Whoever said that it’s lonely at the top clearly wasn’t talking about the Centennial Conference. The Hopkins baseball team is feeling very comfortable after securing sole possession of the top spot in the Conference last week with two wins each over the Washington College Shoremen and the Dickinson College Red Devils.
The Blue Jays got the busy week started at home last Tuesday against the Shoremen with senior pitcher Jack Bunting on the bump for the black and blue.
Washington was able to strike first in the top of the second when infielder Jack Kingman doubled and brought in a run to put them up 1-0. But it only took Hopkins until the bottom of the inning to knot the game up at one all when freshman catcher AJ King knocked in graduate student Chris DeGiacomo with a double of his own.
DeGiacomo would open the floodgates for Hopkins in the bottom of the third when he crushed freshman Jonah Frankel’s pitch over the right field wall and knocked in three other Jays to put them up 5-1.
Hopkins would launch two more over the Babb Field fences, with sophomore infielder Mark Lopez’s second home run of the year being a two-run shot in the sixth and senior outfielder Tim Kutcher adding three more on his moonshot over the wall just an inning later.
Bunting was a force in the matchup, picking up the win and going seven innings while striking out four.
The relief pitching duo of senior Josh Hejka and freshman Jaspar Carmichael closed out the last two innings on just six batters. The strong pitching coupled with DeGiacomo and Lopez’s three hits apiece leading the offense gave the Jays a convincing 10-1 victory.
Just two days later, the Shoremen would get another crack at the Blue Jays as Hopkins went on the road against their Conference foe, but the end result would be the same.
Hopkins would once again use three home runs to get the advantage of Washington, with junior outfielder Bradley Parsons starting the scoring with a grand slam in the second inning to put the Jays up 4-0.
The Shoremen responded in the bottom of the inning with a three-run shot of their own by catcher Ryan Colbert, but back-to-back solo jacks from the junior duo of outfielder Chris Festa and first baseman Nate Davis extended the Hopkins lead to three.
Kingman would continue the home run parade to narrow the deficit to two, and the teams would trade off two-run sixth innings to push the score to 8-6.
Davis gave the Blue Jays some breathing room in the top of the eighth when his shot down the left field line brought in two Blue Jays. A last-gasp solo home run by Washington in the bottom of the ninth narrowed the lead to three but couldn’t spark anything more as Hopkins won 10-7.
Senior Sean McCracken picked up the win for the Jays on the mound and Carmichael and Hejka once again came in to close out the last two innings, with Hejka picking up the save.
Hopkins would close out the week with a Saturday doubleheader at home against Dickinson College in two offensive slugfests as the two top teams of the Centennial combined for 51 runs on the day.
The first half of the two-game series saw the Blue Jays down 6-0 in the bottom of the first after a two-run home run and a grand slam.
DeGiacomo would cut the deficit in half in the bottom half of the inning with a three-run shot. A seven-run bottom of the second would put Hopkins on top 10-6, as junior shortstop Mike Eberle notched two RBIs with a single to center; Davis brought in Eberle and Festa with a three-run homer; and sophomore infielder Matt Ritchie’s single to right field brought in one.
After a back and forth third saw each team add one more run each, the Red Devils went on a 7-3 run from the fourth to the sixth inning to knot the game up at 14-14.
The Jays were able to carve out a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh on the back of Kutcher’s sacrifice fly. A single from Eberle that would prove to be the deciding factor as Hejka picked up the win and held the Red Devils scoreless the rest of the way to give Hopkins a 16-14 win.
The second half of the double header didn’t have as wild of a start as the first.
However, it would begin the scoring with what seemed to be a common theme over the week — a home run from Davis, this one being another three-run home run, giving the Jays a 3-0 lead after the first inning.
A two-run home run by Dickinson outfielder Alex Jacobson put the Red Devils within one, but Hopkins would rattle off four runs in the bottom of the fourth to go up 7-2.
Not going down without a fight, a run in the fifth and five in the sixth gave Dickinson their first lead of the game. They would add one more in the half inning to take a 9-7 lead into the seventh inning stretch.
Lopez would cut the lead to one on a sac-fly that scored Davis, and Kutcher would watch a 3-2 pitch go for a ball as the senior took a walk with the bases loaded to knot up the ballgame at nines.
Sophomore Brendan Pell would record an RBI on a ground-rule double to reclaim the lead for the Red Devils, but Festa would knock a solo shot out of the park to put the game at 10-10. Ritchie then followed in Kutcher’s footsteps and walked with the bases loaded to give the Jays the 11-10 advantage.
Hejka came in for the top of the ninth and went three up, three down on eight pitches for his fifth save of the year, securing the fourth Hopkins win of the week and giving the Jays a 25-9 overall and 11-3 Conference record.
Davis’ performance over the course of the week earned him the honor of being named Centennial Conference Player of the Week for the second week in a row, and Hejka earned Co-Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season.
Fellow junior Festa has enjoyed getting to watch Davis hit his stride and watch some of the young Hopkins pitching go up against some of the toughest offensive teams of the Conference.
“It’s been a really exciting week watching Nate Davis win back-to-back Player of the Week awards and young arms hold down opposing lineups,” Festa said.
The Blue Jays will next be in action Friday, April 26 when they travel to Swarthmore College to take on the Garnet in a rematch of last year’s Conference Championship before ending the season at home in a double header against the Franklin & Marshall College Diplomats on Saturday.
With three games left in the regular season to wrap up a hotly contested race for the top of the Conference, Festa knows that it will be a tough stretch going up against two of the best teams in the Centennial.
However, Festa is confident that the Blue Jays have what it takes to take first place.
“We’ve put ourselves in a very good position to host the Conference tournament, and although we have a tough final three games, I think we have what it takes to lock up first place,” Festa said. “I hope everyone can make it out to one of our games this weekend against F&M.”