By Jimmy Burry
The sun is about to set on the Ohio Athletic Conference regular season for the John Carroll University baseball team, but the conference tournament is on the horizon. The Blue Streaks currently sit in third place and are in line to be one of the four teams that qualify for the postseason tournament for the second consecutive year.
The Blue Streaks had a chance to solidify their spot last week in a pair of doubleheaders against the top two teams in the conference: Heidelberg University and Marietta College.
The Streaks traveled to Tiffin on April 27 to square off against an OAC-leading Heidelberg team ranked No. 4 in the nation. The Blue Streaks managed only five hits against freshman ace Ethan Holt in the first game. Despite 10 strikeouts from junior Tony Evanko, the Blue Streaks would come up empty by a score of 5-1.
The usually reliable batters were unable to get timely hits in the second game as they stranded 12 runners in nine innings of play. Junior pitcher Tom Schaberl, who got the starting nod, exited the game in the fourth inning and was impressed by the ‘Berg lineup.
“They are a good hitting team. They are very aggressive hitters and they put the ball in play,” Schaberl said of the Student Princes.
Four players had multiple hit games in the second affair, but centerfielder John Skomra was the only bright spot in both contests, going 5-7 with two runs scored.
“We may have pressed because our senior class has never beaten them,” Skomra said of the ‘Berg. “That is a team we want to beat because these are the games we need to win.”
Skomra and the Blue Streaks hoped to offset the sweep with one of their own against perennial powerhouse Marietta College on April 28.
Junior pitcher John Moonan was solid on the hill for the Blue Streaks, going five innings with three strikeouts and one earned run.
A combination of patient hitting and pitch selection allowed the floodgates to open in the second inning. The Blue Streaks forced pitcher Austin Blaski to an early exit with seven runs on four hits in the inning. Luke Langdon relieved Blaski and surrendered no runs on three hits, but the damage was insurmountable.
Moonan and freshman reliever Rob Bellusci cruised the rest of the way en route to an 8-1 win.
“We have a great record when we score first. When we don’t score runs we put our pitchers in holes and we feel the need to press,” said Skomra.
The Blue Streaks were unable to get those first runs in the second game as Marietta burst out with three in the first inning off sophomore pitcher Chris Eggleton. JCU would eventually tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when freshman Ryan Pacyga grounded into a double play that scored senior Tim O’Brien. Senior Chris Koller relived Eggleton in the sixth and was tagged for the loss after allowing three runs in two and a third innings.
The loss gives Marietta the upper hand in a tiebreaker against John Carroll should the two teams finish with the same record. JCU has four remaining conference games against Ohio Northern and Wilmington.
They remain in third place, but wins in all four games assure a second consecutive postseason berth, so they control their own destiny.
As for the seniors, and Skomra in particular, a season culminated by an OAC Championship will bring the ultimate closure to four years of excruciatingly hard work.
“I want to win this thing. I want to keep playing until they tell us we can’t play anymore,” he said.