Late game heroics and impressive pitching performances helped the John Carroll University baseball team come away with two wins in three games this past weekend. Traveling around the state of Ohio for a lengthy weekend road trip, the Blue Streaks were able to pick up wins over Montclair State University (a 6-4 victory) and Denison University (3-2), despite losing to Muskingum University (6-4).
The Blue Streaks (6-8 overall) started the season by losing each of their first five games, but seem to have turned the corner as of late as they have now won six of their last nine games.
Starting the weekend at the Muskingum Invitational in New Concord, Ohio, JCU was set to square off against Montclair State in their first of two games on Saturday, March 24. With the score tied at three going into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Blue Streaks had a chance to respond and take the lead. A single from junior Aaron Miller proved to be the spark behind a three-run inning for the Blue Streaks, as junior Ryan Konsler scored sophomore Dan Potter with an RBI sacrifice fly. Junior Joe Veltri and freshman Tyler Gerling also knocked in runs with an RBI double and single, respectively. JCU finished the inning by scoring three runs, giving themselves a 6-3 cushion heading into the final inning of play. From there, the Blue Streaks were able to hold off a late rally by Montclair State, winning the game 6-4.
“That was a huge win for us,” said sophomore Mark Huddle, who finished the game going 2-4 with two hits and two runs scored. “Montclaire is a pretty solid team and we just happened to come out and play the better baseball game.”
In the second game of the Muskingum Invitational, the Blue Streaks played the host Fighting Muskies. Unfortunately, Muskingum got the better of JCU as they took a 4-2 lead in the third inning and held on to claim the victory, 6-4.
In their third and final road game of the weekend, the Blue Streaks traveled to Granville, Ohio to take on Denison University. Luckily, JCU had just enough left in the tank to pull out a gutsy and much-needed 3-2 win over the Big Red.
Potter reached first base via a walk in the top of the first inning, giving JCU its first baserunner of the game. Sophomore Mitch Herringshaw then slapped a single to right field, advancing Potter to third base and leaving runners on the corners for senior Tom Hickey at the plate. As he usually does, Hickey connected and singled to left field, scoring Potter and giving JCU the early 1-0 lead which would remain the same until the third inning of play.
In the third inning, it was Huddle who would join the RBI party as he singled to left field, driving in freshman Bobby Sabatino and giving the Blue Streaks a 2-0 lead over the Big Red. Denison would respond with a run of its own in the bottom of the third inning, narrowing the deficit to just one as the Blue Streaks took a 2-1 lead into the fourth inning.
From there, the score remained the same until the sixth inning. In the top of the sixth, Miller singled for JCU, sparking another scoring inning for the visiting team. After advancing to second base on a wild pitch, Miller then found his way home as he scored via an infield single by Veltri that eventually led to a throwing error by Denison’s shortstop. With the defensive error by the Big Red, JCU wrapped up the inning with just one more run to cushion its lead, 3-1.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Denison started a bit of a rally but fell short of tying the game as they could only plate one runner, leaving the Big Red trailing 3-2 going into the ninth and final inning. With a one-run lead and Denison at the plate for its final at bat of the game, junior Patrick O’Brien did his best Mariano Rivera impression as he retired three consecutive batters in the final inning, wrapping up the 3-2 win for JCU.
“We wanted to come out of the Denison game having gone 2-1 on the weekend, and that helps build some momentum heading into this weekend,” said Veltri.
Sophomore Jimmy Spagna finished the game against Denison having pitching 6.2 inning, scattering six hits and allowing only one earned run on the day. Spagna also picked up his second win of the season with his stud starting pitching performance.
“The location of my fastball was working well, and I was able to mix in my curveball as well to keep hitters off balance,” said Spagna. “Our team played great defense behind me too. I pitched to contact and the defense made the plays. Hopefully [the win] will get the ball rolling for us, especially as we head into conference play this Saturday.”
With the win, the Blue Streaks improve to 6-8 on the season and will now shift their focus to conference play, as JCU plays host to Ohio Athletic Conference rival Capital University in a home doubleheader at Schweickert Field on Saturday, March 31. The first of the two games between the Blue Streaks and Crusaders will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with the second game to follow.