Fordham Baseball entered this past weekend’s series with Saint Joseph’s University coming off a week it would like to forget. The Rams had lost three out-of-conference games to Towson University and Army West Point, the final game being an 8-2 blowout at the hands of the Black Knights. After a litany of schedule changes, the Rams looked forward to getting back on track with a four-game conference series against St. Joe’s. The results were mixed.
The Rams and Hawks split the four games on the weekend. Fordham is now 5-3 in Atlantic 10 play, which puts them in a tie for second in the conference’s North division.
The first game of the series took place on Friday at Smithson Field. Freshman Brooks Ey got the start for Fordham, and the Hawks got to him early. Third baseman Nate Thomas struck an RBI single in the first to kick off the scoring. Fordham’s offense had an early answer, as freshman third baseman Zach Selinger singled to drive in two runs in the third to give Fordham its first lead in the game. It was also the Rams’ last.
St. Joe’s second baseman Liam Bendo drove in two runs in the bottom half of the inning with a single to put the Hawks ahead for good. After a double play drove in a run for the Hawks in the fourth, left fielder Brett Callahan singled home another run in the fifth. Later in the inning, designated hitter Langston Livingston slugged a two-run home run to put St. Joe’s ahead 7-2. Ultimately, the Hawks’ lineup blitzed Ey, forcing him to give up seven runs, six of them earned.
In the sixth, Fordham turned to sophomore reliever Alex Henderson to shut down the Hawks’ offense. He faced four batters and did not get an out. Even worse, all four runners who reached base on Henderson ultimately came around to score. Thomas and Livingston each walked in a run. Callahan later came home on a wild pitch, and first baseman Luke Zimmerman was walked by freshman James Springer to make it 11-3.
As all this was happening, St. Joe’s starter Ian McCole fared very well against Fordham’s lineup. McCole went eight innings, allowing just two earned runs and striking out four. In the bottom of the eighth, the St. Joe’s offense went to work once more on Fordham junior Michael Ghiorzi. With runners on first and second, Ghiorzi entered the game and walked right fielder Jake Artz, conceded an RBI single to Brendan Hueth and walked Andrew Cosetti. Thomas came up with the bases loaded and hit into a fielder’s choice, which scored Artz and triggered the end of the game, as the Hawks found themselves up by 10 runs. St. Joe’s took the first game of the series 13-3.
Saturday featured a seven-inning doubleheader that showcased Fordham’s top two starting pitchers, senior Matt Mikulski and junior Garrett Crowley. Mikulski pitched game one and was his usual, dominant self. Despite working around some trouble in the early innings, Mikulski struck out nine batters across the first 12 outs he recorded.
Fordham’s offense got him all the help he needed in the third inning, as junior center fielder Jason Coules hit an RBI double and senior designated hitter Alvin Melendez hit an RBI single to put Fordham up 2-0. The Rams padded the lead in the sixth when first baseman Nick Labella whacked an RBI double down the left field line to make it 3-0. That run became important when Mikulski made his only major mistake of the day by allowing a solo home run to Cossetti in the bottom half of the inning. However, the senior rebounded beautifully from the home run, striking out four of the final five batters he faced on the day to guide Fordham to a 3-1 victory.
Mikulski ended Saturday with 15 strikeouts in seven innings, just one off his season-high of 16 against St. Bonaventure on April 10. Mikulski earned his fourth Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week award for his efforts on Saturday, and for the second time this season, he was also named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week. Mikulski is the clear front-runner for Atlantic 10 pitcher of the year, as he continues his assault on hitters in conference play.
Crowley, on the other hand, did not fare nearly as well.
The teams traded runs in the first couple of innings, with Thomas doubling home a run for St. Joe’s and Fordham junior Andy Semo driving in a run in the second. However, things fell apart for Crowley in the bottom half of the inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Crowley walked Artz to give St. Joe’s the lead. The next two batters, Hueth and Cossetti, each singled to drive in runs. Artz then came home on a wild pitch, and Thomas put the icing on the cake with a three-run home run.
Soon after, Fordham head coach Kevin Leighton was ejected from the game for arguing with home plate umpire Charlie Traber. The Hawks added runs in the third and fourth, with Cossetti, Thomas and Artz driving in more runs in the next two innings. St. Joe’s starter Lucas Rollins held Fordham in check the rest of the day, and St. Joe’s earned a resounding 11-1 victory in seven innings.
In the final game of the series on Sunday, Fordham got another spectacular and badly-needed pitching effort, this time from junior Gabe Karslo. Fordham’s offense got Karslo some early run support, as Melendez drove home a run in the first inning with a double. Senior Casey Brown came home to score in the fifth on a wild pitch, and for most of the day, it looked like those two runs would be sufficient for Fordham to cruise to a victory, as Karslo carried a shutout into the ninth inning. However, Karslo sputtered in his attempt to finish the game, as second baseman Liam Bendo and Livingston hit back-to-back singles with one out.
Leighton called on senior right-hander Joe Quintal to close it out. With a runner at third, Callahan hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit in half, and first baseman Luke Zimmerman hit an RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2.
Fordham was ostensibly in danger of dropping three out of four games to St. Joe’s. But, thanks to baseball’s new and outlandish extra-inning rules, both offenses started extra innings with a runner on second base. With Coules at second and Labella at first, St. Joe’s Noah Weber launched a wild pitch to the backstop, moving both runners up. Then Selinger grounded out to second, driving in Coules and momentarily giving Fordham the lead.
However, St. Joe’s got the same opportunity in the bottom half of the inning. Artz grounded out, sending shortstop Luca Trigiani to third. But Quintal locked in, forcing a groundout from Hueth and a strikeout of Cossetti to end the game and strand the tying run at third base.
Fordham is now 18-12 on the year, with a 5-3 record in A-10 play. That is tied for second in the conference’s north division, and only the top two teams in each division make it to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Fordham is in action for four games this weekend against the University of Massachusetts, starting at 3 p.m. on Friday.