The long-awaited return of the John Carroll baseball team to University Heights finally became a reality last Wednesday. Waiting for them was next-door neighbor Notre Dame College who had previously won nine consecutive games coming into the matchup with JCU. The Falcons entered the game with a strong 16-7 record. For the Blue Streaks, sophomore Robbie Bellusci got the nod on the mound. The Chicago native would only last three and a third innings after surrendering six runs.
After a three-run first inning, the Falcons batting continued to hammer away before finally defeating the Streaks by a score of 8-2. Joe Veltri carried what little offense the Blue Streaks could muster. With three hits, he extended his hitting streak to five games.
John Carroll had little time to lick their wounds, however, as conference play commenced against an Otterbein Cardinals team that they lost to last weekend. Fortunately for John Carroll, the loss to Notre Dame did not count as a loss in the conference standings.
“We expect to win every game we play. I felt that we are a better team than Otterbein so I was confident that we should sweep them. On the other hand, we have been playing sub-par baseball in the last two weeks so getting the win was important for our confidence,” said Coach Marc Thibeault.
Plans for a sweep were quickly dissolved in the bottom of the third inning when Otterbein, sparked by a two-out rally and scored a pair of runs to extend their tenuous lead to three. For the third time in four games, John Carroll managed only a meager two runs. Additionally, John Carroll extended their losing streak to four, the longest it has been all season. Half of John Carroll’s six hits came off the metal of freshman catcher Dan Potter who moved his batting average to .317 over the weekend, good for fourth on the squad.
Nevertheless, John Carroll needed a victory in the second game to ensure they wouldn’t slip into an 0-2 hole to start conference competition.
Senior outfielder Chris Larry set the tone in the top of the second inning by knocking in two runs. After a series of errors and wild pitches, John Carroll would carry a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the second. Otterbein got three runs back in the bottom of the inning but Potter came up with clutch RBI’s in the fourth and sixth to put John Carroll in position to win with six runs. Otterbein battled and tied things up at six in the bottom of the seventh.
The game would remain tranquil until the ninth when Potter once again came up big with a leadoff walk. He would score the eventual game winner on a sacrifice fly from junior Tom Hickey.
“Danny had a good day. He caught all 15 innings we played and he should, he’s a hockey player. He was able to put together some quality at bats especially with two strikes,” said Thibeault.
John Carroll will look to separate themselves from the conference field next weekend when they take on nationally ranked Heidelberg at home, but as of right now the conference is up for grabs.
“We may not have had the start we wanted, but as the conference games begin we will step up to the challenge and compete for the top spot in the league,” said freshman starting pitcher Jimmy Spagna.
This weekend will prove to be a good measuring stick for John Carroll. Heidelberg University is currently ranked No. 6 in the D3 baseball top 25 polls with a 16-4 record and hasn’t lost to John Carroll since 2005.