The last time the Blue Streaks beat the Heidelberg Student Princes in baseball, in April of 2005, Eric Wedge was the manager of the Cleveland Indians. Tribe fans might remember 2005 as Grady Sizemore’s rookie year and Bob Wickman’s 45-save season. Each player on the JCU baseball roster was in grade school. But the Blue and Gold would not let history repeat itself again on Saturday, April 27. The home squad’s thirst for revenge was too great, as the Blue Streaks triumphed, 4-0 and 13-1, to clinch the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.
JCU head coach Marc Thibeault picked the perfect starting pitcher to break the 16-game losing streak to the Student Princes, choosing red-hot senior Patrick O’Brien. The right-hander entered the game with a 0.88 earned run average and had only allowed one earned run in his past three starts. O’Brien would continue his dominance against Heidelberg and eventually earn OAC Pitcher of the Week honors.
The Blue Streaks struck early on in the contest. Junior Jimmy Spagna tagged a single to left field to score sophomore Bobby Sabatino in the bottom half of the opening inning. The squad threatened to add more on the board, but Heidelberg’s Ethan Holt wiggled his way out of a jam.
In the latter frame of the second, senior Ryan Konsler let the Student Princes know that the first run was not a fluke. The outfielder drove a double to left to start off the second. Two batters later, fellow senior outfielder Joe Veltri singled, scoring Konsler to increase the JCU lead to 2-0.
All was quiet for the next pair of innings, but the Blue and Gold offense bursted out again in the fifth. With one out, Holt granted back-to-back walks, putting Spagna and senior Aaron Miller on base. Junior Chet Lauer made the Student Princes pay, sending a single to left that allowed Spagna to cross the plate.
Holt continued to labor on the mound, as he walked sophomore Mark Huddle and senior Connor Marrero to bring in another run. Though Heidelberg reliever Teddy Lowe ended the rally, the Blue Streaks had a stout 4-0 lead.
O’Brien, who allowed only three hits on the day, and freshman reliever Zach Verner ensured that the Student Princes would have no shot at a comeback, sealing the team’s first victory over Heidelberg in eight years.
JCU’s success continued in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader at the sun-soaked Schweickert Field. Sophomore Andrew Doring straddled the mound for the Blue and Gold in game two. Though his control was not as masterful as O’Brien’s, Doring still pitched quite well, allowing only two hits.
In the first inning alone, the Blue Streaks provided Doring with all the run support he needed. With one out, Sabatino reached base on an error. Junior third baseman Mitch Herringshaw continued his stellar season, tapping a single to advance Sabatino to second. Spagna then walked to load the bases, putting Heidelberg starter Steve Huber in an early jam.
With the bases juiced, Miller did his job, grounding out to the shortstop to advance each runner and make the score 1-0. Lauer increased the lead on a two-run single that scored Spagna and Herringshaw.
JCU scored again in the third on a dropped infield fly off Lauer’s bat, allowing Herringshaw to score from third and increase the lead to four.
The Blue Streaks added two more runs in the fifth, as Spagna rocketed a double to left center to score Herringshaw and Sabatino.
Heidelberg’s Adam Manner entered the game in the sixth to stop the bleeding, but even he could not stop the JCU scoring attack. A Veltri single, a Sabatino double and a Herringshaw walk quickly loaded the based with two outs. Manner then hit Spagna with a pitch to put the score at 7-0.
The Student Princes managed to break the shutout in the top half of the sixth, as Doug Miller hit an RBI double to center, narrowing the visitors’ deficit to 7-1.
The Blue Streaks would respond in force during their next chance at the plate. Though Heidelberg reliever Ryan Minteer recorded a quick out, a JCU scoring party would commence with a Sabatino walk. Six hits and eight batters later, the score stood at 13-1.
A number of Blue Streaks ended the contest with big stat lines. Spagna (the OAC Hitter of the Week) hit 2-3 with five RBIs, Huddle batted 3-5 with an RBI, Sabatino finished 2-4 with three runs scored and Lauer hit 2-4 with three RBIs.
With the win, JCU claimed at least a No. 2 seed in the OAC Tournament. Suffice to say, the losing streak has sufficiently been buried.
“We are hot right now and clicking on all cylinders,” Spagna said. “I am happy that we are starting to play our best baseball of the year.”