By David Salamone & Oscar Fick
After five straight weekends of traveling down south with grueling 9 to 12 hour bus rides to play warm weathered competition, Marist baseball finally got a home series on their schedule, splitting a doubleheader against Monmouth on Saturday.
Marist lost the first game of their double-header on Saturday by a score of 13-6, snapping the Red Foxes’ four game winning streak.
Tony Romanelli started the first game of the three game series for Marist. After rearranging the pitching staff from the beginning of the year, Coach Tracz moved Romanelli from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Romanelli had been one of the more reliable performers of the pitching staff to start the year, entering the game with a 2.61 ERA and .240 opponent batting average with 20.2 innings pitched.
Romanelli gave up a walk and a single to start the game, and an error by third basemen Andrew Rouse loaded the bases. A groundout by Monmouth’s Ryan Steckline and a RBI single by Zach Schild had Monmouth staked to a 2-0 lead after the first inning..
In the second inning, after Romanelli walked another two batters, a Shaine Hughes single lengthened Monmouth’s lead to 3. Later that inning Monmouth’s clean-up hitter Pete Papcun hit a three run home to left field, extending the Hawks’ lead to 6 early on.
In the bottom of the second inning Marist’s Jordan Roper hit a solo homer, putting Marist on the board. It was Roper’s second home run of the season. The Red Foxes were able to continue to cut into the lead in the second inning with two out rally. Anthony Lazar hit a sharp line drive single between third and short that scored Tyler Kapuscinski, then Andrew Rouse hit a hard single to left field, scoring Lazar for a third run of the inning.
Romanelli seemed to settle down in the third by striking out his first two batters, but struggled to get the final out of the inning. Marist gave up three runs off of three hits and an error with two outs in the third.
In the fifth inning, Marist was able to further cut the into the lead to 9-5 with a Kapuscinski 2-RBI double down the right field line. With two runners on and two outs, Randy Taveras was caught stealing second, stranding a runner on third and ending the last rally the Red Foxes would have in the game.
Despite facing 21 batters by the third inning, Coach Tracz decided to keep his starter in for two and two-thirds additional innings. In those innings Romanelli got his next six batters out, holding the Hawks’ lead to 9-3 in the fifth. In total, Romanelli gave up eight earned runs off of seven hits and five walks in five and two-third innings.
Freshman reliever Alex Pansini was put in the game to replace Romanelli, but struggled against the heart of Monmouth’s lineup, giving up three hits and a run. The lone bright spot in Marist’s pitching staff was senior Spencer Bunting who recorded outs on all five batters he faced.
While the first game was an offensive explosion with 19 runs and 24 hits between the two teams, the second game was a pitcher’s duel, as the Red Foxes pulled out a 5-3 victory in the latter game of the doubleheader.
Marist starting pitcher Charlie Jerla proved to be the difference maker for the Red Foxes. Jerla would pitch for six of the seven inning game and held the Monmouth Hawks to just three runs. The most crucial factor may have been the fact that he only allowed two free passes. His ability to stay around the strike zone and limit walks proved crucial.
“We needed to be tougher mentally and physically,” said Marist Head Coach Chris Tracz. “We had to pitch and play defense in that second game.”
Marist was up 2-1 when the Monmouth’s Hughes dropped a bunt down the third baseline. An errant throw from Marist third baseman Andrew Rouse put the tying run on second base with no outs. With Monmouth threatening, Jerla engaged in an 8 pitch at-bat with freshman Ryan Steckline who finally fell victim to a low curveball. The next two Hawk batters suffered similar fates.
A couple of well-aimed ground balls and a bloop single by Monmouth tied the game at 2 in the top of the fifth inning and left runners on the corners with just one out. Hawks catcher J.D. Andreessen then perfectly executed a safety squeeze, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Marist would rally to tie the game with a double in the bottom of the fifth, but the go-ahead run would be thrown out at home thanks to Monmouth left fielder Frankie Gregoire.
A shutdown inning from Jerla in the top of the sixth provided the Red Foxes with some momentum, while three straight walks in the bottom half set the table for junior second baseman Anthony Lazar. Lazar was hit by a pitch in both games, but got his revenge with a line drive single over the third baseman’s head that brought in two runs.
“We didn’t have a ton of hits overall,” said Tracz, “But Anthony Lazar with the big hit in the sixth to give us a two run lead [was key].”
Senior closer Mike Coss made it interesting with a couple of walks, but got the ground ball he needed for the game-ending 6-4-3 double play. Marist is now 1-1 in conference play and will look to add another win on Sunday. The rubber match between Marist and Monmouth will take place at noon in Poughkeepsie.