Columbia was leading 5-3, when lightning struck — literally — and the game was suspended until 10 a.m. the next day. 

Both teams’ bats quieted down in the morning as only one Columbia run was scored until the bottom of the eighth. Down 6-4 in the bottom of ninth, the Big Green had one more shot, but Columbia’s fielding stayed solid down the stretch and the final remained the same. This meant Dartmouth was locked into third place in the Ivy League. However, even if Dartmouth had been able to rally, it would not have mattered as Princeton ended up dropping the first game of its series 10-8. Despite elimination, this Big Green team did not back down and maintained its drive heading into game three.

“This is a really special team. Coach Whalen has said time and time again that this group is one of the closest he's had and he’s been here for a long time,” Tyler Cox ’24 said. “We take pride in not only getting better, you know, at baseball on the field together, but having, continuing that sense of togetherness everywhere.”

Despite being out of the Ivy League Championships, Dartmouth refused to surrender to Columbia. With starting pitcher Justin Murray ’22 not pitching due to injury, Dartmouth's pitching became a true team effort, with ten players taking the mound. In the first inning, Dartmouth set the tone with three hits and a run, but the squads traded the lead as Columbia went up 3-1 and then Dartmouth recaptured it 4-3. After tying it up in the fifth inning, Columbia appeared to have blown the game open in the sixth, emerging with a 9-4 lead. In the eighth, the Big Green showed signs of life scoring four runs and tightening the gap to 10-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and Kretzschmar on third, Nathan Cmeyla ’24 stepped up to the plate and worked into a full count. Choosing to go down swinging, he took a huge cut at the next pitch and hit a towering fly ball out to right field that found its way just over the fence, tying the game up at 10 and completing a two-inning, six-run comeback. 

The game then went to extras. In the top of the tenth, Columbia posted a go-ahead run, forcing the Big Green to answer. The response was loud and the finish was a storybook ending, as Cox singled in the tying run and two batters later Peter O’toole ’23 was the hero hitting a walk-off single, giving Dartmouth the 12-11 victory in the game and the 2-1 victory in the series.

Cox, led the Ivy League in batting average (.402) — the first time a Dartmouth player has finished the season over .400 since 2004 — said crossing home plate for the game-winning run was “absolutely electric.” 

“All I felt was elation,” Cox said. “This team has a lot of heart and we’ve battled back like this all year, we’re the best Sunday team in the nation.”

Also helping lead Dartmouth in the batter’s box was Kretzschmar, as the senior finished holding the sixth best batting average in the Ivy League this year, hitting .353. 

“It just couldn't have been a better end to our season,” Kretzschmar said. “To win in that fashion at home with all the parents here was special. No shade, but [Columbia] knows who the better team is.”

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