Baseball opens season with annual Florida trip

By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor

The Lions finish their trip with five wins and five losses. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)
The Lions finish their trip with five wins and five losses. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

It was nothing but sun, clear blue skies and great baseball for the Lions during spring break. The College’s baseball team traveled down to Winter Haven, Fla., for their annual spring trip where they played 10 games and ended their busy week by splitting their games evenly with a record of five wins and five losses.

After a number of postponed and cancelled games, the College finally got a chance to play some ball. The team opened their season against the eighth-ranked University of Southern Maine, ending with a tough 12-5 loss. Southern Maine got on the scoreboard early in the first with a hit on the first pitch of the game.

The Lions looked like they would have the chance to rally in the fifth. Sophomore Ben Varone led off the bottom of the inning with a double to left-center field. Junior John Rizzi followed with a base hit, but Varone was thrown out at the plate. Junior Patrick Roberts later ripped a shot to second that hopped into right field, allowing two runners to score. In the end, however, senior Connor Smith took his first loss of the season for the College.

The team split a loss and a huge win with two great pitching performances on the second day of their trip against St. Norbert College. Despite the loss, junior Steven Volpe pitched six-and-a-third innings, striking out six with only one earned run.

In the second game, before junior Evan Edelman took the mound, his teammates put up five runs in the top of the first inning, putting Edelman at ease as he threw his first pitch of the game. Edelman went six innings with just one unearned run in the sixth. The Lions offense scored seven more runs after the first to take a commanding 12-1 win.

The offense continued its high-scoring into the third day with a crushing 17-0 win against Centenary College. Senior infielder Anthony Cocuzza had a big game that day, knocking in a career-high six runs in six at-bats on three hits. In his second at-bat in the seventh, he drove in two runs with two outs, which called for a different approach and mindset before stepping into the batter’s box.

“Here, a fly ball or ground out won’t score a run. Instead, I use my same approach as when I’m up at the plate with no runners on,” Cocuzza said. “I trust my hands and swing enough to allow me to hit hard line drives in the gaps for doubles with this simple approach.”

Freshman Joe Cirillo notched his first career win that day. Cirillo faced 29 batters and threw for eight scoreless innings, an impressive start for his first collegiate game.

The next game would result in a 14-6 loss for the Lions against the College at Brockport, but the team would end up taking a close 5-4 win against Benedictine University the following day.

Against Keene State College, the Lions were down six runs until the fifth inning, when the team broke out by scoring four runs to cut the deficit to just two runs. The team then tied with Keene in the top of the sixth, eventually coming back to win a close 9-8 game.

The Lions split two games between Washington and Jefferson College with a win in their first game and a loss in their later. In the first game, Volpe was able to get his first win of the season and sophomore Eric Teesdale recorded his first career save.

In the last game of the week, the Lions were unable to get a win against the University of Wisconsin-Las Crosse, falling 5-2 to their opponent. Even with the loss, however, senior Josh Limon had an exciting game, leading off the seventh inning with the 100th hit of his career in his 95th career game.

Now that the team has begun their season, they are taking each game day-by-day to their goal of the season: winning the NJAC.

“We focus on one game, one inning and one out at a time, but our first long, term goal is winning the NJAC,” Cocuzza said. “From there we can set our sights on regionals and the World Series, but the first objective is winning the NJAC tournament.”

The Lions have their first home game against Ursinus College on Thursday, March 26.