Senior pitcher Josh Hejka records his 100th career strikeout on Tuesday.
Back-to-back losses may seem discouraging to most teams, but for the 16th-ranked Hopkins baseball team, the doubleheader sweep Saturday only served as motivation to get back on track. The Blue Jays bounced back from their two losses against the Ursinus College Bears to shut out the Gettysburg College Bullets 15-0 the following day.
The performance at Ursinus was uncharacteristic of Hopkins baseball. The team fell to the Bears 11-8 and 15-9 in the Saturday doubleheader, marking the first time the Bears have swept the Jays in a doubleheader in Centennial Conference history. The Blue Jays especially struggled defensively, as they went through 12 different pitchers in the span of 18 innings, with freshman pitcher Jack Tarantino being thrown in both games. In addition the Blue Jays made nine total fielding errors on the day, compared to the Bears’ three.
The losses stung, but the last thing the Blue Jays wanted to do was cower. They flexed their resilience and proved their ability to still be a Centennial Conference powerhouse on Sunday, when they secured a resounding 15-0 win against the Bullets. Despite a 5-2 win against the Bullets the previous Tuesday, Hopkins felt no complacency the second time around.
Freshman pitcher Matthew Dillard made his first career start on Sunday. Dillard went through the first two innings quickly, but so did Gettysburg starting pitcher Will Wortmann. It wasn’t until junior outfielder Chris Festa’s third-inning at bat that the scoreless tie was broken. Festa hit his sixth home run of the season, starting the scoring run for the Jays.
After sophomore third baseman Matthew Ritchie worked a walk to start the fourth, sophomore outfielder Austin Sacks hit the second home run of the game to improve the Blue Jay lead to 3-0. Freshman catcher AJ King added one more run in the inning with a deep single to left that allowed junior infielder Mike Eberle to touch home.
Despite a quiet fifth inning, the Jays showed no mercy in the sixth with a dominating five runs. Graduate student outfielder Chris DeGiacomo, who earned Centennial Conference Player of the Week and D3baseball.com Hitter of the Week honors last week, fired a two-RBI single with bases loaded. Festa and King followed with RBI singles of their own to make the score 8-0. A wild pitch by the Bullets allowed another Hopkins run to score, ending the sixth with a 9-0 lead.
Eberle advanced the lead to double digits with a sacrifice fly that sent junior infielder Adam Kohl to home in the seventh inning. The Jays did not stop here, as 10 runs were not enough. Hopkins had another five-run inning in the eighth, with junior catcher Bradley Parsons hitting a two-RBI double and junior outfielder Nate Davis hitting a three-run home run. The ninth inning was quiet, but at that point, the Blue Jays had already come out victorious.
Freshman pitcher Jaspar Carmichael and senior pitcher John Donohue combined for four scoreless innings. The pair only allowed three hits and no walks, and Donohue struck out four of the six batters he faced. Dillard, who went the first five innings, starts his college career with back-to-back wins.
Hopkins had yet another quick turnaround, as the Jays returned to Babb Field the next day for a non-Conference game against Messiah College. Unfortunately the game was cancelled due to inclement weather. The teams were able to squeeze in less than two innings before the first sign of thunder and may continue the remainder of the game in the coming weeks.
Despite the missed opportunity, Monday’s rest was much needed for the Jays, as they headed into Tuesday with another Centennial Conference matchup, this time against the McDaniel College Green Terror. This year’s team is beginning to emulate a key characteristic that allowed the 2017 squad to make a deep run in the Regionals: the ability to come back from any deficit. And it certainly showed against McDaniel.
The Blue Jays did not start on a hot note, as the Green Terror did their homework on senior starting pitcher Jack Bunting. They quickly notched in four unanswered runs in the first inning. Davis fought back with a home run in the second, and Kohl hit a triple and reached home off of senior outfielder Tim Kutcher’s sacrifice fly in the third.
It wasn’t long until the Green Terror would respond. An RBI groundout and an RBI single scored in two more runs, extending McDaniel’s lead to 6-2. However, an RBI groundout by Ritchie in the fourth notched in another run for Hopkins. The Blue Jays were slowly climbing back from their first-inning 4-0 deficit, but in the fifth, they built momentum with a three-run surge.
McDaniel wasn’t going to give up their lead that easily, as an RBI triple allowed them to go up 7-6 in the bottom of the fifth. However, McDaniel started to feel the pressure. A Green Terror error in the sixth led to another tied-up count at 7-7.
The Green Terror got their bats going again, finding men on third and first with no outs. But their optimism soon vanished when senior pitcher Josh Hejka came into the ball game, as he struck out his first batter and got a double play to end the inning. Hejka recorded three strikeouts during his outing and reached his 100th career strikeout.
Eberle led off the scoring again with a sacrifice fly, Festa followed with a two-RBI single and Davis tallied yet another RBI. Sophomore infielder Mark Lopez came into the game to pinch hit, recording an RBI of his own. The Jays led 12-7, but two more RBIs from King and Ritchie closed the inning at 14-7.
Davis continued his 4-5 day with an RBI double in the ninth, and freshman catcher James Ingram worked a walk with bases loaded to score in another run. Senior pitcher Séamus Ryan-Johnson ended McDaniel’s hopes with a strikeout. Hejka reflected on the team’s ability to stay in the game and voiced his excitement for the postseason.
“This team is incredibly resilient and never gives up, and that’s going to be an important skill if we want to win the Conference and hopefully the National Championship,” he said.
With last year’s Conference champion Swarthmore College accumulating more Conference losses than expected, the top spot in the Conference is still up for grabs. Both teams continue the fight for that spot at Babb Field on Friday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. for their final regular-season match.