The Yale baseball team had an early opportunity to meet the players on two of the three other teams they will or could be facing in the NCAA regional starting Friday, even before the plane landed in Corvallis, Oregon on Wednesday.
Not that they cared to socialize, but the option was there.
The NCAA provided a charter trip for the three visiting teams in the regional, and they all ended on the same plane.
Yale and Holy Cross personnel were on the aircraft when it left Bradley International Airport early in the day, then it made a pit stop in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Joining them on the same aircraft were the Cornhuskers, the team Yale will face in the first round on Friday. The Bulldogs (32-16) are the #3 seed and Nebraska (35-20-1) is #2.
From there the three teams traveled together to Corvallis, Oregon.
Missing from the Nebraska entourage was Ethan Frazier, a relief pitcher with a 1.72 ERA in 15 3/5 innings. He sustained an arm injury in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Maryland, and will require surgery to reattach a muscle to the bone.
Yale and its Holy Cross “cousins”
One team on the plane that Yale needed no introduction to was Holy Cross. The Crusaders and Bulldogs have already played each other six times this season, with Yale winning five of those games. They included a specially arranged tune-up double header that Yale swept last Saturday in Worcester, Mass.
It certainly was not expected at the time that Yale and Holy Cross would be put in the same bracket. But the Crusaders, being one of only two teams in the entire 64-team field with an under .500 winning percentage (Texas Southern is the other), indirectly helped Yale to get a No. 3 seed, and not have to play the nation’s #1 team, host Oregon State, in its first game.
Nebraska coach Darin Erstad has not announced his starting pitcher but Jake Meyers is a strong possibility, even though he developed tightness in the Big Ten Tourney.
Scott Politz (10-1) Yale top pitcher, is expected to start the opener of the double-elimination regional.
Just as Yale’s coach John Stuper is a former major leaguer with World Series experience, Nebraska’s Erstad has an MLB background. He is the only player in MLB history to win Gold Gloves as an infielder and outfielder.
Erstad played with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (with whom he appeared in the 2001 World Series), the Chicago White Sox and Houston. In 1,654 games he compiled a career batting average of .282.
The Yale-Nebraska game on Friday will start at 4 pm EDT, and be shown online on ESPN3.