Baseball’s strong start squashed by Stevens

By ANDREW JOHNSON | March 16, 2017

The Hopkins men’s baseball team looked to continue their scorching start to the season after a fresh a pair of victories over number one ranked Cortland State and number two ranked Keystone College. The 5-1 Jays entered their matchup against the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks with a lot of confidence, but ultimately fell short in a pitcher’s duel at Stromberg Stadium.

The Jays opened the scoring in the bottom of the third, when junior left fielder Colby Wilson reached first safely on an error, followed by a walk from senior second baseman Joe Conlon. Another unforced error by the Ducks would allow Wilson to race home for the 1-0 lead.

However, the Blue Jays lead would quickly evaporate in the top of the fourth, as the Ducks scored a trio of runs that would ultimately prove to be decisive. A bunt single followed by a double would produce the first run for Stevens, who added their final two runs on a pair of passed balls. However, the Jays were able to stop the bleeding with an excellent unassisted putout from senior first baseman Daniel Albert. The Blue Jays were unable to generate an offensive push against an array of Stevens pitchers and the score would stand at 3-1 for the remainder of the game.

Junior pitcher Alex Ross started on the mound for the Jays. He logged three dominant innings, surrendering no hits and striking out four of nine batters.

Ross attributed his success to his fastball, which generated a lot of groundouts in the cold and windy conditions.

“Sunday, I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. It was a really cold and windy day, so locating fastballs and getting ahead in the count were really all you needed to do give your team a shot to win since it would be hard for someone to put one out.” Ross said. “I’d say the inside fastball was the most effective pitch I was throwing, getting me a fair amount of groundouts.”

Departing the game with a 1-0 lead, the Jays would turn things over in the fourth to sophomore Sean McCracken. McCracken gave up two hits, which would level the score at 1-1, but then allowed two additional runs to score on passed balls.

Although it was not his best performance,  his past record suggests that he can recover  from this setback. In 2016, McCracken pitched to a 1.82 earned run average across 12 appearances, the second lowest on the team.

The Jays can count on McCracken for quality innings out of the pen, so they can continue to look to him going forward this season.

Following the fourth, the Jays sent a different reliever to the mound for each of the remaining five innings. The five relievers combined to surrender just one hit from the 15 batters they faced.

Sophomore Jack Bunting entered the game in the eighth inning to pitch for the Jays. He did not allow a single hit or a single base runner in an excellent inning of relief.

Bunting, a transfer student, talked about his experience as a reliever starting off his rookie year for the Jays. As he arrived at Hopkins this year, Bunting’s previous experience was primarily in the starting rotation.

“Going into the year as a transfer, I was not sure what to expect,” Bunting said. “But the coaches had confidence that pitching would be our strength and so far we have been able to show that. I think most of our guys in the bullpen hope to be starters at some point, but when they need us in the bullpen, then we are all ready to give a 100 percent.”

Bunting also mentioned that he has learned to adjust to the inherently different mindset relievers must have when approaching the game.

“I am new to relieving, but what I have realized here is that no matter what day it is, you have to be ready,” Bunting said. “Some days, the coaches have an idea of who is going to come out of the pen first, but you never know depending on how the game goes, so we all try to prepare the same way each day, no matter what. Most of us are sophomores, and we hope the experience out of the bullpen will help us succeed in the future, whatever our role happens to be.”

With a surplus of underclassmen pitching talent, the Jays appear to have a deep staple of fresh arms that could pay off come tournament time this spring. However, this time, the Jays’ offensive was held in check by the Ducks’ pitcher Zeph Walters, who went seven innings, striking out eight and surrendering only two hits. The Jays were limited to just three hits on the afternoon — a season low.

Next up for the Jays is a trip to sunny Florida over spring break for the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. Hopkins will play a total of 10 games over the week, beginning on March 17 with a game against New York University.

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