Hopkins baseball stepped up to the plate ready to take care of business for all three of their games this weekend — the first against Rutgers University-Camden and the second and third against State University of New York College at Cortland.
Senior pitcher Preston Betz was the first to take the mound for the Jays on Saturday. Though the Scarlet Raptors were able to quickly get runners onto first and third, Betz induced a ground ball that led to a double play — tallying their third out and putting the Jays on offense. They were unable to score for the rest of the inning, and both teams entered the second inning scoreless. The Jays refused to continue the next inning that way, however.
Graduate student first baseman Frank Clara knocked one out of the park, tallying the first run for the Jays. Junior infielder Mike Eberle repeated the feat in the third inning, putting the Jays up 2-0. Rutgers was not ready to give up, however. With freshman Matt Yanick and sophomore Matthew Stoots on first and second, senior Chris Jones hit a home run and took the lead from the Jays 3-2.
Unintimidated, the Jays put up two more from sophomore infielder Matt Ritchie and Eberle off of a double from junior outfielder Chris Festa. From there, Hopkins never looked back. Ritchie advanced to second on a walk by Eberle and to third on a passed ball. He then scored on a balk by the pitcher. Ritchie scored again in the eighth off a ground ball from Festa after being hit by a pitch, stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch.
The second game did not begin with the same momentum. After a scoreless first two innings, the Red Dragons put up three off of a fielding error on second that allowed Cortland to score first. Two more runs followed suit, putting the Red Dragons up 3-0. A home run from outfielder Mat Bruno tallied another run on the board in the fourth.
The Jays continued to struggle to stay in the game until the bottom of the fifth when they scored six runs in the inning alone. Graduate student outfielder Chris DeGiacomo, Ritchie and junior infielder Robby Faris all walked, loading the bases. Junior outfielder Bradley Parsons flied out to center field, but DeGiacomo still made it home to score. Ritchie put up his second run of the game off a single from Eberle. Faris also made it through on a double from Clara.
Sophomore outfielder Austin Sacks reached on an error from second base, advancing to second and allowing Clara and Eberle to score. After freshman catcher AJ King was hit by a pitch, DeGiacomo walked and Sacks moved to third — then scored after Ritchie walked. The firestorm was put to an end when Faris struck out, finally giving Cortland a chance to respond. They did not capitalize on the opportunity, however, and a run from King in the seventh set the score 7-4. Cortland would hit one last home run, but that’s all they’d muster. The game closed 7-5 for the Jays.
Senior pitcher Séamus Ryan-Johnson commented on the comeback.
“[We] did a good job of taking advantage of Cortland’s mistakes without making too many of our own – in that big fifth inning, our hitters had the discipline to force Cortland to give us five walks; DeGiacomo and Ritchie each got walked twice,” he said. “By forcing Cortland’s pitchers to put the balls in the strike zone (something they were struggling with), and then hitting them when they did, we made them to go through five pitchers.”
He continued by acknowledging the team’s pitching staff. Their defensive effort was especially strong this weekend and kept Cortland from going off on momentum-changing runs.
“Our pitchers did their jobs in finding the zone (no walks to Cortland’s 11). Cortland hit well off of us, but without runners on, they couldn’t string together more than a couple runs,“ he said.
Cortland got another shot at the Jays the next day. Cold and a little snowy, both teams faced off at Babb field once again. The Hopkins baseball effort started with a homerun to right field from DeGiacomo in the third. With junior infielder Adam Kohl already on base, both scored to put two on the board.
The Red Dragons responded with a homerun of their own in the fifth. Not to be outdone, the Jays manufactured their first run of the inning courtesy of a bunt by Eberle and an errant throw that scored Ritchie in. Kohl and Eberle soon scored as well when DeGiacomo doubled to right center. Cortland tried to make a comeback in the ninth with a two-run homerun to left. However, those two runs were not enough to offset the scoring gap, and the game ended 5-3.
The Jays emerged from the weekend clash unscathed with a perfect 3-0 finish. Ryan-Johnson commented on the strength of the team this season.
“Our biggest strength right now is our depth. We have a roster full of absolutely fantastic athletes — each person has the ability to vie for a starting spot. Throughout the 27 innings of gameplay this weekend, we went through six pitchers, with [senior, Josh] Hejka pitching twice. Our pitchers gave up one walk all weekend; our opponents gave up 19 free bases,“ Ryan-Johnson said.
Ryan-Johnson also acknowledged the Blue Jay hitters, as they have proven to be an offensive threat this season.
“In a similar vein, our hitters did a phenomenal job. Sixteen of our 21 hitters saw at-bats, and they made the most of it with 15 total hits in addition to the 19 walks that the other teams handed to us. When we put together such an opportunistic, disciplined offense with our accurate, deep pitching staff, our team is tremendous,” he said.
Hopkins hits the field again at Babb Field on Saturday, March 9 at 12:00 p.m. against Elmira College.