CORVALLIS, Ore. – The best season in the long history of Yale baseball came to an end in the most appropriate of ways. It came a game after setting the school record for wins in a season. It also came a game after the first multiple-victory NCAA Tournament showing since 1948. The final blow was delivered by the clear-cut, best team in the country in their own park, an 8-1 decision for Oregon State before another sell out at Goss Stadium.
The 52-4 Beavers, the only team to beat Yale in this tournament, have now won 19 straight games and are 28-1 at their place. You can see how tall the task was for anyone at the Corvallis Regional. The Big 10 Champions weren’t good enough, neither were the Patriot League’s best. The 2017 Ivy League Champions made it to the end of the tournament and finished the year at 34-18.
The Blue went 2-2 in the double-elimination event with great performances from sophomore center fielder Tim DeGraw (7 hits, 6 runs) and freshman IF/OF Alex Stiegler (6 hits, 6 RBI), while senior corner man Richard Slenker chipped in five hits. We also can’t forget the stellar, complete-game by sophomore Scott Politz that beat Nebraska Friday. DeGraw, Stiegler and Politz earned regional All-Tournament Team honors. Sophomore Kumar Nambiar wasn’t on that list, but his win on the mound today against Holy Cross deserved consideration.
The Elis began the night game almost the same way they did the earlier contest. DeGraw led off with an infield single against Drew Rasmussen (0.51 ERA) and came around to score when Stiegler laced a one-hop liner off the right center fence for his fourth double of the tournament.
Yale had a serious but unsuccessful threat in the third with two outs and a pair in scoring position, set up by another Stiegler hit and a Griffin Dey double down the left field line.
Rookie lefty Thomas Espig, starting just his fifth game as a Bulldog, deserved a much better fate. Espig struck out two in the second and entered the third in a 1-1 tie before the Elis committed two errors and allowed a three-run shot by Michael Gretler. The Yale starter got two outs in the third before giving way to classmate Tyler Sapsford, the pitcher who closed out the win over Holy Cross and then went four against the Beavers.
The Bulldogs are one of the best (.973) fielding teams in the country, but they were swimming upstream in some ways. Not only were they in their second game of the day after a short turn-around from the late Saturday contest, the Elis were facing a great bunting team with a ton of speed. That puts a lot of pressure on an infield.
Tim DeGraw got robbed of a bunt base hit in the fifth when he was called out at first. The video replay in the press box confirmed it should have been a safe call… Senior catcher Andrew Herrera, who has been putting his body on misfires all season, had a beauty of a stop two feet to the side of the dish with a runner on early in the game… Simon Whiteman was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with an injury. He had a double in the second inning… The Elis beat Holy Cross earlier in the day by getting three hits each from Tim DeGraw and Alex Stiegler (5 RBI) while Kumar Nambiar went seven innings and shortstop Dai Dai Otaka (9 assists) made numerous spectacular fielding plays… Yale’s 34 wins are a school record and one better than John Stuper’s 1993 team… The Blue had just three seniors (3B, RF, C) in the starting lineup, the rest were freshmen and sophomores.
I’ve been to college baseball parks around the country and have seen rabid fans of all kinds, but this place may top them all. I realize there weren’t any tough times for OSU in this regional, but it was obvious the typical Beavers fan was probably someone you’d enjoy talking to… even as the opposition (it must be noted that the sale of alcohol is prohibited during NCAA Regional play). I’ve never seen a college baseball fan base that showed as much CLEAN enthusiasm, dedication and good sportsmanship (they applaud every opposing pitcher who is removed from the game) as the OSU rooters, who sold out Goss Stadium each night. I hope they get to see a victory in their team’s final game of 2017.
2017 Corvallis Regional All-Tournament Team
Most Outstanding Player – Steven Kwan, Oregon State
Catcher – Adley Rutschman, Oregon State
First Base – KJ Harrison, Oregon State
Second Base – Alex Stiegler, Yale
Third Base – Michael Gretler, Oregon State
Shortstop – Cadyn Grenier, Oregon State
Outfield – Steven Kwan (Oregon State), Tim DeGraw (Yale) and Bill Schlich (Holy Cross)
Designated Hitter – Trevor Larnach, Oregon State
Pitcher – Luke Heimlich (Oregon State) and Scott Politz (Yale)
By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director – firstname.lastname@example.org