The Hopkins baseball team had a busy weekend on the turf of Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium this weekend, hosting the Baltimore Invitational. The Blue Jays continued the start of their 2020 campaign with a slate of games against the Marietta College Pioneers, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland Dragons and the Roanoke College Maroons.
For junior pitcher Jonah Offman, the weekend was a chance to make up for what he considered to be a disappointing doubleheader last weekend.
“I think last week we were disappointed with our appearances on opening weekend where we dropped the doubleheader to St. John Fisher,” Offman said. “Coming into this weekend we were itching to get another opportunity on the mound and get on track with the high standard set for the pitching staff early this season by guys like [junior pitcher Brian] Linton, [freshman pitcher Kieren] Collins, and [sophomore pitcher Ben] Keever who have been dominant.”
Hopkins got its weekend started on Friday against the Pioneers. Third baseman Damian Yenzi led off the game with a double to put himself in scoring position for the Pioneers.
A single two batters later moved Yenzi to third, and first baseman Drew Holderbach picked up an RBI with a base hit to go-ahead 1-0.
The early Pioneers offense would be the only surge from the batter’s box for several innings as both the Blue Jays and the Pioneers failed to score until the bottom of the sixth. Hopkins’ senior center fielder Chris Festa got the inning started with a walk and stole second during the following at-bat. Festa’s classmate and shortstop Dillon Bowman followed with a hard ground ball to the Marietta shortstop whose throw went wide and gave Festa the opportunity to cross the plate to knot the score at 1-1.
Marietta responded in the next inning, crushing a pitch over the left-field wall to give the lead back to the Pioneers. Hopkins had the opportunity to even the game in the bottom of the seventh with two men on base, but failed to bring their runners home. The final two innings would see the Blue Jays go three up and three down to give Marietta a 2-1 victory.
Hopkins made up for its lack of offense in game one with a plethora of it in game two against the Dragons. It began in the bottom of the second after sophomore catcher AJ King sent a laser to right-center field to put him on second base.
Senior first baseman Michael Ainsworth picked up an RBI with a single to right field two batters later to give Hopkins a 1-0 lead.
Cortland evened the score in the top of the third, but the Blue Jays responded with a four-run bottom of the inning. Senior third baseman Mike Eberle walked to start the inning and made his way to third after a single and a fielder’s choice. King lined out to the shortstop for the second out of the inning, but the Dragons’ shortstop overthrew third trying to turn the double play and gave Eberle the chance to score.
Sophomore left fielder James Ingram singled in the next at-bat to load the bases for Hopkins, and Bowman singled to center field to bring two runs home and move Ingram to third.
With runners on the corners, Hopkins performed a double steal as Bowman stole second and gave Ingram the window of opportunity to score on the throw to put the Blue Jays ahead 5-1.
The Dragons brought in another run in the top of the sixth, but the two runs would be all that sophomore pitcher Matthew Dillard would allow. Not to be outdone by the offense, Dillard performed well all game, pitching a complete game and striking out 10 batters on the way to his first win of the season. Hopkins gave its pitcher a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth and closed out the game winning 7-2.
In the third and final game of the weekend, Roanoke got the jump on Hopkins in the top of the first. Right fielder Carson McCusker reached first on a walk and made it to second off a wild pitch.
An error by the Hopkins infield got McCusker to third and put a runner on first and a sacrifice fly gave McCusker the time to score.
The Maroons increased their lead in the third and fourth innings. First baseman Will Salva made it to first with a single through the middle of the infield and center fielder Sam Watson doubled to send Salva home.
Needing to turn the tide on the mound with the bases loaded, Hopkins turned to junior relief pitcher Jonah Offman. Roanoke went up 3-0 when Offman balked. Offman made up for the mistake with a strong remainder of the game. The junior allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in the five innings he pitched.
Offman credited Dillard’s strong performance as a tone setter for the weekend.
“Dillard went out there on Saturday and showed why he’s going to be at the top of our rotation for the next three years by absolutely mowing down a top-10 Cortland team,” he said. “I think I carried Matt’s confidence and attitude with me into the game on Sunday and was able to pitch well enough to keep us in the game until handing the ball over to [sophomore pitcher] Jaspar [Carmichael].”
Hopkins closed the deficit to two in the bottom of the fourth. King singled to left field to start a two-out rally which was continued by a double from junior right fielder Austin Sacks that brought King home. A single by Ingram moved Sacks to third but the Blue Jays couldn’t capitalize and left two on base as the inning ended.
The Jays continued chipping away at the Roanoke lead in the bottom of the fifth. Ainsworth led off with a double that skittered down the left-field line and advanced to third on a sacrifice groundball. Eberle then knocked a groundball to the second baseman that was enough to bring Ainsworth in and cut the lead to just a run.
The next three innings saw Hopkins go hitless. It took until the bottom of the ninth for the Blue Jays’ offense to liven up again. Festa walked, King was hit by a pitch and Sacks walked to load the bases with no outs and put the Maroons in a difficult situation to escape.
Ingram came up to bat next and continued the Hopkins momentum, reaching first base safely when the Roanoke left fielder bobbled Ingram’s fly ball, allowing Festa to score and tie the ball game. A stingy Ainsworth forced a full count in the next at-bat and took a pitch to the side to reach first base and bring the winning run home.
Despite what the team considers to be a disappointing start to the season, Offman believes the team is starting to find its rhythm.
“I think the team is really starting to find our step and swagger after a less-than-ideal start and we’re excited to make another run to Cedar Rapids this year,” he said.
Hopkins’ 2-1 record from the weekend brings them to 4-3 on the season. The Blue Jays return to the diamond on Saturday to host the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m.