In the Corvallis Regional, Nebraska will have to face off Friday afternoon against the Yale Bulldogs. Yale has never faced Nebraska. The Bulldogs (32-16, 16-4 Ivy) are the Ivy League automatic bid, by virtue of defeating the University of Pennsylvania in the best of three game format.
The Bulldogs have not beaten a top 50 RPI team since they took a doubleheader from Columbia back in 2014. That season the Bulldogs also took a Sunday series finale from Louisiana State. Other than those three top 50 RPI wins, Yale has not beaten a RPI top 50 team since 2011 when they beat Connecticut.
No foolin', Nebraska Baseball's first-round foe, No. 3 seed Yale, is 0-11 vs. top-100 RPI teams since April 1, 2014, when it beat Columbia.— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) May 29, 2017
The Bulldogs are lead by Head Coach John Stuper. Stuper, a former MLB pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, has been the coach at Yale for the past 25 seasons. Stuper led the Bulldogs into the NCAA Tournament in 1993, and has not been back until this year.
Yale is just 16-12 outside of the Ivy League this year, with their toughest opponent being Clemson. The Tigers swept the Bulldogs in a midweek series, winning by a score of 10-6 and 10-8.
On the mound, Nebraska is expected to see a welcome sight, a right handed starting pitcher. Scott Politz is the probable for Friday’s 3 p.m. tilt with the Huskers. Politz is 10-2 on the season having thrown six complete games. Politz has an earned run average of 3.47, while tallying 69 strikeouts against just 17 walks.
Politz was tagged for eight runs by Clemson, but shutdown a Wofford offense which ranked 32nd in the nation at seven runs per game. Politz will throw a fastball touching 90, a curve, a slider, and a change. The slider tends to be the out pitch, but he is capable of throwing any pitch for strikes.
Griffin Dey is another name to watch. He is a two way player, who has the lowest ERA on the team sitting at 2.79. Dey does have a pair of saves, tied for most among Bulldog pitchers. Dey can have control issues, issuing 17 walks in 29 innings, against only 14 strikeouts.
Outside of Dey and Politz, no other reliever has an ERA below 4.50. No other fulltime reliever has above 26.1 innings pitched, whereas Nebraska has four players who fit that mold.
Dey leads the Bulldogs in home runs with ten on the season. Yale has hit 40 homers this season, and bats .291 as a team. Benny Wanger, Richard Slenker, Tim DeGraw, Simon Whiteman, Alex Stiegler, and Harrison White all are regular’s in the lineup who have batting averages over .300.
Wanger and Dey will platoon at first, so one may slide to the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Wanger has 38 hits in just 108 at bats, so the sample size there is a little small. It is worth noting that Wanger did not play in four of the last five games for Yale.
Slenker and DeGraw are the two big players to watch for Yale. Both players walk more than they strikeout, and have a tendency to get on base. Slenker is more of a mash the ball hitter, with a good comparison to Angelo Altavilla. DeGraw is the offensive version of Jake Meyers, legging out infield singles and stealing 16 bases on the season.
Yale is the kind of team that could put up a big number in a hurry. They put up a six spot on Clemson in a midweek game, but then went down without any damage on the scoreboard in the other eight innings. If Nebraska were to throw Jake Hohensee here, this could be a concern with his recent tendency to have a blowup inning and then be fine the rest of the night.
As far as intangibles for the Bulldogs, they are a solid team. Besides Slenker picking up 16 error’s at the hot corner, nothing else seems like a big factor. Whitmen has 11 steals, second on the team behind DeGraw. The strikeout to walk ratio for Yale is slight worse than Nebraska, a 1.6 compared to the Huskers 1.9.
The only other factor that stands out is the fact that Yale plays in the Ivy League and does not see the same standard of pitching that Nebraska does. Yale’s strength of schedule was 159th in the nation. Part of the reason it was that high was because Yale played on 15 home contests this season out of 48 games. A tested Nebraska team could put a crooked number on the board and turn their opening game into a blowout if Yale does not bring their A game.