By Miguel Gonzalez
After picking up their first season win against Stevens Institute of Technology, the Lions trekked down to Winter Haven, Fla. to compete in a week of games from Saturday, March 11 to Saturday, March 18. Almost each win was hard earned, as the Lions played in four extra innings games, won six games and lost three.
Arriving at Lake Myrtle Complex, the Lions were immediately placed into a tight game situation against St. John Fisher College. The Cardinals, ranked No. 9 in the nation, made a comeback in the top of the ninth inning.
With the Lions up by two runs, Cardinals freshmen outfielder Anthony Mantova and outfielder/pitcher Stephen Edgett landed home on wild pitches. The Lions were not able to regain the lead in the following inning, leading to extra innings.
Both teams were scoreless until the bottom of the 11th innin g. In his at-bat, junior infielder Patrick Anderson was issued a walk. After the Lions hit a pair of singles, Anderson was on third base. Senior catcher CJ Gearhart drilled a hit, allowing Anderson to score and give the team a 3-2 win.
The following day, the Lions were defeated by University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 6-4. Despite out hitting the Eagles, a couple of errors in the bottom of the fifth inning put the Lions into a 5-1 hole. The team could not climb back from the deficit.
Locked in a 1-1 tie, junior pitcher Brandon Zachery overthrew to third base for a pick off attempt, allowing Eagles sophomore infielder Nate Heili to reach home. The Eagles then scored off a wild pitch and increased their lead to 5-1.
The Lions were then held scoreless by Eagles senior pitcher Jameson Lavery. The team rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning, but they only scored two runs.
The team rebounded in the next two games as they handily defeated Gordon College, 8-5 and Dickinson College, 12-7. In both games, the Lions offense smashed at least eight hits while junior pitcher Austin Lindsay and sophomore pitcher Michael Fischer secured the wins.
From Wednesday, March 15 to Thursday, March 16, the Lions prevailed twice in back-to-back extra inning games.
Competing against University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the Lions were quickly overwhelmed by the Pioneers. Down by 6-2 in the bottom of fourth inning, the team gradually recovered and pushed the game to extra innings.
With one out remaining in the ninth and freshman outfielder Jacob Simon staying on third base, junior infielder Zachery Shindler ripped a single to left field. Simon scored the run to tie the game, 7-7. Similar to the extra inning game against St. John Fisher College, the Lions clinched the win in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Shindler once again played superhero and lined in a single to right field, driving in senior infielder Ben Varone for the winning run. The Lions edged out the Pioneers, 8-7.
The next extra innings match featured a pitchers duel between the Lions and the Webster University Gorloks. Junior pitcher Joe Crillo whiffed the Gorloks, striking out nine batters and limiting them to one run. Meanwhile, the Gorloks used five pitchers to silent the Lions bats until the top of the 11th inning.
Locked in a 1-1 stalemate, the Lions broke free when freshman outfielder Donovan Stallworth scored on a wild pitch. Senior infielder Alex Christian then hit a single to right field, allowing Anderson to land home and increase the Lions lead to 3-1. The Gorloks did not counter in the next inning, giving the Lions a 3-1 victory.
The Lions were not so lucky on Friday, March 17, St. Patrick’s day as the team endured two consecutive losses, 7-1 and 7-2, against Western New England University.
“We played a high intense game the night before against Webster that went into extra innings,” head coach Dean Glus said. “Then we had to get up early and be on the field at 7 a.m. the next morning. We didn’t play to our level against (Western New England University) but you will have days like that. We proved to ourselves that even after a bad day against (Western New England), we need to ‘flush it’ from our minds and come out the next day and win.”
The following day, the team concluded their spring trip with one last extra inning win against Suffolk University, 6-5.
With the team behind 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Anderson delivered the game tying hit to push the game to extra innings.
The Ram immediately responded in the subsequent inning when Rams freshman outfielder Zack Aresty scored on a RBI. The Lions wasted no time replying in their next at-bat.
Junior outfielder Mike Follet and Christiain landed home on throwing errors to carry the Lions to a 6-5 win. Throughout the week, junior relief pitcher Matt Curry protected the Lions leads in four games.
“Matt was our closer last year, and he did a great job in his role,” Glus said. “He has the mental aspect to be the closer and he loves the role.”
On Wednesday, March 22, the baseball team will travel to Reading, Pa., for a game against Alvernia University. The Lions will play their first home games of the season this week. On Thursday, March 23, the Lions will play against Ursinus College at George Ackerman Pack at 3:30 p.m.
Then on Saturday, March 25, the team will compete in a doubleheader at home against Franklin and Marshall College starting at 11:30 a.m.
Despite the numerous competitive games, Glus knows his team is capable of beating high caliber opponents.
“When you play four extra innings games and a few of those games were against top 25 ranked teams, it takes the entire team to win those games,” Glus said. “This team has a lot of heart and the ability to keep playing hard until the final out and you do need some luck on the way.