This weekend, Fordham Baseball welcomed St. Bonaventure to the Bronx for a four-game series. The two teams were supposed to play from Friday to Sunday, but inclement weather to close out the weekend forced the Bonnies and Rams to play four games in two days. The two teams did so with two doubleheaders in two days. The second leg of Friday’s doubleheader was a seven-inning game, as was the first part of Saturday’s twin bill.
Even before the scheduling changes, Fordham was set to send its two flamethrowing lefties — junior Garrett Crowley and senior Matt Mikulski — to the hill this weekend. The two starters were startlingly effective against a Bonnies lineup that had little chance against their respective arsenals, helping lead Fordham to another series victory to start Atlantic 10 play.
However, in the first game on Friday, the Bonnies’ bats gave Fordham pitching a tough matchup. The Rams jumped on top first, with an RBI double from senior third baseman Nick Labella and a two-run single from sophomore first baseman Will Findlay to take a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. Fordham needed multiple pitchers to come through in this game, though, as head coach Kevin Leighton turned to freshman right-hander Cameron Knox as an “opener” who was only scheduled to go two or three innings. Knox, it turned out, was perfect, retiring all nine batters he faced in three innings.
The Rams turned to their bullpen after Knox’s start, and that’s when the Bonnies started to breakthrough.
After coming on in the fourth and getting out of jams in his first two innings of work, freshman right-hander Brooks Ey had trouble locating the strike zone. St. Bonaventure shortstop Branden Myers capitalized on two sixth-inning walks from Ey to drive in the first run with an RBI single. Center fielder Garrett Boldt tied the game with a two-run double, and second baseman Kevin Higgins drove in two more runs with a double later in the inning. Fordham freshman Declan Lavelle was able to come in and limit further damage, but Ey allowed five runs in 2.1 innings in relief.
Over the next few innings, Fordham was unable to scratch anything across St. Bonaventure starter Liam Devine. After a tenuous fourth inning, Devine pitched all the way into the ninth in a performance that stymied the Fordham bats and allowed head coach Larry Sudbrook to save some of his bullpen arms.
In the eighth inning, the Bonnies got Devine some insurance, this time off Fordham graduate pitcher Alex Hernandez. Hernandez got knocked around to start the eighth, allowing three consecutive hits to start the inning. With the bases loaded and no one out, Hernandez missed on a 3-2 pitch to catcher Jackson DeJohn, walking him and forcing in a run. After Hernandez spiked a wild pitch to force in another run on the next batter, Leighton went to the rare move of pulling his pitcher in the middle of an at-bat and turning to sophomore Alex Henderson. Henderson put out the fire with no more runs, but Hernandez allowed two runs without recording an out. Junior Michael Ghiorzi pitched a scoreless ninth despite walking three batters, but Devine tried to finish a complete game in the bottom of the ninth.
Fordham’s bats wouldn’t make that an easy task. Labella walked with one out and one on, and Sudbrook turned to left-hander Kyle Caringi to try to finish the game. Caringi immediately plunked Findlay, and junior catcher Andy Semo ripped a line drive to left hauled in by left fielder Ben Berger on a sliding catch. The next batter, junior designated hitter Richard Grund, grounded a single up the middle to make it a three-run game. Sudbrook made another call to the bullpen, turning to game two starter, Donovan Moffat, to finish the game. Moffat walked Fordham freshman Trey Maeker to load the bases, bringing up junior outfielder Jason Coules in a three-run game. Coules, much like Semo, lined out to left, ending the threat and giving the Bonnies just their second win of the season.
In game two, Fordham needed a stabilizing performance from junior starting pitcher Garrett Crowley. They got that, and a whole lot more.
In the first inning, right fielder Tyler Kelder launched a solo home run to left field to put St. Bonaventure on top. It was the only blemish on Crowley’s day.
In the second, Fordham’s offense quickly erased the deficit. Grund singled home Semo, and senior right fielder Colton Snelling — filling in for fellow senior Alvin Melendez, who prematurely left the first game of the doubleheader — earned an RBI single of his own to put Fordham in front. With the game being played in just seven innings, Crowley set his sights on dominating the St. Bonaventure lineup. But not even he could have anticipated what came next.
Crowley struck out nine St. Bonaventure hitters from the second to the fifth innings, displaying excellent command of both his fastball and slider. There was intermittent trouble — a runner on third in the second, a hit by pitch in the third, a throwing error by Labella in the fifth — but these were just cumulus clouds in a bright and sunny day for Crowley, who ran the score up to a career-high 14 strikeouts entering the seventh and final inning.
In that time, Fordham gave Crowley the insurance he likely needed to finish the game. Sophomore second baseman Zach Selinger made it 3-1 with an RBI double in the fifth, and junior left fielder Jake Guercio drove in another run in the sixth with a single. With a three-run lead and a career-high pitch count entering the seventh, Crowley searched for his first-career complete game.
The Fordham junior showed signs of tiring in the inning. He struck out Danny Manion after a seven-pitch at-bat to start the inning but surrendered his first walk of the day to Higgins in the next at-bat. At 101 pitches, 15 more than he had ever thrown in a college outing, it was fair to wonder if Crowley could cross the finish line. He answered that question on the next at-bat, forcing DeJohn into a weak ground ball that turned into a game-ending double play. Crowley’s final line was mesmerizing: seven innings, one run, two hits, one walk and 15 strikeouts.
In a year where Mikulski has rightly earned most of the headlines, it seemed as though Crowley could steal them for the weekend. But Mikulski had other ideas.
In an effort to seemingly one-up his fellow left-hander, Mikulski came out firing on Saturday, striking out seven of the first nine batters he faced without allowing a baserunner until the fifth inning. Mikulski, who could be shooting up MLB draft boards with his performance so far this season, had his typical pinpoint command and A+ stuff. Just one pitch left the infield in the first four innings, a testament to how thoroughly befuddled the St. Bonaventure hitters were by the senior.
However, despite his superlative performance, Mikulski failed to receive any run support for much of the game, much like he did in his last outing against Seton Hall. However, Fordham’s offense changed that in the sixth; Selinger drove in the game’s first run with a one-out RBI single, and Labella made the lead more comfortable with a two-run single in the next at-bat.
Fordham had given its ace all the help he needed. By the time the Rams’ offense came around, Mikulski had already hit another gear, striking out the side in the sixth and accumulating 14 strikeouts entering the decisive seventh. In his final inning of work, there were no major hiccups. He struck out Kelder — who had entered the weekend as the Bonnies’ best hitter — for the third time on the day and induced a groundout from first baseman Matthew Williams. Third baseman Pierce Henderson walked to extend the game, but Mikulski punched out Higgins to end the game. The final line on the Fordham star: seven innings, just one hit allowed, two walks and 16 strikeouts.
With his latest performance, Mikulski earned national headlines. On Monday, Collegiate Baseball named him its National Player of the Week, and he also earned Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week honors for the third time this season. You would be hard-pressed to find a better performance in college baseball this weekend than Mikulski’s, and the people who are in charge of doing so could not. The win was Mikulski’s second-straight complete game shutout; he struck out 12 and allowed just two hits against Seton Hall last Saturday. His season ERA is down to just 0.96, the 11th-lowest mark in the country.
At this point, there is very little to say about Mikulski that has not already been said. He is likely to be taken in this June’s MLB Draft, and his potential draft position seems to get slightly higher every time he takes the mound. For now, though, he’ll settle for dominating the Atlantic 10, a quest he started with authority on Saturday.
In the final game of the series, which was played in nine innings, Fordham turned to junior pitcher Gabe Karslo. The Bonnies got to him right off the jump, with Williams and Boldt driving in first-inning runs for an early 2-0 lead. But Fordham’s offense answered right back off St. Bonaventure starter Andrew White, who only lasted two innings. Senior first baseman Casey Brown tied the game at two with a two-run single in the first. Maeker put the Rams in front in the second with his second collegiate home run, and Selinger added to the lead with an RBI single later in the inning. In the third, after Sudbrook turned to Caringi, Coules’ sacrifice fly made it a 5-2 ballgame and set a high-water scoring mark for the Fordham offense on the weekend.
The teams traded runs later in the game. Karslo settled in nicely, pitching five straight scoreless innings to quell the Bonnies’ offense and putting himself in line for his third win of the season. Lavelle came in to pitch the seventh, and designated hitter Brendyn Stillman tagged him for an RBI single to make it 6-3. After Semo drove in the Rams’ sixth run in the previous inning, Guercio made it 7-3 with an RBI single in the seventh. Leighton turned to senior right-hander Joe Quintal for the final two innings.
Upon Quintal’s entrance in the eighth, the Bonnies immediately mounted a comeback. Quintal had struggled with his command for much of the inning when, with runners on second and third, he launched a wild pitch to bring Williams home. Later in the inning, on a pitch that walked pinch-hitter Pierce Hendershot, Boldt came home on another wild pitch. However, with the tying runs on base, Quintal got third baseman Jack Putney to strike out and end the threat.
The ninth inning was only slightly easier for Quintal. Stillman singled to lead off the inning, and Williams walked to put the tying runs on base with one out. Shortstop Branden Myers came up next and fell behind 0-2. With Myers trying to get himself on the base and continue the rally, Quintal induced a series-ending double play that gave Fordham the doubleheader sweep and a 3-1 start to Atlantic 10 play.
On Tuesday, the Rams hosted Army in a midweek, out-of-conference game at Houlihan Park. Fordham was forced to get creative once more with its pitching arrangement, using freshman James Springer for his first collegiate outing as an opener. Springer and Ghiorzi combined to keep the Black Knights off the board in the first two innings, but the Rams ran into trouble in the third. Junior right-hander Ben Kovel loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch, a walk and a dropped pop fly by freshman third baseman Nico Boza. Kovel then plunked Army second baseman Tim Simoes to bring in the first run. The next batter, third baseman Anthony Giachin, hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 Army.
Fordham got those runs back, though, in the fourth. First baseman Casey Brown worked a perfect squeeze play to drive in Coules, and later in the inning, Selinger came home on a wild pitch by Army starter Trevor Finan.
The teams stayed tied until the seventh. Henderson worked two scoreless innings to keep the Rams afloat, and Knox came on to pitch a scoreless seventh and eighth. In the bottom of the seventh, Fordham’s offense put the Rams ahead. Boza and freshman Chris Genaro walked to start the inning, and Guercio sacrificed them both into scoring position. Labella — who previously had the day off — pinch hit for junior Jack Harnisch, and his sacrifice fly gave Fordham a 3-2 lead.
It stayed that way until the ninth. Leighton called on Quintal for the save, and things got interesting one more time. With one out and no one on, shortstop Kevin Dubrule singled to put the tying run on base. Quintal then struck out leadoff hitter Carter Macias, but Simoes singled to move Duburle into scoring position, where he was pinch-run for by Hunter Meade. Giachin was the last hope for Army, but Quintal forced him to ground out to second and end the game, which Fordham won 3-2.
With the results of the past week, Fordham is now 16-7 on the season. The Rams were picked to finish second in the conference before the season, but that prediction will be one spot too low if their aces, Crowley and Mikulski, pitch like they did this weekend.