When the John Carroll University baseball team suited up to take on the visiting Marietta Pioneers on Sunday, April 21, the Blue Streaks knew that the task in front of them was far from simple. After all, the Pioneers were the defending back-to-back Division III National Champions and had a combined record of 115-19 over the course of the past three seasons. However, the Blue and Gold showed impressive resolve as they split a home doubleheader with the Pioneers, losing the first game 2-1 before winning game two in extra innings, 3-2.
After being rescheduled from Saturday, April 20 to Sunday, April 21, action finally began at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Schweickert Field. All remained quiet until the third. The Pioneers scored a run on a sacrifice fly to right field, giving themselves a narrow 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, the Pioneers plated another run. Though senior pitcher Patrick O’Brien continued to keep the Pioneers’ offense at bay, there was a problem: the JCU offense remained uncharacteristically dormant for the first five innings of the game.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Blue and Gold fought back. A leadoff single from senior Joe Veltri gave the Blue Streaks’ offense an early jump start in the inning. Veltri then reached second base on a wild pitch, giving JCU a runner in scoring position with no outs in the sixth. Sophomore Bobby Sabatino stepped up for JCU, ripping a single to right field that allowed Veltri to score from second, narrowing the deficit to just one for the home team. A sacrifice bunt from junior Mitch Herringshaw allowed for Sabatino to reach second base with just one out. Though Sabatino eventually reached third due to another wild pitch, the Blue Streaks couldn’t score him, ending the sixth inning still trailing by one.
O’Brien and junior reliever Billy Turosky combined to stifle the Pioneers offense again in the top of the seventh, giving JCU one last chance at a comeback. Even with a leadoff single from junior Chet Lauer, the Blue Streaks again failed to tie the game in the final inning, losing game one by a 2-1 score.
The second part of the twinbill also proved to be a pitchers duel. This time, it was JCU sophomore Andrew Doring facing off with Marietta’s Mike Mulvey. Neither team could generate any offense in the first four innings, as the first run of the game was not scored until the bottom of the fifth.
Senior outfielder Connor Marrero tagged a well-hit ball to left field for an apparent single, but Marietta’s outfielder misplayed the ball, allowing Marrero to advance to second. Veltri then bunted down the first base line, putting Marrero on third base. Sabatino got the run in on the next play, grounding out to the second baseman to allow Marrero to cross the plate and give the Blue and Gold a 1-0 lead.
The Pioneers answered in the top half of the seventh. Doring allowed his first hit of the game to Marietta first baseman Evan Brockmeier, who would later go on to score to knot the game at one.
The Pioneers struck again in the ninth. Brockmeier again reached base on a single, scoring on an RBI single off the bat of Marietta catcher Alex Toth. But the Blue and Gold refused to easily grant the “Etta Express” a key OAC win. JCU first baseman Jimmy Spagna reached base on an error to lead off the inning and then advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. One batter later, senior Ryan Konsler bunted a pitch on a suicide squeeze play that allowed Spagna to score, sending the game into extra innings.
All was quiet until freshman David Crowley knocked a single to start off the bottom of the 11th. Crowley advanced to second on a wild pitch, and to third on a Chet Lauer sacrifice bunt.
Freshman Robby Cifelli was brought in to pinch-run for Crowley as Konsler again stepped into the batter’s box. Expecting another bunt, the Marietta infield crept in. But Konsler would play the role of hero in a different way this time. The senior tagged a single up the middle, scoring Cifelli to give JCU a crucial 3-2 victory over the top team in the OAC.
Editor’s Note: The Blue Streaks split a non-conference series with the Case Western Reserve University Spartans at home on Tuesday, April 23, winning the first, 11-0, and dropping the second, 18-8. Spagna had a career day at the plate in game one, hitting 4-4 with a triple, home run and seven RBIs. Freshman Aaron Lapaglia pitched six scoreless innings in the victory, allowing four hits in the contest.