After a bit of a relaxing week with only one game played last Tuesday, Hopkins baseball played four intense games this weekend, finishing with a 2-2 record. The Blue Jays started off the weekend right with a 13-3 demolishing of the McDaniel College Green Terror on Friday.
After giving up two in the top of the first, Hopkins immediately took the lead back with a three-run home run by junior centerfielder Chris Festa and never looked back, scoring a total of 10 unanswered runs by the sixth inning, capped off by another three-run blast from Festa. McDaniel added a run in the top of the seventh, but Hopkins fired back with three more, starting off with a shot by freshman catcher AJ King. The win went to senior starting pitcher Sean McCracken, who settled down after his turbulent first inning and finished strong, going seven full innings and throwing 119 pitches.
The Jays’ next game, the first of two on Saturday against the Haverford College Black Squirrels, was far more exciting but ultimately far more disappointing. Playing at Haverford, the Blue Jays jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, started by a double from Festa and helped out by a two-run shot from junior first baseman Nate Davis. Haverford got one back in the bottom of the first on an error, but Hopkins continued to roll as they finished the top of the third up 6-1.
Unfortunately, after scoring one in the bottom of the inning on an RBI groundout, Haverford had a massive bottom of the fourth, scoring seven runs to take an 8-6 lead. The rally was capped off by a three-run home run from Haverford outfielder Ethan Lee-Tyson. Hopkins didn’t give up though, scoring twice in the top of the sixth to tie the score at eight.
However, Haverford wasn’t done yet, taking a two-run lead in the bottom of the inning. Hopkins got one back on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth but couldn’t get another as they fell by a final score of 10-9. The Jays were ultimately undone by errors, committing four and allowing four unearned runs to score as a result, including the eventual winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
Their second game against Haverford also went down to the wire but with a far more satisfying conclusion for Hopkins. Down a couple runs in the seventh, senior outfielder Tim Kutcher hit a clutch two-run home run to tie the game at three.
Then, in the top of the ninth, graduate student designated hitter Chris DeGiacomo led off with a solo shot to right field. Junior second baseman Adam Kohl added an insurance run with a sac-fly to score graduate student first baseman Frank Clara, and the Blue Jays took the game 5-3.
They were helped to victory with some stellar relief pitching by freshman Jaspar Carmichael and winning senior pitcher Jack Bunting, which pushed him to 7-0 on the season on Saturday. They combined for five innings of shutout baseball, allowing only three total hits and one walk. Freshman starting pitcher Matthew Dillard struck out eight in his four innings of work as he kept the Jays in the game.
Their fourth and final game of the weekend against the Penn State Harrisburg Nittany Lions was probably the most exhilarating of them all and likely the most heartbreaking as well. Back at home, they started the bottom of the second down five after a disastrous error allowed three runs to score following a two-run single by Harrisburg. After Kutcher stole home in the bottom half of the inning, Harrisburg scored on another error in the top of the fifth to take a 6-1 lead. Hopkins wasn’t giving up the fight, though. Pinch-hitter senior Peter Manny hit a two-run home run to cut the lead to three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The Jays followed that with a two-run seventh with an RBI single from DeGiacomo and finished with a fielder’s choice off the bat of Kutcher that scored Festa.
Down one going into the bottom of the ninth, Davis led with a game-tying home run to even the score at six apiece. The Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs but tragically couldn’t get that final game-winning run to cross the plate, forcing the game into extras.
Harrisburg put Hopkins on the ropes again with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th, but Davis came up in the clutch again with a two-run shot of his own to tie the game at eight. However, Hopkins couldn’t finish the game off, and they went to the 11th, where Harrisburg hit yet another two-run home run to take another two-run lead. This time Hopkins couldn’t come up with any more magic, and Harrisburg took the game in the 11th by a score of 10-8.
Though the week did not go as the Jays had hoped, Davis’ five home runs on the week earned him Centennial Conference Player of the Week. Davis commented on his success the past week.
“By the time I got up to the plate the only real thought going through my mind was just to hit the ball back through the middle of the field. I made some good swings this past week and they translated well,” Davis said.
Overall it was a difficult few days for the Blue Jays. They came out of the weekend with an even record, sure, but they lost two games that they were tantalizingly close to winning. And in both they had the winning runner on third base in the ninth inning or later but couldn’t bring him home. There was a lot of good in these games — they averaged almost nine runs a game and had some pretty great outings by pitchers mixed in there, but at the end of the day they couldn’t come up with the victory when it was definitely at times attainable. Not a disastrous weekend by any stretch of the imagination but definitely one that should hopefully inspire improvement.
The Blue Jays sit tied atop the Conference standings, with seven Conference games to go. Davis also commented on what would be the key for Hopkins to create separation at the top of the standings.
“Looking back at our recent games, we’ve really been swinging the bats well. In something like 14 of our last 16 games we’ve scored eight or more runs,” Davis said. “I think that really separates us from the rest of the Conference, so if we’re able to carry that forward I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”