Over spring break, the Hopkins baseball team headed down to Fort Myers, Fla. to compete in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. With 10 games in 10 days, including one doubleheader, almost all of the Blue Jays saw time on the field. The Jays won six games and lost four in Florida, which brings them to 10-8 on the season.
During their first weekend at Fort Myers, the Jays defeated SUNY Plattsburgh and swept Lakeland University in a doubleheader. Junior pitcher Preston Betz pitched the entire first game against Lakeland, striking out a career-high 13 hitters in the shutout, the Jays’ first of the 2018 season.
Junior pitcher Jack Bunting discussed the Jays’ performance on the mound.
“After bringing most of the pitching staff back from last year, we knew we’d be a strength of the team this year,” he said. “But there’s still a lot of things we can improve on as pitchers and as a team in general going into Conference.”
Next, the Blue Jays played the Plymouth State Panthers. The game remained tied at 1-1 until the top of the fourth. After the Panthers got runners to second and third base, a wild pitch by the Jays’ senior pitcher Alex Ross brought Plymouth senior Nate Frederick home. Triples by Plymouth catcher Cam Ruziak and outfielder Josh Goulet drove in two more runs to make the score 4-1.
Both teams scored once during the fifth, and the Panthers scored twice in the top of the sixth, bringing the score to 8-2 in their favor halfway through the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, however, the Hopkins bats exploded. A home run by senior centerfielder Chris DeGiacomo; a triple by sophomore designated hitter Nate Davis; a double by senior first baseman Frank Clara; and singles by Davis, DeGiacomo and sophomore catcher Bradley Martin brought the score to 11-8, allowing Hopkins to take their first lead of the game. The next three innings saw three Hopkins pitchers — freshman Brent Peterson, freshman Jake Griffin and junior John Donohue.
Unfortunately for the Jays, they would not score again after the bottom of the sixth. In the top of the eighth, Plymouth scored three runs, tying the game at 11. Neither team scored again by the end of the ninth, which brought the game to extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Plymouth second baseman Ryan Richard scored the game-winning run, and the Jays lost with a final score of 12-11.
The Blue Jays’ next game was against Bethel University and also went into extra innings, with a tie-breaking home run from Bethel catcher Austin Ledin leading to a 6-5 Hopkins loss.
Senior catcher Alex Darwiche highlighted the importance of mental approach on the Jays’ performance during games as close as Plymouth and Bethel.
“We have struggled to manufacture runs in close games, and that has cost us. We have a lot of young guys that have not gone through the long toil of a season,” he said. “Understanding how to change your approach based on yourself and your situation is something we are all learning to do.”
During the next game against SUNY Old Westbury, the Hopkins bats had more success. The Jays’ first big inning was the third, with Darwiche and sophomore centerfielder Chris Festa walking and then scoring off of a triple by sophomore catcher Mike Ainsworth. Ainsworth and senior third baseman Mike Smith then came in to score as well to cap off the inning.
After the fourth, the Blue Jays scored in every inning that followed and gave up only five more runs, bringing the final score to 14-8 in their favor. Several younger Hopkins players got off the bench during the latter half of the game, including sophomore second baseman Robby Faris, sophomore outfielder Bradley Parsons, sophomore catcher Bradley Martin and freshman infielder Brian Linton.
Darwiche discussed the Jays’ success against Old Westbury.
“It started with the guys at the top of the lineup getting on base and continued with the guys at the bottom delivering big hits,” he said. “Having so many guys contribute is really a reflection of the talent that we have in our program. Our last guy off the bench is probably starting at most other D-III schools — a game like this shows that.”
After a day off helped reinvigorate the Jays, they returned to play St. Lawrence University, defeating them 7-3 off of a crucial two-run home run by senior outfielder Zach Jaffe.
“Florida is definitely tough on the team. Baseball is a pretty stagnant game, but when there is action, it is full tilt. This makes for both physical and mental drain,” Darwiche said.
The Jays next game was against the Denison University Big Red and came down to a strong pitching performance by the Blue Jays.
In the top of the third, Hopkins and Denison were tied at 1-1, until two singles and a double from the Big Red brought the score to 4-1 in Denison’s favor. The Jays answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third off of a double from Ainsworth and singles from Smith, Festa and junior outfielder Tim Kutcher.
Betz held Denison scoreless for the next inning. In the bottom of the fourth, singles from Kutcher, Smith, Eberle, DeGiacomo and sophomore shortstop Adam Kohl, along with a double from Festa, allowed the Jays to take the lead, 7-4.
Though the Big Red did score two runs in the top of the fifth, Bunting held them scoreless for four innings, earning a Blue Jay victory.
“Going into the Denison game, we wanted to get a win and keep our momentum going,” Bunting said. “It felt great to pitch well and pull out a team win in a one-run game, because we’ve lost a lot of one-run games so far.”
During the last two days of competition, the Jays lost 3-1 and 3-2 against No. 7-ranked College of Wooster and Plymouth State, respectively.
With Conference play starting on Saturday, Bunting discussed the team’s mindset going into their next few games.
“With our current record being what it is and knowing that there are some strong teams in the Conference, we can’t afford to think too far into the future. We just have to take it one game at a time,” he said.
The Jays take on Swarthmore College this Saturday in an away doubleheader for their first Centennial Conference matchup of the season.