Conference play is officially underway for the Hopkins baseball team. On Saturday, March 31 the Jays took on the Swarthmore College Garnet in a doubleheader. They then returned to Babb Field on Tuesday for the first of what will be a two-game home-and-home series with the McDaniel College Green Terror.
Hopkins — coming off of a 6-4 spring break trip in Florida — entered the weekend with a 10-8 overall record; Swarthmore came in at 13-5.
The two games played against the Garnet unfolded quite differently. The pitchers were very much in control during the first game, while the bats heated up in the second.
In game one, Hopkins senior pitcher Alex Ross was lights out throughout his five-and-a-third-inning outing. Ross struck out five hitters, while surrendering only two hits and no runs. Swarthmore pitcher Sawyer Lake also impressed, pitching eight innings and striking out nine.
The Jays were able to score two runs off of Lake. Senior first baseman Frank Clara recorded an RBI single in the second inning, and sophomore shortstop Dillon Bowman hit a solo home run in the fifth. Despite the relatively low offensive production, Hopkins was able to hang on to its slim lead for much of the game.
The Blue Jays carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but the margin proved to be too narrow when Swarthmore finally found its rhythm on offense. The Garnet was able to cross the plate three times in the eighth and escaped game one with a 3-2 victory.
Despite the close defeat, Hopkins was unfazed and came out reinvigorated for game two.
This time around, the offense was able to put up 10 runs, thanks in large part to a three-run and a five-run inning in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively.
“I think it was just a matter of time before our bats got hot,” senior centerfielder Chris DeGiacomo said.
DeGiacomo was one of the key contributors to the Blue Jays’ offense.
He singled in the third, had an RBI triple in the fourth, scored a run in the sixth and had an RBI ground out in the seventh.
“On the triple, I was just trying to hit something through the infield to get another run in with two outs. I had hit a curveball for a foul home run earlier in the at bat, so I knew I was not going to see another one,” DeGiacomo said. “Once the count went full, I knew I was going to get a fastball. I just put a good swing on it and started running.”
The Garnet hitters also performed well at the plate, scoring six runs during the course of the game. However, the Blue Jay pitching staff did what was necessary to keep its team in position for the win.
Junior pitcher Preston Betz started for Hopkins and gave up two runs over three innings. Then, senior pitcher Nick Burns — who came on in relief during the fourth inning — pitched two innings and two thirds, allowing two runs and earning his second victory of the season.
“We put a lot more pressure on the other team to make plays,” DeGiacomo said.
As for Swarthmore, pitcher Ricky Conti took the loss after allowing four runs in five innings pitched. Hopkins won game two with a score of 10-6, resulting in a split doubleheader for the two Centennial Conference squads.
After Saturday’s doubleheader, the Blue Jays returned home to take on McDaniel, who entered the game with a 6-6 record. The game was a relatively one-sided affair, as Hopkins cruised to a 6-1 victory.
Freshman designated hitter Austin Sacks and junior outfielder Tim Kutcher both homered for the first time in their collegiate careers, hitting solo shots in the second and eighth innings, respectively.
Meanwhile, senior third baseman Mike Smith also had an historic game, notching his 100th career RBI. Smith is just the 25th Blue Jay in program history to reach this milestone.
On the mound, junior starting pitcher Sean McCracken handled his business, registering four strikeouts and allowing only one run in six innings.
Senior pitcher Nick Bodner then finished off the Green Terror in a three-inning save. Bodner was nearly untouchable, surrendering only one hit and striking out four.
The Blue Jays continue building up their momentum as they enter the heart of their Conference schedule. The team has shown great potential in the first half of the season, as many young players have impressively taken on new and expanded roles.
“We have a different team than previous years,” DeGiacomo said. “We are very talented, but we have probably the youngest starting lineup we have had in a long, long time.”
The road to repeating their Conference Championship title is a difficult task for any team, but the development of the Jays’ young players, along with the leadership of the upperclassmen, is positioning the Blue Jays well for a deep postseason run.
“There have been a lot of close games so far that served as a good learning experience for a lot of the guys on the team. We’ve all put the work in all year long to have a successful year, and I’m excited to see how it ends up,” DeGiacomo said. “The talent is there to win another championship.”
If the team continues to improve and is able to develop more consistency, Hopkins will be a force to be reckoned with come postseason.
The Blue Jays will conclude their two-game series with McDaniel in Westminster, Md. this Friday, April 6.