By: Chis Hunn, Yale Sports Publicity
Richard Slenker has been locked in at the dish. So with two runners on in the ninth and Yale trailing, the scene was set for Slenker to play the role of hero for the Bulldogs.
He didn’t disappoint.
Slenker came through with a two-run single, lifting Yale to an 8-7 victory Saturday in Game 1 of the Ivy League Championship Series at Clarke Field in Princeton, NJ.
“They just wouldn’t be denied today,” Yale head coach John Stuper said. “We tried to give this game away. Our hitters finally took over. I’m really proud of these guys. They battled, battled and battled.”
The Bulldogs will play the Tigers in Game 2 on Sunday at noon. Game 3 will follow, if necessary.
Yale has now won eight straight against the Tigers. The Bulldogs are one step closer to their third Ivy League title and first since 1994. A win on Sunday would also clinch Yale’s fifth NCAA tournament berth.
Princeton battled back from a four-run deficit to take the lead in the eighth. But the Bulldogs, the Red Rolfe Division winner, refused to fold and bit back. Nate Adams reached on a walk in the ninth, stole second and moved to third on a single by Simon Whiteman (of Trumbull and Fairfield Prep). Whiteman then stole second. That set the table for Slenker, who ripped a single to right to drive in the go-ahead run.
Slenker finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs. He now has six hits in his last seven at-bats and at least a hit in 11 of his last 12 games. Andrew Herrera also delivered at the dish, going 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Alec Hoeschel added two hits and two RBIs.
“It’s been a year where it hasn’t been just one guy,” Stuper said. “You get contributions from all over the place. Simon has been struggling mightily. He sticks a huge hit. Slenker has probably been our most consistent guy. Hoeschel kind of won the job over there and is sticking big hit after big hit. Harrison is just a good hitter. Tommy O’Neill has been playing really good defense. I don’t want to leave anyone out.”
Pitcher Mason Kukowski picked up his first win of the season. Eric Brodkowitz, who had been rehabbing an injury, made his first appearance of the year and earned the save. Starting pitcher Scott Politz allowed five runs on nine hits over seven solid innings. He didn’t walk a batter and retired 10 straight during one stretch.
Yale jumped ahead in the second. Andrew Herrera knocked a single up the middle to drive in Brent Lawson and Tim DeGraw, giving the Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead.
The Tigers got both runs back in the bottom of the frame, but Yale unloaded in the third. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with three straight walks. Following a Princeton pitching change, Hoeschel and Herrera came up with back-to-back two-run singles to put Yale up 6-2.
Notes: With his father Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey looking on, Andrew Christie, the Princeton catcher, doubled in the second inning driving in Princeton’s first run, and scored the second run two batters later. (Link to previoius story): New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will attend Yale-Princeton Ivy League Championship series, though format is changed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will attend Yale-Princeton Ivy League Championship series, though format is changed
Because of anticipated rain delays, the second game of the scheduled doubleheader was postponed a day in advance, setting up a twin bill on Sunday if Princeton wins the opener.
Although Sunday’s action will again take place in Princeton, Yale will be considered the “home” team and bat last in Game #2, which is scheduled to start at 12-noon.