Baseball Splits Weekend Series at St. Joe’s

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in April 2021.

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.

Baseball Drops Doubleheader with Towson, Falls to Army

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in April 2021.

This was a bizarre week for Fordham Baseball from the start.

The Rams were supposed to take on the University of Rhode Island this weekend in the Bronx. Rhode Island was unable to play this weekend due to issues with COVID-19 contact tracing. After a successful week in which it won four out of five games, Fordham wanted to continue playing. The Rams already had a scheduled opponent, Army West Point, for this past Tuesday but wanted to add some action this weekend. Fordham was ultimately able to schedule Towson University for a Saturday doubleheader, and the Rams looked to continue their winning ways.

Instead, Fordham found difficult matchups this week, and a run-in with an old friend did them in along the way.

In Saturday’s first game, the Rams got a shortened outing from senior pitcher Matt Mikulski. The star left-hander tossed four scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking three while giving up three hits. The issue for Mikulski, though, was a high pitch count, as patient Towson at-bats forced him to throw 92 pitches in those four innings. While Mikulski was able to escape without allowing any runs, his high pitch count forced him out of the game after four innings.

The Rams scratched across their first run of the game in the third, when junior outfielder Jake Guercio grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. In the fifth, with Gabe Karslo on the mound, Fordham catcher Will Findlay attempted to pick Towson’s Nolan Young off first. The throw went awry, and former Ram Billy Godrick came home to score the tying run.

The Rams struck back in the sixth, but once again, Fordham could not get more out of a bases-loaded opportunity. Senior first baseman Nick Labella grounded into a double play, and while it drove in a run, the Rams were unable to get anything more out of a promising rally. 

As Fordham tried to piece together the final few innings of the game, more trouble emerged. In the eighth, with freshman Declan Lavelle on the mound, Towson started its comeback. Young whacked a double down the left-field line to start the inning, but he was later retired at third base on a fielder’s choice. After a one-out walk to Javon Fields, he and Noah Cabrera attempted a double steal of second and third base. Another throwing error by the Fordham catcher — this time junior Andy Semo — allowed Cabrera to come home with the tying run.

In the ninth, after Fordham failed to get anything going in the top half of the inning, the Tigers continued to attack Lavelle. Nick Brown led off the inning with a single, and Jacob Terao followed with a single of his own. Lavelle was removed in favor of senior pitcher Joe Quintal, and the next batter, Brandon Austin, bunted to third base. Fordham infielder Jack Harnisch committed a fielding error, which loaded the bases. With no one out in the inning, Danny Becerra grounded into a fielder’s choice, but the bases were still loaded.

An opportunity to win the game with one out in the ninth was left to Godrick, who spent the previous four seasons in a Fordham uniform. Godrick delivered, hitting an RBI single to right and winning the first game for Towson, 3-2. Lavella earned the loss, despite the fact that both of the runs he allowed were unearned. The unsung hero for Towson was reliever Kody Resser, who threw four scoreless innings in relief and earned the win for his efforts.

In the second game, Fordham once again jumped on top. Labella scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch in the second. While Towson’s James Lysaght hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning, Fordham answered with two runs in each of the next two innings. In the third, Semo drove in a run with a double, and in the fourth, junior Jason Coules drove in Findlay with an RBI single.

But Fordham junior Garrett Crowley, who had pitched so well in his last outing against St. Bonaventure, gave it right back in the bottom half of the fourth. Austin hit a drive into deep left field in the fourth inning to make it a 3-3 ballgame and kickstart another Towson comeback. Fordham’s offense floundered in the next three innings, unable to get a runner on base in that time. In the seventh, Godrick struck again, putting the Tigers in front with an RBI double. After Fordham was unable to cash in an opportunity in the eighth, Austin drove in his third run of the day with a double. Towson pitcher Austin Weber locked down the Rams 1-2-3 in the ninth, and Towson swept the hastily-scheduled doubleheader with two close victories.

On Tuesday, Fordham visited Army after the Rams defeated the Black Knights 3-2 last week. This week’s game didn’t go so swimmingly for the Rams.

With the midweek game, Fordham head coach Kevin Leighton used an “opener” strategy, turning to freshman pitcher James Springer and piecing the rest of the game together from there. Springer struggled in the first, allowing an RBI single to Carter Macias and an RBI double to Nick Manesis to negate Labella’s RBI in the first. 

Leighton went to his bullpen after the first, enlisting sophomore Alex Henderson to pitch the second. His first inning went even worse than Springer’s. After allowing two runners to reach base, Henderson conceded a two-run triple off the bat of Macias and an RBI single by Anthony Giachin. The game had been blown open with two outs in the second inning, and it was up to the Rams to try to mount a comeback.

Ultimately, Fordham was unsuccessful in its comeback attempt. Giachin’s two-run homer off Fordham senior Alex Hernandez made it 8-1.The only other offense Fordham could muster was a sacrifice fly by senior infielder C.J. Vazquez in the ninth inning. Junior Ben Kovel, freshman Brooks Ey and Quintal pieced together four scoreless innings in relief, but Fordham could not get meaningfully closer for the rest of the game.

With the three losses this week, Fordham’s record on the year stands at 16-10. This week’s events shouldn’t affect Fordham’s quest for an Atlantic 10 title, as long as the Rams don’t let it. Fordham will look to get back in the win column against St. Joseph’s University this weekend, with four games scheduled over three days starting on Friday in Philadelphia.

Crowley and Mikulski Dominate, Baseball Takes Three of Four from St. Bonaventure

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in April 2021.

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.

Baseball Drops Two Out of Three Against Seton Hall

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in April 2021.

This week represented the final tune-up for Fordham Baseball before it defends its 2019 Atlantic 10 title in conference play next weekend. The Rams took on Seton Hall University in a three-game series split between Houlihan Park in the Bronx and Sheppard Stadium in South Orange, N.J.

Despite a strong start to the season that saw Fordham win 11 of its first 15 games, the Rams hit some speed bumps in this series.

Seton Hall took two out of three games from Fordham this week, as the Pirates scored 15 runs over the first two games of the series, winning both.

Fordham junior right-hander Gabe Karslo started the first game of the series on Wednesday in the Bronx. In an entertaining pitcher’s duel with Seton Hall lefty Tyler Burnham, both teams were left scoreless through the first four innings. In the fifth, Seton Hall finally broke through, and after multiple opportunities in the early innings, left fielder Devin Hack drove in two runs with a single to put the Pirates on the board first. Burnham blanked the Rams through six innings, allowing just two hits in his outing. Both hits belonged to Fordham senior outfielder Alvin Melendez.

After Seton Hall went to its bullpen, Melendez continued his excellent day. He got a hanging 2-0 pitch from Brennan O’Neill and hammered it over the left field fence for a solo home run to cut the lead in half. But Fordham gave that run right back in the eighth. With runners at second and third, second baseman Alex Clyde dropped down a squeeze bunt. First baseman Matt Toke scored easily from third, and after Clyde was thrown out at first, center fielder Tyler Shedler-McAvoy — the Big East’s preseason Co-Player of the Year — never stopped running around third, and beat the relay throw to home plate to make it a 4-1 ballgame.

That extra run off Shedler-McAvoy’s aggressive baserunning ended up being pivotal for Seton Hall. In the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates turned to left-hander Joe Cinnella to finish the game. He only got one out. Junior Jake Guercio rapped a double to deep left field and junior Jason Coules singled through the left side. After Cinnella struck out Melendez, head coach Rob Sheppard turned to Sean Miller, who immediately issued a walk to senior third baseman Nick Labella. The next batter, sophomore second baseman Zach Selinger, hammered a line drive down the left field line. Guercio and Coules scored easily, and Labella was several steps around third before getting the hold sign. He was nearly picked off in his attempt to get back to the base. Nonetheless, Selinger — who was pinch-run for by freshman Joe Bladel — put Fordham in a position to win the game. The next batter, senior first baseman Casey Brown, intentionally walked. That set up Andy Semo for the biggest at-bat of the day.

Miller got ahead in the count 1-2, and forced Semo to hit a chopper to short. Seton Hall shortstop Steve Grober flipped to Clyde for the first out at second, and Clyde threw to first to complete the double play and earn Seton Hall the victory. Fordham’s comeback attempt was thwarted.

Game two of the series wouldn’t be nearly as climactic.

On Thursday, Seton Hall started the game by plating two runs off Fordham junior left-hander Garrett Crowley. Fordham answered in the third on an RBI single by Selinger, but Seton Hall answered back quickly. In the bottom half of the inning, with freshman Brooks Ey now in to pitch, Grober hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1. In the fifth, Shedler-McAvoy crushed a home run to left field, and in the sixth, designated hitter Zack Sylvester’s RBI single put the Pirates up 5-1. Ey pitched five innings in relief of Crowley, allowing three earned runs and walking three batters.

In the seventh, Fordham attempted to mount a comeback. Guercio hit an RBI single off Seton Hall reliever Nick Payero to make it 5-2, and shortly thereafter, Melendez hit his second home run in as many days to bring Fordham within a run. The 7th-inning home run was Melendez’s 150th career hit in a Fordham uniform, and it helped get Fordham back in the game.

In the bottom half of the inning, however, Seton Hall blew the doors back open on the game.

Sophomore pitcher Alex Henderson came on to pitch the seventh, and the Pirates’ bats attacked him right away. Toke grounded out to start the inning, but Matthew Gale and Hack found themselves at third and second base, respectively, after Gale doubled, Hack walked and both men executed a double steal. Grober was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. The next batter, Clyde, came up with the biggest hit of the game, slamming a double into left-center field to drive in all three runs and put Seton Hall up 8-4. Two batters later, catcher Jerry Huntzinger singled to drive in another run. Later in the inning, Shedler-McAvoy drove in two more with a double. All told, Henderson allowed six runs in just 0.1 innings in a difficult, ERA-inflating performance that left Fordham down seven and out of contention.

Fordham ultimately fell 11-4 on Thursday, and entering the final game of the series on Saturday, the Rams turned to senior ace Matt Mikulski to provide stability and give Fordham a chance at salvaging something from the series. Mikulski did that, and then some.

Mikulski was his usual, dominant self on Saturday, not so much as allowing a Seton Hall baserunner until the fourth inning. No, it wasn’t the perfect game that softball standout Devon Miller tossed just minutes before — but Mikulski was pretty close to perfect throughout his outing. The trouble for Fordham is that he was matched nearly step-for-step by Seton Hall’s David Festa, who was perfect through his first six innings. The result was a tremendous back-and-forth battle between two pitchers who didn’t give up an inch.

In the seventh inning, Fordham’s bats finally broke through. With two outs and Melendez at first, Selinger hit a double to deep center field, scoring Melendez and giving Fordham its first run of the game. It was all Mikulski needed.

The star left-hander mowed down the Pirates in order over the next two innings, but in the ninth, he encountered trouble. Third baseman Jonathan Luders led off the ninth inning with a double, positioning himself in scoring position as the tying run after earning just the second Seton Hall hit of the game. But true to form, Mikulski struck out Huntzinger, induced a ground-ball out from Shedler-McAvoy and forced outfielder Casey Dana to fly out to end the game. The end result was a two-hit, 12-strikeout performance from Mikulski in which he threw 124 pitches to earn his fourth win of the season by a score of 1-0.

Mikulski’s shutout masterpiece drove his season ERA down to just 1.17. He continues to dominate Fordham’s opposition, and will be a force to be reckoned with in conference play. Another outgrowth of Mikulski’s gem? Saturday’s game wrapped up in just an hour and 59 minutes.

Despite dropping two out of three games on the week, there are positives for Fordham to take out of it. One such positive is Melendez’s return, who has fought injuries early in the season and been in and out of the lineup. Melendez went 4-11 in the three games with two home runs. He was named to the Atlantic 10’s all-championship team in 2019, and he’ll try to play a big role in Fordham’s success this season, as well. 

This week, Fordham plays one more game against Seton Hall, this Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. from Houlihan Park. The Rams’ first conference series of the year follows, a home, four-game set with St. Bonaventure University beginning with a doubleheader on Friday.

Women’s Basketball Bounced in First Round of WNIT

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

Fordham Women’s Basketball didn’t have an ideal end of the season. The team was rolling in February, having won five consecutive games when Fordham’s campus went on a two-week pause due to COVID-19. Once the Rams got back in action, their play was spotty at best, and their regular season ended with an 80-70 loss to UMass in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. 

However, Fordham wasn’t done playing this season. The Rams looked to avenge their A-10 tournament loss when they got into the WNIT to play against Delaware in the first round. 

Unfortunately for Fordham, its stay in the WNIT didn’t last much longer.

The Rams fell 77-49 to the Blue Hens last Friday and were swiftly knocked out of the tournament. Fordham earned a tough first-round draw, as Delaware has since advanced out of the Charlotte region and into the tournament semifinals, which will take place on Friday. 

Fordham kept the game close in the first quarter. Junior forward Kaitlyn Downey hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 7 with 4:30 to go, but the Blue Hens ripped off a 12-4 run to close out the quarter. Delaware missed just two shots in the final five minutes of the quarter.

The Blue Hens’ run continued into the second quarter. Despite the best efforts of senior Kendell Heremaia and sophomore Anna DeWolfe, Fordham just couldn’t cut into the lead. DeWolfe’s jumper with 4:17 to play in the first half cut the Delaware lead to seven, but the Blue Hens once again ended the quarter on a strong run, scoring 10 of the final 14 points of the quarter to take a 39-26 halftime lead. Junior guard Jasmine Dickey led the way for the Blue Hens, scoring 17 points in the first half.

In the second half, Fordham’s situation went from bad to worse. Delaware started the third quarter on a 13-2 run to take a 24-point lead early in the second half. Fordham got the game within 18 points in the third quarter but was unable to get any closer than that for the rest of the game. Ultimately, the Blue Hens demonstrated why they were the best team in the Colonial Athletic Association: shooting well from the outside, converting turnovers into points and limiting second-chance opportunities.

In the end, Fordham fell 77-49. Junior forward Meg Jonassen was the only Ram to score in double digits with 16 points. Fordham’s “big three” of DeWolfe, Downey and Heremaia combined to shoot just 10-35 from the field and score 27 points. Dickey led all players with 22 points and nine rebounds for Delaware, and junior forward Ty Battle added 14 points of her own. With the loss, Fordham’s chance of winning the WNIT came to an end, but the Rams moved on to the consolation bracket. Unfortunately, their second game didn’t go much better than the first.

Fordham took on Ohio on Saturday and a win would have sent the Rams to the final game of the consolation bracket on Monday. In this game, Fordham fell behind by double digits early and struggled to claw back. Despite the slightly faster start for their opponent, the Rams trailed by the exact same score at halftime: 39-26. Ohio junior guard Erica Johnson had 14 points in the first half.

Fordham represented itself admirably in the second half, but the Rams once again struggled to make up ground. Fordham cut the lead to eight points early in the third, and was once again within single-digits late in the third quarter. But in a span of just two minutes, the Bobcats went on a backbreaking 10-0 run to close out the quarter and go up by an insurmountable 18 points entering the final quarter.

With that, Ohio cruised to an 81-64 victory in the consolation round. Fordham’s season, which showed such promise but was ultimately disrupted by a poorly-timed pause, was over. Senior Kendell Heremaia was the star for Fordham in the loss, with 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Despite the way this season ended, there is optimism for the Rams going forward. With the NCAA granting extra eligibility to players affected by the pandemic, most of Fordham’s key pieces are expected to return to Rose Hill next season. Fordham can look forward to making another run at an A-10 title, and the Rams should be one of the preseason favorites entering the year. Hopefully, next year will be a little more “normal” than the last.

Baseball Splits Four Weekend Games With St. John’s

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

This past weekend, Fordham Baseball took on St. John’s in a four-game series that was split between Houlihan Park in the Bronx and Jack Kaiser Stadium in Queens. In the midst of an out-of-conference schedule which has featured its fair share of exciting finishes, Fordham added to that tally this weekend.

In game one on Friday afternoon, Fordham got on the board first thanks to an RBI groundout from senior first baseman Casey Brown in the fourth inning. However, the Red Storm evened the game in the fifth, when catcher Mitchell Henshaw hit senior pitcher Matt Mikulski for a solo home run. That was Mikulski’s only major mistake of the game — he struck out 13 batters in seven innings and only allowed one run.

In the eighth inning, St. John’s blew the game open. Red Storm designated hitter David Glancy earned what turned out to be the game-winning hit off Fordham freshman Declan Lavelle. Then, a brilliant double-steal involving Glancy and left fielder Ryan Hogan brought Hogan home to score from third. Center fielder Brandon Miller drove in another run later in the inning, and St. John’s went on to win the game 4-1.

After taking the first game of the series, the Red Storm made the quick trip over to the Bronx for a doubleheader on Saturday. For the second Saturday in a row, the Rams found themselves in a marathon.

Fordham freshman Trey Maeker whacked his first-career home run in the third inning to put Fordham up 1-0. However, the Red Storm took their first lead in the fourth, as a two-run single from center fielder Brandon Miller and a run-scoring groundout from right fielder Vinny Bianchi made it 3-1. But Fordham answered right back: Maeker drove in another run with an RBI single in the fourth, and senior outfielder Colton Snelling tied the game at three with his own RBI groundout. 

The teams continued to trade blows in the sixth. St. John’s second baseman Carson Bartels drove in two runs with an RBI single in the top half of the inning. But Fordham senior infielder C.J. Vazquez did him one better in the bottom half of the inning, driving in three runs with a bases-loaded double to give the Rams a 6-5 lead. However, Fordham junior pitcher Gabe Karslo plunked Red Storm left fielder Justin Folz with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, bringing home the tying run. 

Both teams had run-scoring opportunities in the ensuing innings. St. John’s had runners on the corners in the ninth, but Fordham senior Joe Quintal induced a double play to get out of trouble. Fordham got runners to first and second in the ninth, but were unable to cash in. The Rams got a runner to third in the 10th, but senior Alvin Melendez — in his return from injury — couldn’t drive in junior Jack Harnisch from third. 

After playing a 16-inning game the previous Saturday against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Rams broke through in the 13th. Junior catcher Richard Grund singled to lead off the inning, and freshman Chris Genaro walked in his first-career Fordham plate appearance. Junior outfielder Jake Guercio’s sacrifice bunt got both runners into scoring position, and Vazquez hit a ground ball up the middle that drove Grund home with the winning run to give Fordham the victory.

For as productive as the offense was in that game, the real MVP in the Fordham victory may have been Quintal. Besides getting into a jam in the ninth, the senior was dominant, pitching six scoreless innings and earning the well-deserved win. 

In the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, which was played in just seven innings, Fordham’s offense once again got off to a hot start. The Rams tagged St. John’s opener Sonny Fauci — whose middle name is Anthony but who is not related to the doctor — for two first-inning runs. However, with the game tied in the sixth, Hogan’s RBI single put St. John’s up 4-3, and that would be the final score. Freshman pitcher Cameron Knox earned the loss after giving up the hit in the sixth.

The final game took place on Sunday at Jack Kaiser Stadium, with St. John’s looking to take the series. In the second inning, Harnisch drove in two runs with a single in the second, but the Red Storm got a run back in the third. The game stayed 2-1 into the seventh inning behind a strong starting effort from freshman Brooks Ey. However, St. John’s got to a sputtering Ey in the seventh, scoring three runs in the inning and taking a 4-2 lead to the eighth. But Fordham’s offense responded, as Maeker and catcher Andy Semo each drove in a run to tie the game at 4 each. Harnisch put the Rams ahead later in the inning with an RBI single. 

The Rams added insurance in the ninth inning, with senior infielder Nick Labella driving in junior outfielder Jason Coules to make it a 6-4 game. Labella’s hit proved to be important, as St. John’s mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth. With two runners on and one out, Bartels tagged Fordham pitcher Alex Hernandez with a two-run double to tie the game. For the second time in as many games, these two teams were headed to extra innings. 

In the 10th inning, Fordham’s offense broke through yet again. Harnisch’s squeeze bunt brought home freshman outfielder Ryan Theisse to put Fordham on top 7-6. Fordham freshman Declan Lavelle, who had completed the ninth inning, pitched a scoreless tenth inning and got Fordham the victory and a split of the weekend’s games.

With this weekend’s results, Fordham is now 9-3 on the year. The Rams visit Sacred Heart on Wednesday for a midweek game before this weekend’s series against Hofstra. Fordham has some time before its Atlantic 10 title defense begins; the Rams’ first A-10 game doesn’t take place until April 9 at St. Bonaventure.

Baseball Takes Two of Three From Fairleigh Dickinson

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

Fordham Baseball entered this weekend’s games having won 14 consecutive games dating back to the abbreviated end of last season. Although that streak came to an end this weekend, Fordham nonetheless won another series in its early-season out-of-conference slate.

The Rams took two out of three games from Fairleigh Dickinson University this weekend at Houlihan Park in the Bronx. Fordham’s lone loss came on Saturday, in a game that lasted 16 innings and nearly five hours.

Fordham coasted to a 9-0 victory on Friday afternoon. On an unseasonably warm day in the Bronx, senior starting pitcher Matt Mikulski brought the heat, pitching five hitless innings to go along with seven strikeouts. While six walks demonstrated how he struggled with his command throughout the day, Mikulski looks to be rounding into dominant form shortly before Atlantic 10 play. Perhaps the bigger head-turning performance in Friday’s game came from freshman reliever Declan Lavelle, who, in his first collegiate appearance, allowed just one hit in four innings to go along with six strikeouts and no walks. Lavelle could become an important weapon among Fordham’s pitchers as the season progresses. Offensively, the Rams got run-scoring hits from junior outfielder Jake Guercio, junior infielder Jack Harnisch, senior outfielder Colton Snelling and junior catcher Richard Grund. Fordham led 6-0 after the third inning and never looked back.

The win seemed to be a harbinger of what the weekend would bring. Fairleigh Dickinson hadn’t scored a run in two games, and struggled to contain Fordham’s offense in the series opener. As it turned out, Friday’s game wasn’t an indicator of the next two games at all.

On Saturday, Fordham jumped out to an early lead behind a run scored in the fourth inning — as a result of a wild pitch — and an RBI single from junior outfielder Jason Coules in the sixth. Fordham’s pitching appeared to be dominant once again: junior starter Cory Wall pitched three scoreless innings and fellow junior Garrett Crowley added three more scoreless innings behind him. Fordham carried a 2-0 lead into the seventh, and it looked like head coach Kevin Leighton’s team was in a good spot.

Fairleigh Dickinson freshman Tommy Verga singled to lead off the inning, and he advanced to third base with two down. Despite being in position to get through the inning unscathed, Crowley allowed a two-out walk to junior Jake Ellowitz, who subsequently stole second. Then, freshman second baseman TJ Werner delivered the biggest hit of the Knights’ season to that point, driving in both runs and tying the game at two. Crowley, for his part, recovered nicely from surrendering the lead, holding the Knights in check for the next two innings.

The defining failure of Saturday’s game for Fordham became the inability to convert scoring opportunities into runs. Despite conceding the lead in the top of the seventh, the Rams had at least one runner in scoring position in each of the next five innings, but were unable to drive any of those runs home to win the game. As sophomore Jack Popolizio and senior Joe Quintal combined for six scoreless innings to keep Fordham afloat in extra innings, the Rams found a couple more opportunities in the 14th and 15th innings. In the 15th, Harnisch was at third with just one out, but sophomore Ryan Thiesse struck out and senior CJ Vazquez flew out to end the rally. 

In the 16th, the Knights finally broke through. Sophomore outfielder Justin Sierra whacked a two-run double off Fordham sophomore Ben Kovel to put the Knights up 4-2. Fairleigh Dickinson freshman pitcher Jude Baxt closed out the Rams in the bottom half of the inning and handed Fordham its first loss since February of 2020. The 16-inning game was tied for the second-longest in the storied history of Fordham’s baseball program, and was the longest Fordham Baseball game since the Rams’ 1988 NCAA regional against Clemson.

With both teams fatigued from Saturday’s marathon — and losing an hour of sleep overnight — Sunday’s game decided the series. Junior catcher Andy Semo got Fordham on the board first with a sacrifice fly in the second inning, but FDU soon responded with a run of its own in the third. The Knights took the lead in the sixth on a sacrifice bunt by senior James Donlon.

Fairleigh Dickinson starter Jack Kosowsky pitched four innings and allowed just one run. Senior Aaron Cohn came on to relieve him in the fifth, and his grip on Fordham’s offense was immediately tenuous. After twice leaving a runner at third in his first two innings, Guercio’s RBI single in the seventh brought home Snelling to tie the game at two. Harnisch attempted to score from first after Guercio became ensnared in a rundown, but was tagged out on a relay throw. After Fordham sophomore Alex Henderson threw a scoreless eighth, Fordham’s offense had another breakthrough with runners in scoring position.

With two out and Coules at third base, senior infielder Nick Labella hit a bouncing ball up the middle. Shortstop Hunter D’Amato cut it off behind second base, but his throw to first was late. Coules scored and the Rams took a 3-2 lead. Fordham then added much-needed insurance; Snelling singled home Labella and Guercio broke the inning open with a two-run single two batters later. Fordham took a 6-2 lead into the ninth, and Henderson recorded the final three outs to earn his second win of the year and clinch the series for Fordham.

Freshman pitcher Brooks Ey provided perhaps the most important contribution for the Rams on Sunday. Despite occasional hardships, Ey pitched seven innings and gave up just two runs. Most importantly, though, he saved Leighton from pulling more resources out of a bullpen that was stretched thin after Saturday’s affair.

Fordham is now 7-1 on the season, with some time before it hits the field again. After Wednesday’s game with Stony Brook University was postponed, Fordham will take on St. John’s University over the weekend in a four-game series that will be split between Queens and the Bronx.

Women’s Basketball Bounced From A-10 Tournament By UMass

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

Despite a year of adversity, pauses and uncertainty, Fordham Women’s Basketball made it to the end of the season as the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 and earned a trip to the quarterfinals in the conference tournament. The Rams’ stay in Richmond, Va., though, didn’t last long.

Fordham fell 80-70 to the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday afternoon in the team’s earliest A-10 tournament elimination since 2018. The win sends UMass to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2002.

Both teams came out of the gates firing, combining for 41 points in the first quarter. UMass carried a three-point lead into the second quarter, and sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe keyed Fordham’s offense, as usual, with six first-quarter points. The Rams got an additional contribution off the bench from redshirt junior center Vilisi Tavui, who also scored six points in the quarter. Tavui had played in just four of Fordham’s 14 games before the school’s mid-February shutdown. Still, she played double-digit minutes in the team’s final two games of the season — against George Washington last week and on Friday in the conference tournament.

UMass expanded its lead to six points early in the second quarter, but Fordham was able to mount a comeback. A quick 7-0 run over just a minute-and-a-half in the middle of the quarter gave the Rams a one-point lead, and Fordham carried a three-point lead into the halftime break. 

This game, though, was very different from the types of games Fordham usually plays and wins. Despite the lead Fordham held at the break, UMass shot 11-24 (45.8%) from the field in the first half behind 14 points from sophomore guard Sydney Taylor. Fordham had held its opponents below 60 points in 13 of its first 15 games, but UMass was on pace for 68 points after 20 minutes of play.

That rapid pace, which better suits UMass’ offensive attack, only accelerated after halftime.

Taylor’s excellent performance continued, and she was joined in excellence by senior forward Sam Breen, who dominated underneath with 17 points in the second half. UMass’ offense continued to find success, as the Minutewomen made difficult shots and pushed the pace in transition. UMass reinstated its six-point lead late in the third quarter, and despite a late-quarter Fordham surge, Taylor’s buzzer-beating layup put the Minutewomen up seven with 10 minutes to play.

With its back to the wall and its season on the line, Fordham turned to familiar faces for its comeback attempt. Senior guard Kendell Heremaia set up junior forward Meg Jonassen for a layup, and DeWolfe hit a two-point jumper to bring Fordham within three with 8:55 left. The margin stayed the same until 7:48 to go, but Taylor hit another clutch three to put UMass back up six. Each team then struggled to score until roughly five minutes to go, when DeWolfe and Breen traded layups. 

Taylor’s three marked the last time the game was within one possession. Freshman guard Ber’Nyah Mayo’s jumper with 4:23 to go extended UMass’ lead to seven and the Minutewomen maintained that advantage for the rest of the game. Fordham’s offense went cold, failing to make a field goal for nearly four minutes late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Sarah Karpell’s three with 1:10 left broke the drought but only brought the Rams within 12. Despite multiple efforts to extend the game, Fordham fell by a final of 80-70.

Much credit should be given to UMass for its performance in this one. Taylor had the best game of her collegiate career, tying a career-high with 27 points. Breen, like in the teams’ first matchup back in January, made life very difficult for Jonassen inside, making difficult shots and extending her range beyond the arc. Breen finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

DeWolfe once again led the Rams offensively, as the Atlantic 10’s co-Player of the Year finished with 25 points on 8-23 shooting. While she occasionally forced matters offensively in the second half, she was the Rams’ best option offensively. Senior guard Katie McLoughlin, playing in her final A-10 tournament, scored 10 points, as did junior forward Kaitlyn Downey. Heremaia had seven assists and eight rebounds but shot just 1-9 from the field to go along with six turnovers. 

Fordham’s offense, despite its productivity, ended the game with 15 turnovers, a number above its season average in conference play. The story of the game was UMass’ offense, which scored the most regulation points of any team against Fordham since March 22, 2018, when Virginia Tech blew out the Rams 81-50 in the Sweet 16 of the WNIT.

This unprecedented season is not over for Fordham. The Rams still have a chance to make a slimmed-down WNIT field of 32 teams. Fordham currently owns a NET ranking of 70th, which would not portend an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, but could get the Rams to the WNIT, which the team would have made last year were it not for the pandemic.

But for the moment, the team awaits its next steps. Those don’t include winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Baseball Wins Thriller Over Stony Brook, Laugher Over Sacred Heart

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

Fordham Baseball won two games this week, extending its win streak to 14 games — dating back to last season — and continuing its undefeated start to the 2021 season. Despite the positive outcome, Fordham’s path to reaching this point was anything but easy.

The Rams visited Stony Brook University on Tuesday after their weekend sweep over NJIT. The Seawolves entered the game with just a 2-3 record, but that didn’t mean it would be an easy task for the Rams.

Freshman pitcher Cameron Knox had a rough collegiate debut, giving up four runs in just two innings. Knox’s outing got off to a slow start from the jump, as Stony Brook senior John LaRocca whacked a leadoff home run to give the Seawolves the early lead. Fellow senior John Tuccillo added an RBI double later in the inning to make it a 2-0 game. Despite Fordham junior infielder Jack Harnisch’s RBI double in the second, the Seawolves soon expanded the lead, with a run-scoring wild pitch from Knox and a sacrifice fly from LaRocca.

Fordham later experienced another instance of “one step forward, two steps back.” Junior outfielder Jake Guercio hit an RBI single to score Will Findlay in the fourth and cut the Stony Brook lead to two. But the Seawolves answered with three runs over two innings, via a passed ball from Fordham sophomore catcher Will Findlay, an RBI single from Stony Brook freshman Evan Fox and a sacrifice fly from Seawolves graduate student Chris Hamilton. Fordham found itself down 7-2 with just nine outs to play.

But instead of packing it in and moving on to the next day’s game against Sacred Heart University, Fordham’s offense got to work.

Senior first baseman Casey Brown got the party started with a mammoth two-run home run in the top of the seventh to make it a three-run game. Senior infielder C.J. Vazquez reached on an error in the eighth inning, which allowed junior catcher Andy Semo to score. Later in the inning, Guercio scored on a wild pitch and all of a sudden, the five-run deficit was down to just one.

After sophomore pitcher Alex Henderson pitched his third and final scoreless inning in the eighth, Fordham’s offense set out to complete the comeback in the top of the ninth inning. Sophomore infielder Zach Selinger singled and was replaced on the bases by freshman Joe Bladel. Senior Nick Labella singled and moved Bladel to third. Then, Semo’s fielder’s choice drove home Bladel and tied the game at seven. Two batters later, the Rams finally broke through for their first lead of the game; Harnisch’s RBI single and, subsequently, Vazquez’s run-scoring hit made it a 9-7 lead for the Rams.

Senior pitcher Joe Quintal came in to close out the comeback victory. He worked around a leadoff walk to retire the final three batters and secure Fordham’s comeback win. 

Perhaps to the relief of the team’s players and coaching staff, the next day’s victory was not nearly as difficult.

Sacred Heart entered Houlihan Park on Wednesday, having won just one of its first seven games. The Pioneers had scored under two runs per game and had a staff ERA of nearly eight. Both were dismal figures, and neither improved after Wednesday’s game. 

Fordham starting pitcher Gabe Karslo set the tone for his day with a 1-2-3 first inning. Fordham’s offense set the tone for its day with five runs in the bottom of the first: Labella drove in two with a single, Selinger drove in two more with a triple and Semo drove in another run with a sacrifice fly. The Rams attacked Sacred Heart starter Chase Jeter for three more runs in the second inning, as Labella and Selinger both drove in runs with more timely hits.

Fordham’s pitching staff may have been the star of the show on Wednesday. Karslo threw a dominant five innings, allowing just two hits and a walk, to go along with five strikeouts. Junior right-hander Michael Ghirozi, Bladel, sophomore Ben Kovel and sophomore Jack Popolizio each threw scoreless innings of their own to complete the combined shutout and lead Fordham to an easy 10-0 victory.

With the win, Fordham has now won 14 consecutive games, dating back to the end of last year’s abbreviated season. The Rams have a weekend series coming up with Fairleigh Dickinson University before another home midweek game with Stony Brook next Wednesday. Despite Fordham Athletics’ COVID-19-related pause to end the month of February, Fordham Baseball doesn’t look like it has lost much time at all.

Baseball Sweeps Weekend with NJIT

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

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.