Baseball secures No. 2 seed for Conference Tournament

By ESTHER HONG | May 3, 2018

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COURTESY OF HOPKINSSPORTS.COM Senior catcher Alex Darwiche hits a two-run home run to start off Monday's game against the Hood College Blazers.

 

The Hopkins baseball team faced yet another jam-packed weekend, as the Jays secured the number two seed in the Centennial Conference Tournament. 

The Blue Jays closed out Conference play with their second victory against the Washington College Shoremen on Friday afternoon and a doubleheader sweep against the Dickinson College Red Devils on Saturday. 

On Friday, Hopkins was first to get on the scoreboard after senior third baseman Mike Smith worked a walk, senior outfielder Zach Jaffe singled and freshman designated hitter Austin Sacks singled to send Smith home. 

However, the Jays failed to sustain their early lead, as the Shoremen quickly fired back.

After back-to-back singles and an error by the Hopkins infield, Washington College was in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout sent two Shoremen runners home, giving Washington College a 2-1 lead. 

The Shoremen attempted to continue their rally into the fourth, but senior pitcher Nick Burns jammed a hitter to induce an easy double play. 

Another groundout ended the inning, leaving a Shoremen runner stranded on third.

However, another Hopkins error increased Washington College’s advantage to 3-1. This did not discourage the Jays, as they bounced back with a home run by senior first baseman Frank Clara in the eighth. Both Smith and Jaffe singled, and an error by the Shoremen allowed both to advance to second and third. Afraid of Sacks’ bat, the Shoremen intentionally walked him to load the bases. 

The Shoremen lost their lead after this decision, as sophomore shortstop Dillon Bowman hit into a fielder’s choice to score one, and senior centerfielder Chris DeGiacomo singled to right-center to send two runners home, allowing the Jays to regain the lead. 

Junior pitcher Harrison Folk, who came out of the bullpen in the seventh, continued to keep the Shoremen scoreless. Despite another Hopkins error and a single in the bottom of the eighth, Folk hit his spots to leave the Shoremen stranded. 

The Blue Jays carried over their eighth-inning momentum into the last inning of the day. 

The bases were loaded, and Sacks hit a crucial single down the right-field line to bring in two more runs and give Hopkins seven total runs on the day. 

“It was great to see how our guys responded to our backs being up against the wall. That breakthrough inning in the eighth was huge, and to shut it down the rest of the way was nice,” Folk said.

The Shoremen had one last opportunity in the bottom of the ninth to find a comeback victory. However, Folk quickly shut them down with a double play and a groundout. Folk finished the last three innings allowing just three hits and earning the win. 

“I just pounded the zone with strikes and had solid defense behind me, and they weren’t able to scratch anything together. It was also big only having to use one relief pitcher being that we had a game the previous day and a doubleheader the next day, so it was good to give other guys in the pen a rest day,” Folk said.

The Blue Jays needed to sustain their performance mindset as they headed into their doubleheader on Saturday. 

In their first game against the Red Devils, the Blue Jays started out strong, as Smith singled and Bowman hit his first home run of the game to send both of them home in the second inning.

A few crucial base hits by the Red Devils off of junior starting pitcher Preston Betz, as well as a walk, gave Dickinson a 3-2 advantage in the top of the fourth. However, Bowman continued his strong outing, as he tied the game in the fifth with yet another home run.

Three runs in the top of the sixth gave Dickinson a 6-3 lead. The Hopkins offense came out swinging, as Clara led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to left-center. Following was a single from Sacks, a double from Smith and a home run by Jaffe, giving Hopkins a 7-6 comeback lead.

Despite a Dickinson home run in the seventh to tie up the game at 7-7, junior pitcher Seamus Ryan-Johnson came in and had a three up, three down inning to keep the Red Devils from taking back the lead. The Blue Jays scored two more, and junior pitcher Sean McCracken kept the Red Devils scoreless in their last opportunities to score to give the Jays their second comeback victory of the weekend.

In game two, back-and-forth runs defined the opening innings of the second game. With the score tied at 2-2, the Jays came out in the bottom of the third wanting to establish a lead. 

DeGiacomo stepped up to the plate and led off the inning with a single, and senior catcher Alex Darwiche hit a home run to center to send both him and DeGiacomo home. The score now read 4-2. Hopkins didn’t stop there, as they notched two more runs in the fourth with a sacrifice fly from junior outfielder Tim Kutcher and a home run from DeGiacomo. 

Dickinson responded with a run of their own, but Bowman responded with his third home run of the day, launching the ball over the fence to advance the score to 7-3. 

Dickinson put one more run on the board, but Hopkins proved to be too dominant, as two more runs made the final score of the second game 9-4, in favor of the Jays. Junior reliever John Donohue led Hopkins on the mound with a four-inning outing, the longest of his career. During the outing he only gave up six hits, two runs and one walk to take home the win.

After an off-day on Sunday to recover after playing three consecutive games, Hopkins took to Babb Field one last time before hosting the first round of the Conference tournament on Thursday night. The Jays faced off against non-Conference opponent, the Hood College Blazers, in an effort to improve their chances at receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

Unfortunately, the Blue Jays failed to pull out the non-Conference victory after nine innings of regular play and three extra innings Monday afternoon.

“The game didn’t go as well as we hoped. Sean [McCracken] pitched a great game, and we just didn’t give him the run support that he needed. We missed too many opportunities early in the game, and that came back to bite us when they finally broke through in the 12th,” sophomore infielder Nathan Davis said.

Hopkins started the day with a two-run first inning, as DeGiacomo doubled and Darwiche homered to right field. The score remained 2-0, in favor of Hopkins, for the majority of the game, with McCracken spearheading the Blue Jays’ pitching efforts.

In the eighth, however, the Blazers struck back with a two-run home run of their own. The score was tied 2-2 to send the game into extra innings. 

After a couple pitching substitutions, Donohue found the mound, a surprising sight considering his long outing just two days prior. After a ball was sent deep into right-center and bounced over the wall, Hood’s runner on second jogged home. The Blazers gained their first lead of the day, the score being 4-3 after the top of the 11th inning.

The Blue Jays did not give up their fight, as they extended the game to another inning after a sacrifice fly by Bowman that tied up the game at 4-4. The Blazers found their groove in the top of the 12th, as they notched in four runs. 

Now having this pressure to score, Hopkins used their urgency to show up with a promising start to the bottom of the inning. Davis came in to pinch hit for the Jays and hit a two-run home run to put the score at 7-5, still in favor of the Blazers. 

“I was really just focused on getting a good pitch to elevate and drive through the middle of the field. As a pinch hitter in a situation like that, when we’re down four in the last inning, my job is to get on base and drive in runners, and I was really just looking for a pitch to do that,” Davis said.

With no outs and two more runs to tie up the game, the Blue Jays kept swinging. However, they couldn’t close the gap after the three outs, and the win went to Hood College after 12 innings of play. 

Despite the loss, the Jays must refocus on the larger goal of winning the Conference Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m excited, and I’m sure the rest of the team is too. We’ve got a great team, and we’re all ready to get back on the field for Thursday’s game,” Davis said.

Catch the Jays on Babb Field Thursday night at 3 p.m., as they host the Muhlenberg College Mules in the first round of the Centennial Conference Tournament.

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