Baseball advances record to 14-5 after Florida trip

By DIVA PAREKH | March 28, 2019

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COURTESY OF MAUREEN BETZ

The Hopkins baseball team travelled down to Fort Myers, Fla. over spring break to compete in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. With nine games in 10 days, almost all the Blue Jays saw time on the field, including several freshmen who made their collegiate debuts. The Jays won five games and lost four, which brings them to 14-5 on the season heading into Conference play.

Junior shortstop and captain Mike Eberle explained that the team felt confident going into the spring break games.

“The early games tend to be the hardest part of the schedule, so leaving Baltimore with an 8-1 record was a great feeling,” he said.

For the Jays’ first Fort Myers matchup, they faced the Bethel University Royals on Thursday, March 14. Hopkins was able to get on the board early on, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. Bethel pitcher Michael Bohlke hit senior Hopkins left fielder Tim Kutcher and walked Eberle, putting two runners on base. A double from graduate student first baseman Frank Clara brought Kutcher in to score. Graduate student right fielder Chris DeGiacomo then hit into a fielder’s choice to bring Eberle in to score.

The Jays would hold on to this lead for the duration of the game, with senior pitcher Jack Bunting shutting the Royals out for six straight innings. 

Hopkins would add another run in the bottom of the fifth off a double from junior second baseman Adam Kohl. The top of the seventh saw senior Hopkins submariner Josh Hejka take Bunting’s place on the mound and hold the Royals scoreless for the next two innings.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Royals also saw a pitching change, with junior Jake Marsh replacing Bohlke on the mound. Marsh, however, was unable to hold off the Jays’ bats. Singles from Clara and junior centerfielder Chris Festa would bring two runners in to score, allowing the Jays to add two more runs against the Royals.

Hejka would hold the Royals scoreless until the end of the ninth, when three singles from the Bethel bats would bring outfielder Trey Kocher in to score. The last-minute Bethel rally was not enough to hold off the Jays, and Hopkins would win their first game in Florida 5-1, bringing their win streak to eight games.

Next, the ninth-ranked Blue Jays faced a tough matchup in a two-day doubleheader against the third-ranked College of Wooster Fighting Scots. Though the Jays came close, senior starting pitchers Preston Betz and Sean McCracken struggled against the Fighting Scots’ hitting power, allowing Wooster to get on the board early on in both games. 

Though singles from Eberle and DeGiacomo prevented the Fighting Scots from shutting the Jays out, Wooster would still win the first matchup 5-2. Similarly, a home run from freshman catcher James Ingram during the second game would bring the Jays within one, but was not enough to overcome Wooster’s early lead. The Jays would drop the second matchup to Wooster 13-7.

On Sunday, March 17 the Blue Jays would face the Edgewood College Eagles. With Hopkins scoring six during the first inning and taking a strong lead early on, Head Coach Bob Babb took the opportunity to put players in the game who had not seen much time on the field so far. The Edgewood game saw four Hopkins pitching changes and seven pinch hitters who performed to put the Jays up 15-1 to close out the game.

Though the Jays were scheduled to play the College at Old Westbury Panthers the following Tuesday, a rainout led to the game being cancelled. The Blue Jays would not play again until Wednesday, March 20, when they would face the Bethel Royals for the second time at Fort Myers.

Hopkins jumped out to an early lead, scoring four in the bottom of the first off of a single from Kutcher, a double from Eberle and walks from Clara, Kohl and junior centerfielder Brad Parsons. The Jays were able to hold the Royals scoreless until the top of the third. After Bethel outfielder Sam Horner was hit by a pitch, outfielder Thomas Friesen 

and catcher Mitch Butvilas walked, loading the bases for the Royals. A fly out from Royals’ junior Joey Fredrickson and hits from freshmen Mitchell Jerde and Ty Koehn brought Horner, Butvilas and Friesen in to score, bringing the game within one.

The Jays were able to add another run to increase their lead in the bottom of the fourth off of back-to-back singles from Kohl and Ingram. A double from senior designated hitter Peter Manny and another single from Kohl would bring the score to 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh. However, the Royals were able to rally within the last two innings. 

With good hitting performances from Koehn, junior Parker Mullenbach and sophomore Nicholas Wibben, Bethel was able to take the lead for the first time during the game, scoring two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth to bring the game to 6-8.

The Jays caught up to the Royals’ rally in the bottom of the ninth, bringing the game to extra innings. However, while Bethel was able to score one in the top of the 10th, Hopkins fell short, stranding Parsons on first base and ending the game with a 9-8 Bethel victory.

Eberle explained that close games like this one serve as valuable learning experiences for the team, particularly going into playoffs toward the end of the season.

“We try to play with confidence and aggression at all times. It’s hard to do this in high pressure games, but it seems to be directly correlated with how successful we are,” he said. “When we can get out of our own way and play with a loose mentality, we tend to win close games. When we tense up and play afraid, we tend to lose.”

After a 30 minute break, the Blue Jays would have to face the Denison University Big Red. Senior pitcher Jack Bunting allowed one run in the bottom of the first but would hold the Big Red scoreless for the rest of the game. In a career-high performance, Bunting struck out 11 batters during his fifth ever complete game. 

With Bunting’s career-best performance and excellent communication between him and freshman Blue Jay catcher AJ King, Hopkins would only need to score two to defeat Denison 2-1.

Following the victory against Denison, the Blue Jays would face the St. Michael’s College Purple Knights on Thursday, March 21. With strong hitting performances from deFaria and junior second baseman Robby Faris, the Jays were able to take an early lead, scoring 10 of their 11 runs in the first four innings. Though the Purple Knights attempted a comeback, their rally fell short, and the Jays took a decisive 11-6 victory.

Next, the Jays faced the Williams College Ephs for another close matchup. The Ephs took a decisive lead early on, putting four runs and seven hits on the board in the first two innings. Hopkins was able to get on the board in the bottom of the first after a single by junior right fielder Nate Davis brought Eberle in to score. Both the Ephs and the Jays added one in the fourth, bringing the score to 7-2 with Williams in the lead.

Though Williams would add another in the top of the sixth, the Jays would begin to cut into the Ephs lead in the bottom of the seventh. Hopkins would load the bases with two outs and bring two runners in to score. Williams added another in the top of the eighth, leading 9-4. In the bottom of the eighth, the Jays would load the bases again and score three after the Ephs pitching staff issued two walks, hit two batters and gave up a single and a double to Kutcher and Kohl, respectively. 

In the top of the ninth, senior reliever Séamus Ryan-Johnson would hold the Ephs scoreless, giving the Jays hope for a last-second victory. In the bottom of the ninth, the Hopkins bats would score one off of a double from Eberle, bringing the game within one. However, the Hopkins rally fell short, and the Jays would face a heartbreaking 9-8 loss.

For the final Fort Myers matchup, the Jays would overpower the St. Lawrence University Saints. Senior starting pitcher Sean McCracken went seven innings, giving up only two runs and allowing the Jays to take a decisive lead. Relief pitchers freshman Matthew Dillard and senior David Glass shut the Saints out for the last two innings. Meanwhile, the Jays’ bats were able to excel, defeating the Saints 16-2. Eberle led the team with three hits on the day, and Clara led with three RBI.

Eberle emphasized the importance of the Florida games in preparing the team for Conference play.

“The early part of the year is important for finding out who we can really count on in big situations — these are the guys who will get most of the time going forward. The freshman class has really stepped up so far, so we have a lot of good options for who to use in Conference games,” he said.

Hopkins will take on Muhlenberg College this Saturday in a home doubleheader for their first Centennial Conference matchup of the season.The Hopkins baseball team travelled down to Fort Myers, Fla. over spring break to compete in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. With nine games in 10 days, almost all the Blue Jays saw time on the field, including several freshmen who made their collegiate debuts. The Jays won five games and lost four, which in brings them to 13-5 on the season heading into Conference play.

Junior shortstop and captain Mike Eberle explained that the team felt confident going into the spring break games.

“The early games tend to be the hardest part of the schedule, so leaving Baltimore with an 8-1 record was a great feeling,” he said.

For the Jays’ first Fort Myers matchup, they faced the Bethel University Royals on Thursday, March 14. Hopkins was able to get on the board early on, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. Bethel pitcher Michael Bohlke hit senior Hopkins left fielder Tim Kutcher and walked Eberle, putting two runners on base. A double from graduate student first baseman Frank Clara brought Kutcher in to score. Graduate student right fielder Chris DeGiacomo then hit into a fielder’s choice to bring Eberle in to score.

The Jays would hold on to this lead for the duration of the game, with senior pitcher Jack Bunting shutting the Royals out for six straight innings. 

Hopkins would add another run in the bottom of the fifth off a double from junior second baseman Adam Kohl. The top of the seventh saw senior Hopkins submariner Josh Hejka take Bunting’s place on the mound and hold the Royals scoreless for the next two innings.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Royals also saw a pitching change, with junior Jake Marsh replacing Bohlke on the mound. Marsh, however, was unable to hold off the Jays’ bats. Singles from Clara and junior centerfielder Chris Festa would bring two runners in to score, allowing the Jays to add two more runs against the Royals.

Hejka would hold the Royals scoreless until the end of the ninth, when three singles from the Bethel bats would bring outfielder Trey Kocher in to score. The last-minute Bethel rally was not enough to hold off the Jays, and Hopkins would win their first game in Florida 5-1, bringing their win streak to eight games.

Next, the ninth-ranked Blue Jays faced a tough matchup in a two-day doubleheader against the third-ranked College of Wooster Fighting Scots. Though the Jays came close, senior starting pitchers Preston Betz and Sean McCracken struggled against the Fighting Scots’ hitting power, allowing Wooster to get on the board early on in both games. 

Though singles from Eberle and DeGiacomo prevented the Fighting Scots from shutting the Jays out, Wooster would still win the first matchup 5-2. Similarly, a homerun from freshman catcher James Ingram during the second game would bring the Jays within one, but was not enough to overcome Wooster’s early lead. The Jays would drop the second matchup to Wooster 13-7.

On Sunday, March 17, the Blue Jays would face the Edgewood College Eagles. With Hopkins scoring six during the first inning and taking a strong lead early on, Head Coach Bob Babb took the opportunity to put players in the game who had not seen much time on the field so far. The Edgewood game saw four Hopkins pitching changes and seven pinch hitters who performed to put the Jays up 15-1 to close out the game.

Though the Jays were scheduled to play the College at Old Westbury Panthers the following Tuesday, a rainout led to the game being cancelled. The Blue Jays would not play again until Wednesday, March 20, when they would face the Bethel Royals for the second time at Fort Myers.

Hopkins jumped out to an early lead, scoring four in the bottom of the first off of a single from Kutcher, a double from Eberle and walks from Clara, Kohl and junior centerfielder Brad Parsons. The Jays were able to hold the Royals scoreless until the top of the third. After Bethel outfielder Sam Horner was hit by a pitch, outfielder Thomas Friesen and catcher Mitch Butvilas walked, loading the bases for the Royals. A fly out from Royals’ junior Joey Fredrickson and hits from freshmen Mitchell Jerde and Ty Koehn brought Horner, Butvilas and Friesen in to score, bringing the game within one.

The Jays were able to add another run to increase their lead in the bottom of the fourth off of back-to-back singles from Kohl and Ingram. A double from senior designated hitter Peter Manny and another single from Kohl would bring the score to 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh. Though freshmen Hopkins relief pitchers Ben Keever and Jaspar Carmichael held Bethel scoreless from the fourth through the seventh, the Royals were able to rally within the last two innings. 

With good hitting performances from Koehn, junior Parker Mullenbach and sophomore Nicholas Wibben, Bethel was able to take the lead for the first time during the game, scoring two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth to bring the game to 6-8.

The Jays caught up to the Royals’ rally in the bottom of the ninth, after a single from Ingram and successful baserunning from Kohl tied the score at 8-8, bringing the game to extra innings. However, while Bethel was able to score one in the top of the 10th, Hopkins fell short, stranding Parsons on first base and ending the game with a 9-8 Bethel victory.

Eberle explained that close games like this one serve as valuable learning experiences for the team, particularly going into playoffs toward the end of the season.

“We try to play with confidence and aggression at all times. It’s hard to do this in high pressure games, but it seems to be directly correlated with how successful we are,” he said. “When we can get out of our own way and play with a loose mentality, we tend to win close games. When we tense up and play afraid, we tend to lose.”

After a thirty minute break following the intense Bethel matchup, the Blue Jays would have to face the Denison University Big Red. Senior pitcher Jack Bunting allowed one run in the bottom of the first but would hold the Big Red scoreless for the rest of the game. In a career-high performance, Bunting struck out 11 batters during his fifth ever complete game. 

With Bunting’s career-best performance and excellent communication between him and freshman Blue Jay catcher AJ King, Hopkins would only need to score two to defeat Denison 2-1. These runs came in the second and the fifth. In the top of the second, freshman first baseman Jared deFaria and freshman catcher James Ingram worked walks and took advantage of Denison errors to bring deFaria in to score. 

Though Ingram was left stranded in the second, he would get his chance to score in the bottom of the fifth. After a single that brought him to second base, he would advance to third after King was hit by a pitch from Denison starter Kenny Lippman. A single from senior left fielder Tim Kutcher would bring Ingram home, giving the Jays their lead.

Following the victory against Denison, the Blue Jays would face the St. Michael’s College Purple Knights on Thursday, March 21. With strong hitting performances from deFaria and junior second baseman Robby Faris, the Jays were able to take an early lead, scoring 10 of their 11 runs in the first four innings. Though the Purple Knights attempted a comeback, their rally fell short, and the Blue Jays were able to take a decisive 11-6 victory, with freshman pitcher Jaspar Carmichael earning the win.

Next, the Jays faced the Williams College Ephs for another close matchup. The Ephs took a decisive lead early on, putting four runs and seven hits on the board in the first two innings. Hopkins was able to get on the board in the bottom of the first after singles from Kutcher, Eberle and junior right fielder Nate Davis brought Eberle in to score. Both the Ephs and the Jays added one in the fourth after triples from Williams infielder Kellen Hatheway and junior Hopkins centerfielder Brad Parsons, bringing the score to 7-2 with Williams in the lead.

Though Williams would add another in the top of the sixth, the Jays would begin to cut into the Ephs lead in the bottom of the seventh. Hopkins would load the bases with two outs and bring two runners in to score. Williams added another in the top of the eighth, leading 9-4. In the bottom of the eighth, the Jays would load the bases again and score three after the Ephs pitching staff issued two walks, hit two batters and gave up a single and a double to Kutcher and Kohl, respectively. 

In the top of the ninth, senior reliever Séamus Ryan-Johnson would hold the Ephs scoreless, giving the Jays hope for a last-second victory. In the bottom of the ninth, the Hopkins bats would score one off of a double from Eberle, bringing the game within one. However, the Hopkins rally fell short, and the Jays would face a heartbreaking 9-8 loss.

For the final Fort Myers matchup, the Jays would overpower the St. Lawrence University Saints. Senior starting pitcher Sean McCracken went seven innings, giving up only two runs and allowing the Jays to take a decisive lead. Relief pitchers freshman Matthew Dillard and senior David Glass shut the Saints out for the last two innings. With an impressive pitching performance, the Jays’ bats were able to excel, defeating the Saints 16-2. Eberle led the team with three hits on the day, and Clara led with three RBI.

Eberle emphasized the importance of the Florida games in preparing the team for Conference play.

“The early part of the year is important for finding out who we can really count on in big situations — these are the guys who will get most of the time going forward.  The freshman class has really stepped up so far, so we have a lot of good options for who to use in Conference games,” he said.

Hopkins will take on Muhlenberg College this Saturday in a home doubleheader for their first Centennial Conference matchup of the season.

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