Despite the weekend chill in the Bronx, Fordham Baseball got off to a hot start in its 2021 season, sweeping three games over two days against the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
In the first game on Saturday, the Rams earned a 5-3 victory over the Highlanders behind timely offense and a solid combined pitching performance from senior Matt Mikulski, sophomore Alex Henderson and sophomore Jack Popolizio. Fordham jumped out to an early 2-0 lead behind two unearned runs in the first inning. Junior outfielder Jason Coules reached base on a throwing error, which allowed senior infielder C.J. Vazquez to score. Later in the inning, senior first baseman Casey Brown’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0. Vazquez added his own sacrifice fly in the third inning to make it 3-0.
Mikulski, who enters the season with high expectations after rebuffing MLB offers last year, had a solid debut to his season despite encountering trouble in the second inning. He conceded a two-out rally that ended in RBI singles by Nick Hussey and Daniel Heffgott to bring the Highlanders within a run. But Fordham added insurance in the fifth, as Coules drove in a run with a groundout. The teams traded runs in the sixth, and Popolizio came on to pitch the final 3.1 innings to the tune of just one hit to get the save and lock up Fordham’s first win of the season.
After winning on Saturday, Fordham moved to Sunday’s doubleheader at Houlihan Park. The Rams got all they could ask for in the first game.
Freshman starter Brooks Ey’s first collegiate outing was a success, as he overcame a first-inning RBI single from right fielder Matthew
Cocciadiffero to pitch four solid innings. RBI doubles from Brown and Coules in the third put Fordham up 2-1, and the game would stay that way until the seventh, which quickly spun out of control for the Rams.
With the bases loaded and one out, NJIT’s Andrew Elcock reached base on an error by Vazquez, which allowed the tying run to score. Fordham sophomore right-hander Ben Kovel walked Albert Choi later in the inning to put the Highlanders on top, and David Marcano’s groundout in the next at-bat put NJIT up 4-2. Fordham senior outfielder Nick Labella’s RBI double in the bottom of the seventh helped Fordham cut the lead in the half, but the score stayed that way until the ninth.
In the ninth, it looked like NJIT was about to blow the game open. Kovel quickly loaded the bases with a single, an error and a walk. However, Kovel induced a ground-ball out from Marcano, a strikeout of Julio Marcano and a flyout from Cocciadiffero to give Fordham a chance in the bottom half of the inning.
It was a chance the Rams capitalized on.
After Vazquez and sophomore Zach Selinger reached base in the inning, Highlanders pitcher Evan Gegeckas threw a low-breaking ball that catcher Paul Franzoni struggled to handle. As the ball rolled to the backstop, Vazquez sprinted home with the tying run. Fordham failed to win the game in the ninth, but the Rams forced game one of the doubleheader into extra innings.
Fordham junior pitcher Gabe Karslo came on to pitch the next two innings, allowing just one hit without giving up a run. After coming up empty in the tenth, Fordham had another opportunity to win in the eleventh.
After Vazquez reached on an error and Coules was intentionally walked, Fordham coach Kevin Leighton called for a double-steal to get both of his runners in scoring position with two outs. The move could have been widely panned if either runner was thrown out, being that there were two outs in the inning and a base hit would have likely scored Vazquez from second. Nevertheless, both runners stole their bases safely, and Labella smoked a base hit to left field to drive in Vazquez and win the game.
The final game of the weekend proved to be the easiest for the Rams. Fordham got on the board early with a throwing error from Franzoni that allowed Vazquez to come home with a first-inning run. Fordham expanded its lead in the third inning with run-scoring hits from Coules, Labella and Selinger, and Fordham scored three more runs in the sixth on an RBI walk from outfielder Jake Guercio, a fielding error that later allowed Guercio to score and an RBI triple from Coules.
On the pitching side, junior left-hander Garrett Crowley allowed just one run in four innings. Freshman righty Cameron Knox did not allow a hit over the next two innings, and senior right-hander Joe Quintal gave up a run in the seventh inning. Game two of the doubleheader, which was played in just seven innings, went to the Rams by a final score of 8-2.
Fordham received a wide range of contributions offensively this weekend. Four hitters — Selinger, Coules, Vazquez and Brown — had four or more hits. Additionally, Fordham’s pitchers threw to a 2.33 ERA over the weekend, a figure that, while likely unsustainable, is a very good start to the season.
Fordham is in action again this week. The Rams defeated Stony Brook University 9-7 on Tuesday and will host Sacred Heart on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. before a three-game series this weekend at Houlihan Park against Fairleigh Dickinson University.