By Brendan Gulick
The John Carroll University baseball team has only known one formula this season – win under pressure. All season long, this persistent squad has risen to the occasion. Their most recent doubleheader against Mount Union College was certainly no exception.
In game one, the Blue Streaks answered offensively in the home half of the second after allowing an early run to the Purple Raiders. A two-run triple from junior shortstop John Hastings, followed by an RBI single up the middle off the bat of senior centerfielder John Skomra, pushed the Blue Streaks ahead early and for good.
But the storyline in the first game belonged to junior pitcher Tony Evanko. For the second consecutive start, the junior hurler was brilliant. Evanko surrendered three hits and one unearned run in five strong innings of work.
Reigning OAC “Pitcher of the Week,” Chris Koller held off the Purple Raiders in the sixth inning and junior Michael Eden got his team-leading third save as John Carroll improved to 7-2 in conference play with the 4-2 victory.
Game two made up for the lack of offense in the earlier showdown. Mount Union scored three in the fifth and four in the seventh to put the pressure on John Carroll as the Purple Raiders clutched to an 8-5 lead with the Blue Streaks down to their final three outs.
But the storm clouds were brewing in the first base dugout of Schweickert Field.
With one away in the bottom of the ninth, two walks and a single loaded the bases for the comeback kids.
Senior left fielder Bryan Robinett, who homered earlier in the game, hit a routine grounder to short that was not fielded cleanly – everyone safely advanced.
Freshman Patrick Fallon took first base in place of Robinett and represented the winning run. Sophomore Tom Hickey was due up next for the Streaks.
“I knew I had to get the ball to the right side,” said Hickey. “I had to knock in at least one, but I wanted to give the runner on second a chance to score.”
Hickey, the sophomore first baseman, hit a seeing-eye single to the right side that tied the game.
“I was down 0-2 and got a pitch on the inner half,” Hickey later said. “Thankfully for us, the ball got through.”
Fallon now stood only 90 feet away. After a strikeout for the second out of the inning, freshman Aaron Miller stepped up to the plate.
“I knew I had to put the ball in play and give our team a chance to win,” said Miller. “I knew the curveball was coming, so I stayed back on it and drove it to right field.”
Miller’s two-out RBI single gave John Carroll the 9-8 victory and a sweep of the Purple Raiders.
More importantly though, the Blue Streaks improved to 8-2 in conference play, putting them all alone atop the OAC standings for the time being.
After weather washed out a doubleheader with Marietta College over the weekend, the Blue Streaks had a meaningful doubleheader on Tuesday with Heidelberg, the team was hot on the Blue Streaks tail.
Things didn’t go well for the Blue Streaks as Heidelberg swept the pair, winning game one 5-1 and taking game two easily, 13-2.
The sweep by the Student Princes catapulted them into first place, ending the Blue Streaks short reign at the top of the standings.
The two losses bumped JCU into a three-way tie for third place with Marietta and Otterbein College at 8-4.