Baseball sizzles as season begins in Florida

The College’s baseball team kicked off its season to a blistering start last week, winning nine of 11 games during a 10-day visit to Florida.

“It’s nice,” head coach Rick Dell said. “Winning is always positive. In this case, it’s a result of having a good approach to things.”

The College’s approach certainly worked. Playing the first 11 of their 39 scheduled regular season games in just 10 days, the Lions stringed together enough key hitting and quality pitching to put together a nine-game winning streak, which was snapped on Sunday when the Lions surrendered five unearned runs on four errors in a 7-3 loss to Wheaton College.

In the toughest part of the stretch, the College posted four wins in two days by sweeping consecutive doubleheaders from Rhode Island College on Friday and St. Joseph’s College on Thursday.

Senior pitcher Vincent Petrillo and sophomore pitcher Brian Kraus each provided solid starts to lead the College against Rhode Island, which managed just one run over both games.

“(Petrillo and Kraus) have started to establish themselves,” Dell said. “I think what they did was play it one pitch at a time and turn in really good performances. They made the quality pitches and threw strikes.”

In the first half of the doubleheader, Petrillo fanned 10 Anchormen and gave up just one run on four hits in six innings. Sophomore reliever Bill Opel closed out the contest in the seventh for a 4-1 win. Junior catcher Justin Gorski was 1-for-2 with two RBIs in the fourth inning, while sophomore left fielder Tom Grohs also added an RBI. With the win, Petrillo improved to 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

Despite having their bats silenced by Anchmormen starter Eric Thiabult in the second game, the College managed a 1-0 win behind smart play and more solid pitching.

“Those are good days when you can win like that,” Dell said. “You keep battling and make good things happen.”

After Kraus offered seven shutout innings for the Lions, sophomore catcher Gerard Haran plated junior designated hitter Rich Kropp with a sacrifice fly to break a scoreless tie in the sixth and hand Kraus his first victory of the year.

“You have to be able to win no matter what happens,” Dell said. “(Friday against Rhode Island) was a good example of that and (Thursday against St. Joseph’s) was even better.”

After freshman starter Bob Buskett left the Lions trailing 7-1 after the first inning of the second game against St. Joseph’s, the College manufactured an 11-10 comeback win, responding to the Pumas’ quick start with three runs in the second inning and seven more by the sixth.

Sophomore third baseman Blake Bullis tied the score at seven by roping a two-run home run in the fourth and junior infielder Mike Bruschini later tied the score again at eight runs apiece with a solo blast in the sixth inning. Sophomore outfielder P.J. Anzelone gave the Lions the lead for good with an RBI pinch-hit single later in the sixth.

Bullis finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and his fourth inning home run was his second of the year. He leads the Lions with 11 RBIs and gave the College an 11-8 win over Wartburg last Tuesday with a grand slam.

“He’s been hitting third and fifth,” Dell said. “To be a good ball club we’re going to need production from him in there.”

In the first game against St. Joseph’s on Thursday, the College emerged with a 6-5 victory despite another short outing from their starter. Freshman pitcher Mike Oliver surrendered two runs in 1-1/3 innings but freshman Brad Kittle relieved him with 4-2/3 scoreless innings. Haran and junior centerfielder Charles Iacono each doubled in a pair of runs in the fourth to give Opel his first win of the season in relief.

After the College dropped its season opener 8-1 to York College on March 4, the winning streak began the following day with a 16-2 win over Concordia University and continued the next day with a 5-1 win over Manchester College, in which Kraus again led the Lions, yielding just one run in five innings.

The doubleheader sweeps Thursday and Friday were sandwiched between a 14-4 trouncing of Husson College on Monday and a 16-15 edging of Nichols College on Saturday. With their pitching stretched thin, the Lions survived 11 runs in the final three innings from Nichols, behind a balanced attack at the plate that saw six Lions chip in two RBIs.

The College will host Ursinus College on Friday at 3 p.m., followed by home games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.